Preseason Stories

The Cavaliers are into the homestretch of the exhibition campaign – with two games remaining before they start to count. The Wine and Gold face Philly on Tuesday night in Cincinnati and the Bucks on Thursday in the state capital. After that, it’s a few days off before the big, bad Celtics arrive to open the season.

With the preseason winding down, takes a quick look at five of the top storylines that have shaped the squad heading into the final two games …

1. Missing Persons – With the big-name departures in the offseason, some of the Cavaliers’ seasoned vets were supposed to take hold of the team. But with just two games remaining in the preseason, we’ve yet to see two of those vets – and we might not see another pair again until opening night.

Mo Williams came into Camp nursing a sore groin and hasn’t seen action yet. In his absence, his former backcourt mate, Ramon Sessions, has taken advantage of the situation – tallying double-figures in each of the Wine and Gold’s first six games.

Anderson Varejao hasn’t taken the floor either this fall, leaving early in Camp to be with his family following the death of his grandfather. Varejao played with the Brazilian team over the summer – and his style of play should work well with Coach Scott’s. Andy was an All-Defensive Team performer last season, but this year he’ll be manning the middle without Z and Shaq having his back.

The squad’s starting shooting guard, Anthony Parker, went down with a pair of sprained fingers in Thursday’s win over San Antonio. Antawn Jamison injured his knee in the same ballgame.

While Coach Scott evaluates his young guns, both Parker and Jamison have played sparingly. But even in their brief appearances, the steady duo has shot a combined 26 percent from the floor.

One veteran who has been healthy throughout the preseason is Jamario Moon, and on Monday, Byron Scott all but anointed the former Globetrotter with the starting 3 spot. (Now, Jamario has more than just No. 23’s old locker.)

2. Manny Being Manny – Unlike the Cleveland Browns, the Cavaliers don’t give out awards for their Training Camp’s top player. But if they did, Manny Harris might be this season’s recipient.

Undrafted out of Michigan, Harris heads into the final two contests of the preseason as the squad’s fourth-leading scorer at 9.8 ppg. He’s averaging almost 20 minutes per outing – going from a DNP-CD in Cleveland’s first game against Charlotte to the entire second half in wins over Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, notching double-digits in each. In Saturday night’s loss at The Q, he led the team in rebounding.

Two seasons ago, Jawad Williams defied the odds and went from Summer League success to his hometown team’s regular season roster. This year, Manny Harris looks to do the same thing.

Right now, Harris is a crowd favorite, like the backup quarterback. But a roster incumbent (Danny Green) and a high draft pick (Christian Eyenga) are also still fighting for the remaining guard spots.

3. Boobie Redux – Players shouldn’t really be staging “comebacks” in their early-20s. But that’s what this preseason is shaping up to be for Daniel Gibson.

A staple of Byron Scott’s post-practice media is his effusive praise for Gibson. Scott frequently states that before he arrived, he was told about all the things Boobie couldn’t do.

“He’s been terrific all preseason long,” praised Scott. “He’s been one of the guys you can count on the most on both ends of the floor. He’s extremely bright, he understands what he’s doing on both ends. He’s a great on-ball defender as well as a great off-the-ball defender.

“Boobie’s been fantastic. There’s really nothing he hasn’t done well this preseason.”

The surprise hero of the 2007 Playoffs, Boobie leads the Cavaliers in scoring at 14.3 ppg, while running the team and playing tough perimeter defense. He notched a preseason-high 21 points on Saturday night and is shooting 86 percent from the stripe. According to his new head coach, Gibson has the three ideal qualities for the Princeton offense – he’s smart, a good ball-handler and can shoot.

“I’m having a lot of fun,” said Gibson. “I’m just trying to continue to play basketball the right way, continue to work hard and look for my shot. This offense, like we always say, there’s so much opportunity. I just try to find that open spot and step into it with confidence and knock it down.”

4. Camp Byron – Cavaliers players may or may not have known how brutal Bryon Scott’s first Training Camp in Cleveland would be. But either way, they found out quickly and are probably crossing off days on the calendar before October 27.

The young squad hasn’t had many days off – (it might be only two) – since Camp tipped off. Coach Scott insisted over the summer that if the Wine and Gold wanted to be a running, up-tempo team, the process had to start in Camp and during the preseason. And the former Laker guard has been true to his word. The unmistakable squeaking sneaker sound of line-touches permeates the gym following almost every practice. (Those of us who’ve done our share know the sound well.)

After Monday’s practice, Coach Scott was asked how he makes sure the team doesn’t have any defensive lapses.

“We did that today – they’re called ‘suicides,’” joked Scott, referring to the punishing conditioning drill. The media got a good laugh out of it. The Cavaliers likely did not.

“That’s the only way,” Scott continued. “I mean you have to get their attention one way or the other. And that’s one way of getting the guys’ attention.”

5. The Young Folks – There hasn’t been a lot of mystery in the Cavaliers’ previous preseasons. Cleveland’s been a veteran-laden team with rookies and other youngsters having little to no chance of playing time.

But this fall, the Cavs have been an equal opportunity ballclub – with young guns like Samuel Samardo, Christian Eyenga, Manny Harris and Ryan Hollins getting plenty of action.

Hollins has been especially impressive – starting all five games at the 5. The former Bruin is averaging 7.6 points and 7.2 boards per contest – shooting 58 percent from the floor and 89 percent from the stripe.

Samardo Samuels, another undrafted rookie, has also looked good in the post. An undersized big man who’s built more like a tight end, Samuels is averaging 6.7 ppg in just under 18 minutes per contest.

Christian Eyenga is one of the preseason’s true wildcards, simply because almost no one saw last year’s top draft pick play before he came over this summer. The 22-year-old doesn’t look overwhelmed and has shot exceptionally well – .714 from the field overall, 4-for-4 from long distance.

Cleveland’s young guns performed well through the preseason. But the real test comes next week, when the Diesel, Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics roll into town.

Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.