Cavs' Ferry moving forward...slowly

October 31, 1990|By Terry Pluto | Terry Pluto,Knight-Ridder

RICHFIELD, Ohio -- Now it is Danny Ferry's turn . . . sort of.

During the summer, Ferry was written in as the latest in a long line of Cleveland Cavaliers' small forwards. At 6 feet 10, Ferry is both bigger and slower than the ideal small forward, and that has been a problem at times this preseason.

"Right now, we're going to use different people there," coach Lenny Wilkens said. "I think we will have the position well-covered, but one night it may be Danny, others it could be Winston [Bennett], Chucky [Brown] or even Craig [Ehlo]."

Furthermore, it appears that Brown or Bennett will be the Cavs' ** starting small forward when the season opens Friday in Boston.

The typical small forward is Xavier McDaniel, Dominique Wilkins or Scottie Pippen -- guys in the 6-8 range who are runners, leapers and who possess pretty good outside jumpers, too.

So Ferry's build makes him more suited for power forward, where the average size is his size -- 6-10, 230 pounds. But his projected -- and the accent is on the word projected -- passing and shooting skills are exactly what the Cavaliers need from the small forward spot.

At times this preseason, Ferry has been an effective small forward on offense, but has some trouble on defense. That was demonstrated early in the exhibition season when San Antonio's 6-7 Sean Elliott and Phoenix's 6-6 Kenny Battle took turns driving past Ferry.

Of course, Ferry also has an advantage over these players -- he's taller. Ferry can take them under the basket, catch a pass and simply go right over them for easy scores. The Cavs have yet to consistently capitalize on this strength, partly because they don't know Ferry and partly because Ferry hasn't been aggressive in terms of setting up near the basket and demanding the ball.

Wilkens has spotted Ferry. He was matched against Tom Chambers, the Suns' 6-10 small forward, and Ferry drilled Chambers for 14 points in the first half.

When the Cavs faced Washington's 6-6 Bernard King, Ferry sat, but came in and shot 7-for-8 from the field, first against backup forward Mark Alarie and then King.

"What I want to do is put Danny in situations where he can succeed," Wilkens said. "He will have more success guarding certain small forwards than he will other guys."

Ferry spent last season with Il Messaggero Roma of the Italian League, where he played both forward spots and some center. That also was what he did at Duke University, where he was the NCAA Player of the Year in 1989.

But NBA small forwards are more athletic and faster than those in the Atlantic Coast Conference or in Italy.

"I feel I can play either forward," said Ferry. "Some of the guys I've faced are quicker than I am, so I have to be smart. I have to funnel them into the areas of our defense where we'll have some help."

But Ferry hasn't done that, which explains his almost constant foul trouble (he is averaging nine fouls per 48 minutes).

"I have a lot to learn and it's hard to be patient sometimes," Ferry said.

His statistics are decent for a rookie -- 9.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 45 percent shooting in 23 minutes per game.

"Hey, Danny isn't the only rookie who has been inconsistent," said Cavaliers player personnel director Gary Fitzsimmons. "I've been looking at stats and Dennis Scott, Willie Burton, Dave Jamerson, Chris Jackson, and a lot of other guys are shooting 40 percent or lower from the field."

In the 20-year history of the franchise, only two Cavs small forwards have been All-Stars -- Campy Russell (1979) and Mike Mitchell (1981).

Since the days of Mitchell and his deadly turnaround baseline jumper, finding a small forward has been as difficult as getting past the first round of the playoffs.

Phil Hubbard, Larry Nance, Mike Sanders and Randolph Keys were all given the job, and found lacking.

This fall, the Cavs wanted to trade John "Hot Rod" Williams to Seattle for guard Nate McMillan and McDaniel. The 6-8 McDaniel is a natural small forward.

Now there are questions about Ferry. What is his best position? How long will it take for him to make an impact?

"We expect rookies to come in and make a huge impact right away because of the money they are paid," said Fitzsimmons.

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