MADISON — Jim Chones, Campy Russell and Austin Carr have played in and seen the lean times for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
They’ve also witnessed the joyous times, capped by a 2016 National Basketball Association Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
The Cavs broadcasters, along with Tim Alcorn, took part in a question-and-answer forum on Tuesday at the Madison Holiday Inn Express.
Alcorn is the new play-by-play voice and will team with Chones, while Carr is the television analyst and partner with John Michael.
Russell is co-host of the Cavs pregame and postgame television shows. He also works in the Cavaliers’ front office as director of alumni relations.
The quartet talked about the Cavs’ prospects in the midst of a 19-63 2018-19 season and the attempt to contend for an Eastern Conference championship again after LeBron James left for a second time.
As the Cavs celebrate the 50th anniversary of the team’s existence in the newly-transformed RocketMortgage Fieldhouse, the trio of commentators believe a young nucleus is being built, starting with the additions of 2019 first-draft choices Darius Garland, Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter Jr.
In June, Garland was picked No. 5 from Vanderbilt, Windler No. 26 from Belmont and Porter Jr. No. 30 from Southern California after a trade with the Detroit Pistons.
“Kevin Porter is special,” Chones said of the 6-foot-6 shooting guard.
All three said Garland (6-foot-2), who played in just five games last season before being injured, is a “true point” and that teaming him with second-year guard Colin Sexton (6-3) could lead to positive happenings.
Windler, a 6-8 shooting guard-small forward, can provide an outside shot, but he’s been injured.
Russell is also high on 6-11 rookie Marques Bolden of Duke. Bolden was injured early in his college career, then saw action in 19 minutes per game and averaged 5.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.
“He’s a work in progress,” Russell said.
The announcers also believe former Michigan coach John Beilein is the right man to lead the Cavs, even though he doesn’t have NBA coaching experience. The 66-year-old has spent the majority of his coaching career at the collegiate level, most notably at West Virginia and Michigan.
He guided the Wolverines to the NCAA Championship Game in 2013 and 2018.
“For 40 years, he’s worked with 18-22 year olds,” Chones said.
Carr has been impressed from he has seen from Beilein thus far.
“If there is a problem, he addresses it now,” said Carr, a television analyst. “He’s addressing the defensive effort ... half court, transition.”
But the commentators all realize the Cavs are still a work in progress and there’s an adjustment process for Beilein’s jump to the NBA.
“They’re young and are going to get smacked in the face,” Carr said.
Chones said developing the young players off the court as well as on is important.
One question asked is if James will return to the Cavs for a third time.
He left in 2010 season, went to the Miami Heat to win two championships, returned to Cleveland for one title and went to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018.
“At some point, we all come home,” Chones said.
While much of the focus was on the rookies, the commentators didn’t dismiss the veterans still on the team, like Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson.
“You can build around the young guys, but you still have to bring guys in,” Chones said.
Chones played for the Cavs from 1974-79, Russell 1974-80, 84 and Carr 1971-80.
Ben Amos, Ryan Amos and Carter Fellenstein, all of Madison, were among those in attendance.
Ben Amos, a seventh grader, said, “I like how they spoke about the younger players.”
Ryan Amos, a 10th grader, added, “They had real good opinions about the season.”
Fellenstein, a ninth grader, said, “It’s cool to see what’s next and the developing stages of everything.”