With rookies assuming one-third of the Cavaliers roster, Coach Byron Scott will have to be even more patient than he’s already been this season. By the same token, at varying points all year, Cleveland’s rookies have stepped to the plate.
On Sunday night, for example, while Christian Eyenga was struggling through a scoreless 22 minutes and Manny Harris was limited to a single shot in six minutes, Samardo Samuels battled with two-time All-Star Elton Brand – netting a dozen points on 5-for-8 shooting with six big boards and a blocked shot.
As for the Cavs two new freshman, Coach Scott understandably wants them (and Baron Davis) to get a practice or two under their belt before they see game action. And with Antawn Jamison’s finger injury, they’ll likely see some of that action on Wednesday night against the Spurs.
With that in mind, here’s this week’s Rookie Report …
- The addition of Luke Harangody should spell one of the best battles to watch in practice every day – that between the banger from Notre Dame and his former Big East rival, Samardo Samuels.
Neither forward will ever be accused of having a finesse game and Harangody has a reputation for being a hard-nosed practice player. Celtics coach Doc Rivers half-jokingly said that he was almost afraid to let him practice against Boston’s vets.
“I have to go all out to be successful, so that’s the only way I really know how to go,” said Harangody before Sunday’s match with Philly. “I’m not the most athletic guy. I have to go in there and get to work. And if someone gets hurt, that’s what happens.”
It was Louisville’s day yesterday. Aside from the Rick Pitino’s squad knocking off No. 4 Pittsburgh in OT, Samuels had a nice outing in 24 minutes against a trimmed-down Brand.
In three college meetings between Samuels and Harangody – who now sit just three locker stalls apart – Samardo’s Cardinals went 2-1. In their second meeting, Harangody went for 32 points and 17 boards. One year later, Samuels tallied 36 points and six boards against the Irish.
- Some first-year players admit the existence of the famed “rookie wall” and some don’t.
Christian Eyenga may or may not be hitting the rookie wall. But over his last seven games, if Eyenga hasn’t hit the wall, he’s at the base of it, staring up.
Cleveland’s starting small forward has notched double-figures just once over his last seven, and that was a 10-point effort against his childhood idol, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. (It’s the reason Eyenga wears No. 8.)
Over Eyenga’s last three games, he’s shooting just 25 percent from the floor, including Sunday’s scoreless effort against the Sixers.
In Spain, Christian played in 25 games in 2008-09 and just 29 in ‘09-10. Cleveland’s college rookies didn’t play many more games in their career, but logged many more minutes. And they don’t have the stress of starting as a 21-year-old transplant from the Congo.
For most players, the rookie wall is real. And Christian will have to start climbing.
- Semih Erden has been playing through some pain all season, wearing a protective sleeve on his sore left shoulder. Erden came into the season with Boston nursing his shoulder, and going against Shaq most days probably didn’t help.
Coach Scott doesn’t think the injury will keep him out of the lineup, moving forward this year, however.
“I don’t think it’ll keep him from playing,” said Scott. “I think it’s something we’re going to have to deal with once the season is over, as far as rehab is concerned or whatever the case may be. But it’s not going to keep him from playing.”
- Before bolting Boston, Luke Harangody got some good tips on Cleveland and the Cavaliers from none other than Delonte West.
“Delonte had nothing but great things to say about Cleveland – where he lived, about the organization,” said Harangody. “I found that out right away – how open they were and how welcoming they were. It’s been a crazy 24 hours, but at the same time, they’ve made it very easy for me.”
- Manny Harris, who said recently that he doesn’t believe in the rookie wall – or at least hasn’t hit it yet.
Harris hit his only attempt on Sunday night – a first-half three-pointer – capping a weird two week stretch. Against New York two nights earlier, Manny went scoreless and two nights before that, posted 21 points and nine boards – going 9-of-16 from the floor and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Before that, Manny got a pair of DNP-CDs.
The fact that Harris performed as well as he did – especially after getting beat up (0-5 FG; K. Martin 12-19 FG) in his first trip to Houston – is a testament to his preparation and mental toughness.
“It’s definitely easier when you get in a rhythm, but at the same time, playing at this level, you need to stay ready,” said Manny last Wednesday. “If you’re playing six minutes, ten minutes, whatever, you still have to find a way to produce. But it felt to get out there and play.”
Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cavs.com. You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.