Cleveland (8-23) at Charlotte (10-19)

By JEFF BARTL, STATS Writer Wednesday, Dec 29, 2010 Tipoff: 7:00 pm EST Wed Dec 29, 2010

Paul Silas returned to a familiar place to take over as interim coach of the Charlotte Bobcats. After a successful debut, he’ll face the team which sent him into an abrupt hiatus more than five years ago.

Silas will coach against the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers for the first time Wednesday night since being fired March 21, 2005, as the Bobcats look to win back-to-back games for only the second time all season.

Cleveland hired Silas before the 2003-04 season to mentor then-rookie LeBron James(notes). He went 69-77 before being let go with 18 games left in his second season.

“They didn’t think the team was performing as well as it should be and they wanted to make a change,” Silas said the day he was fired.

Owner Michael Jordan lured Silas out of retirement last Wednesday after the resignation of former coach Larry Brown, and Silas has seemed to rejuvenate the struggling Bobcats (10-19). He’s opened up the offensive gameplan to give his players more freedom and told the team to begin enjoying the game again.

Charlotte nearly blew a 23-point lead Monday against Detroit, but held on for a 105-100 victory to end a four-game skid. Point guard D.J. Augustin(notes), who clashed with Brown over the team’s system, scored a season-high 27 points.

“I think it’s more relaxed, more laid back,” said forward Gerald Wallace(notes), who has sat out the last five games with an ankle injury as is uncertain if he’ll play against the Cavs. “Guys are more comfortable. Guys are smiling more. I don’t think it’s the down mode anymore. I think guys were kind of down. It just felt like things couldn’t get better.”

Despite Wallace’s absence and the tension under Brown, the Bobcats are only one game out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

“We all feel like the season has started over for us,” leading scorer Stephen Jackson(notes) said. “I think everybody came to work at practice and we support each other on the court. That’s how it should have been at the beginning of the season.”

Meanwhile, Silas’ former team continues to struggle.

Cleveland (8-23) lost for the 14th time in 15 games Tuesday night, allowing 19 3-pointers in a 110-95 defeat to Orlando. The Cavs are 1-13 in December and tied their season high with 19 turnovers.

Antawn Jamison(notes) led Cleveland with 21 points despite leaving briefly in the first quarter after banging knees with a Magic player. Daniel Gibson(notes), who missed Sunday’s loss to Minnesota with the flu, returned to the starting lineup and scored 15 points before fouling out.

Anderson Varejao(notes) added 14 and narrowly missed his second double-double of the season with nine rebounds.

“I don’t think he gets enough credit for how hard he plays and the things he’s been able to do for us,” coach Byron Scott told the team’s official website. “Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to combine his effort with wins right now.”

Cleveland has lost three straight overall to the Bobcats and five of seven in Charlotte.

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Wednesday, Dec 29