Court’s In Session

Trepal Photography
If you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t know it was there.

It’s easier to find “LePeep” – the cozy, breakfast-and-lunch-only diner that sits innocently across the street – than the Cleveland Clinic Courts, the Cavaliers’ new state-of-the-art practice facility that sits just 500 feet from Route 21 and the tranquility of Independence suburbia.

You’d never guess it from the pastoral setting, but nestled in among places like that tiny diner and Cloverleaf Bowling Alley is now where the Eastern Conference Champions will hone their bodies, their minds and their game in what might just be the top team training facility in professional sports.

The Cleveland Clinic Courts complex is a sprawling testament to Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers’ commitment to both Northeast Ohio and the championship-caliber culture that Cleveland has come to expect from both. And on Wednesday afternoon, the Wine and Gold will celebrate CCC’s grand opening as the franchise takes one more giant
step in the pursuit of excellence.

Work flow, connectivity and communication were the primary objectives for the player development facility that boasts nearly 50,000 square feet of cutting-edge technology and functionality – two side-by-side courts, a 3,000 square foot weight and conditioning area, a 150 inch HD projection screen with sweet stadium seating – all somehow melded together under one roof to allow players, coaches and staff to better maximize time and space.

But can this facility translate into wins and losses when the ball goes up on October 31?

“Just like in any business, workflow is important – having space to work and work effectively,” said Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry. “A basketball court is really a team’s office space. And (the new facility) gives everyone the opportunity to do extra shooting, it gives the coach an opportunity to have two courts to work with two separate teams at a time and really be that much more efficient with their time in practice. And that should ultimately help our team in the long haul.”

The court itself is actually two side-by-side floors with space for six separate baskets which can be used simultaneously for player shooting drills – even long-distance shooting drills for Damon Jones. At separate corners of the floor are Kaiser air-pressure exercise stations where players can work out without ever leaving the hardwood.

Should the players want the entire workout, they will be more than accommodated in the capacious weight room directly off the main floor. The move from The Q to Cleveland Clinic Courts doubles the amount of space (1,400 square feet at The Q; 3,000 at CCC) where players can lift – a fact that’s not lost on the team’s Strength and Conditioning Coach Stan Kellers.

“Our philosophy has always been the same – sports-specific training emphasizing the 'core' and keeping the players as prepared for the season as possible,” said Kellers. “And we have a few more tools to do that now. But with the space, the layout and the equipment, you’re able to handle as many athletes efficiently. And with our guys, they have a two-and-half-hour practice and you have to fit weight-training in there.

“For me, to be efficient is critical, especially in-season. You can handle 15 of 20 guys in here – and they’re all working.”

If you hear the staff mention the words “functional” and “efficient” a lot while working at the Cleveland Clinic Courts, that’s because the facility was designed with those goals in mind. Assistant GM Chris Grant shouldered much of the load in bringing the Courts from the drawing board to life, admits as much.

“It was important to have a facility that houses everyone from basketball operations in an environment that’s practical and functional,” said Grant. “We really tried to create each area of the building with an understanding of practical work flow. We included everyone in the process to enhance each space.”

As far as efficiency, the Cleveland Clinic Courts is not just a place where players can bench press or work on their 18-footer. And the name on the building is not merely a partnership arrangement. The Cleveland Clinic is among the most reputable health organizations in the world and they have brought their expertise to the building itself.

Team trainers and physicians are able to view x-rays, MRIs, cat scans, bone scans and lab reports as if they were in the actual hospital. This allows team physicians to educate players and allow the team to make better healthcare decisions and tend to individual needs more expeditiously.

And it wasn’t just the CCC weight room that got all the cool toys.

Located on the east end of the building, behind Trainer Max Benton’s office is the HydroWorks 2000 – basically an underwater treadmill – which allows the team to use aquatic rehabilitation, recovery and preventative procedures on individual players. It offers a non-impact environment which is joint-friendly on the knees, shoulders and back.

“We can raise the treadmill, they can walk onto it and we’ll lower it into the water, safely, because if you have a sprained ankle, you really don’t want to jump into and out of a pool,” beamed Benton. “Water is a great environment to address many multiple issues. Water gives an individual support and just that basic touch and sensation – water is warm and friendly. If we can instruct our players properly, and guide them through that, then we can use water to our best advantage – to condition, to “prehab” and to rehab those players.”

The practice facility will create fresh new revenue streams for Independence schools and Cuyahoga County’s general fund. Over the life of the lease agreement, schools and the general fund will receive millions of dollars of new money that wouldn’t exist without the project. The Cavaliers never wanted or demanded “tax breaks” for the facility.

In the coming days and weeks, will take a more in-depth look at Cleveland Clinic Courts and some of the people that have made – and will continue to make it the top athletic facility in the country. As for Wednesday afternoon, all that’s left to do is cut the ribbon.