Click here for Part 1.
The Cavaliers came into the 1995-96 season with plenty of good feelings. Larry Johnson seemed fully recovered from his nagging back troubles, there was still hope within the organization that center, Sean Rooks, could regain his promising rookie form and the addition of point guard Damon Stoudamire, while continuing the team’s trend toward the undersized, had just wrapped up a stellar senior year at Arizona and finally gave the team some “out” in their attack to balance out the “in.”
Stoudamire did not disappoint, logging 19 points and over nine assists a game as a rookie in a staggering 40.9 minutes a game. Johnson had a bounce back year going 20.5/8.4 while, more importantly, playing in 81 games that year, and the Cavs, despite Rooks continued decline into the doldrums, grabbed the seventh seed in the East. They lost in six games to the Penny Hardaway-led Boston Celtics, but were slotted for another high pick, number six overall, in 1996 and, after all, LJ was back. Stoudamire was legit. Things looked good…
And didn’t look much worse after that sixth pick became Antoine Walker, the multi-talented power forward out of Kentucky. A team with a core of Stoudamire, Johnson and Walker could be a real threat come playoff time, it seemed. And it probably would have. It just didn’t work out that way.