Cavaliers Catch-Up

Like a lot of you, I took some of my yearly vacation in August. It was good to get away and good to get back.

I realize you’ve already heard and read about these Cavalier stories, but please indulge me while I do a little recap of my own – just to get myself back to speed …

Reloading the Young Guns
The Cavaliers continued to get younger this offseason, simultaneously shoring up the frontline with former Louisville star, Samardo Samuels.

Samuels surprised a lot of pundits when he came out after his sophomore season in Louisville, where he led Rick Pitino’s squad in scoring and rebounding. The native of Jamaica went undrafted, but played well for the Bulls summer league squad – saving his best game (17 points, seven boards) for a matchup with Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins. (Cousins went 3-for-15 in that game.)

Samuels was a prized recruit coming out of high school in New Jersey. And, although he never exploded onto the NCAA scene, the 21-year-old still has plenty of room for improvement. The 6-9 Samuels is known for his strength, length and basketball IQ. And among the Cavaliers group of young bigs, he might get a baptism by fire. And recently, the league has seen its share of undersized, overachieving forwards like Carl Landry and Paul Milsap find their niche.

With Samuels in the fold, the Cavaliers 15-man roster has an average age of 26.4 years of age. Anthony Parker, 35, and Antawn Jamison, 34, are the team’s deans. Samuels and Christian Eyenga are both 21, and the average age of the five new Cavaliers added this offseason – Samuels, Eyenga, Ramon Sessions, Ryan Hollins and Joey Graham – is exactly 24.0 years old.

The Finery
It’s hard to get a good feel on the new uniforms without actually seeing them in action, but I’ve seen them firsthand, and I think fans will really get behind the traditional look and colors.

Cleveland’s new-old-school uniforms have a classic appeal – with “CAVALIERS” in wine across the chest on the home whites; “CLEVELAND” in gold on the road wines. Instead of a thick piping along the outer-thigh of the shorts, there is a “C-sword” on both sides. The tops are crew-neck, with alternate striping on the neck and arms of the jersey as well as the waistband and legs of the shorts.

But maybe the finest feature of the Cavs new finery is something fans will never see. Along the back of the jersey’s inner-collar – facing the back of the player’s neck – lies the Cavaliers credo: “All for one. One for all.”

The Cavaliers are one of five teams to get new threads for 2010-11. And, like the Cavaliers, most teams went semi-retro.

The Jazz are going with a re-invention of their original uni’s and New Orleans roots, using the old music note logo. The Warriors are returning to “The City” – incorporating the Bay Bridge and return to their color scheme from the ‘70s. The Timberwolves dropped green from their uniform’s palette and the Clippers added a little flash to the league’s traditionally most boring uniforms.

Where and When
No one was shocked to see the dearth of nationally televised games on this year’s Cavaliers schedule – with only the Dec. 2 matchup against Miami and a Sunday evening game against New Orleans in early March on the docket.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how it’ll end up, however. Many people – including everyone in our building – think the Wine and Gold could be better and more exciting than the national punditry’s conventional wisdom. And if the squad is in the midst of a late playoff push, I think Cleveland could be the NBA’s darling.

After facing off against Olympiakos last fall, the Cavaliers will face CSKA Moscow in the preseason and – as it was last year – Boston and Toronto to start the regular campaign.

This year, the Cavaliers’ longest West Coast swing begins in Golden State on January 7, taking them to Staples Center to face the World Champs on the 11th and wrapping up with a tough back-to-back against Utah and Denver. (Strangely, the Cavs will travel out West again in March.)

The month of January could show what this year’s Cavs are made of. Including the five-gamer out West, the Wine and Gold play 11 of their 16 games in January. After returning from their wild West roadie, their last five visits in January are at Chicago, New Jersey, Boston, Orlando and Miami.

The NBA’s team isn’t entirely sadistic, however. Cleveland plays nine of 11 at home in February.

World-Wide Wild Thing
Over the past couple years, talking Team USA toiling at the World Championships might involve members of the infamous “Redeem Team” – LeBron, Melo, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Chris Bosh. But, unfortunately for David Stern, those guys have been talked about enough this summer. And let’s just say it’s made folks feel less than patriotic.

This year’s club is more like the JV squad – although it’s still loaded with talent that could and should take the gold when matters wrap up in Turkey. Aside from veterans, Lamar Odom and Chauncey Billups, this team is run by young guns like Kevin Durant, Eric Gordon and Kevin Love.

From a Cavaliers standpoint, however, Monday afternoon’s matchup with Brazil could be interesting – if Anderson Varejao plays, that is.

Varejao, who could be Cleveland’s starting center this season, missed Brazil’s matchup with Tunisia, but should be ready for the Americans on Monday. And he and Tiago Splitter – who the Spurs have seemingly flirted with for a decade – could present some size problems for the U.S.

While this summer’s international games are a dalliance to American fans, they take it very seriously internationally. Contract issues kept Anderson out of the 2007 games and injuries sidelined him in 2008. But his countrymen – even including Brazilian hoops legend Oscar Schmidt – weren’t as forgiving as you’d think.

“(Brazilian fans) were very upset – very upset,” explained Varejao at the time. “They thought I didn’t want to play. But I explained to them that I had the contract stuff. I couldn’t play because I didn’t have a contract with the insurance. They were very upset. In my hometown: (they were) asking me why I didn’t want to play, asking my family why I didn’t want to play.”

Book It
It’s bad enough, coming back from vacation to a mailbox full of junkmail and bills. But that was nothing compared to what was wedging them aside in my mailbox – this month’s issue of GQ, featuring the Cavaliers former small forward on the cover.

I haven’t weighed in too heavily on the player or the events surrounding his “Decision.” But after reading the piece – written by J.R. Moehringer, author of the excellent memoir, “The Tender Bar” and Andre Agassi’s biography “Open” – LeBron strikes me as a guy who’s trying to convince himself of something. What that is, I’m still not sure.

Most local media members who read the piece could feel Moehringer’s frustration – a Pulitzer Prize-winning author having to jump through the same hoops – (while getting the same hackneyed platitudes) – from Number 6 that most of local scribes have gotten during his first seven years. Moehringer went diving for deep LeBron, but in the end, came away with very little meat on the bone.

If you still have time to do some quality – and less aggravating – summer reading, try one of the aforementioned books instead. Labor Day is fast approaching. And it’s time to look ahead.