The Cavaliers freshman five continues to develop – one way or another – as the 2010-11 season starts to wind down.
Samardo Samuels was moved back to a reserve roll simply to get more length into the starting lineup. He sprained his right wrist against Atlanta and might not be able to go on Tuesday night against the Heat. Luke Harangody has seen regular minutes and had a strong 10-point, nine-board performance against Detroit. Manny Harris has struggled from the field as of late – as has Christian Eyenga. Semih Erden continues to rehab his way back into the rotation.
The Cavaliers young bloods will use their final ten games as an audition for next year. And they’ll all have busy summers if the Cavaliers coaching staff has anything to say about it.
As the season hits its final month, Cavs.com takes another look into the lives of their quintet of youngsters in today’s Rookie Report …
- Manny Harris and Samardo Samuels are both looking to break the Cavaliers mark for most points by an undrafted rookie. Smush Parker set the mark in 2002-03 with 408, with Manny now in the second spot with 308 points. Henry James, who scored 300 points in 1990-91 is next, followed by Samardo, who currently has 279.
- It doesn’t seem like that long ago that Daniel Gibson was a rookie. But Boobie, who just turned 25 last month, is one of the longest-tenured Cavaliers.
Gibson had one of the most prolific rookie seasons in Cavs history back in 2006-07, culminating with his breakout performance against the Pistons. Later that spring, he became the first rookie since Sam Cassell to average double-digits as a rookie in the NBA Finals.
So, if the former Longhorn has some advice for Cleveland’s young guns. They’d be wise to listen.
When you were drafted, it was onto a veteran-laden team that was ready to win. The current rookies are having the opposite experience. Which one is more beneficial for a rookie?
Gibson: I feel like it’s equally valuable. I think the experience that I gained, I learned the top side of it. What it takes to win, how to win, what winning is all about at this level. I learned that quick.
But these guys are taking the other route. They basically are learning what not to do. They’re learning how hard it is to win in this league, what it’s going to take to get to that next level. So I think they’re equally valuable.
One feels a lot better than the other, but you can take each experience and learn and grow. But both will help you as a professional athlete.
Did you hit the “rookie wall” and how did you get over it?
Gibson: During the season, around this time – when March Madness hits – in college, that’s about it. It’s a wrap.
In the pros, in your mind, you’ve got to tell yourself: Now is the time to take it to another level.
I think when I hit the wall, I saw all the other guys around me – E-Snow and all the old-heads telling me to continue work and you’ll bust through it. And I think it’s a matter of that you have to hit it to know what it’s all about. But I think if you take it to another level and after that first season, when you hit it, you’ll never have to worry about it again. Because then your body tells you that you’re capable of breaking through.
When you got advice from the “old-heads” as a rookie, did you sometimes roll your eyes? And do you catch these young guys doing it now?
Gibson: I was telling somebody that about my son. You never know what your father went through until you see your young son acting the same way!
I think when I first got here, I was all about trying to make it and feeling like I was going to do whatever I needed to do in order to make it at this level.
So you tend to sometimes listen. And sometimes feel like you got to do it yourself. But you still hear it. And then, the more and more you grow, and the more things you experience, something’s going to hit you and you’ll say: ‘Man, Gibb was right!’ or ‘Man, E-Snow or Damon was right!’ it just takes that experience sometimes to put you on your butt to realize how valuable that advice is.
- Semih Erden, who’s been nursing nagging shoulder and adductor injuries all season, worked out after Cavs practice on Monday afternoon. On Sunday, Coach Scott was asked if the Turkish center might still see action this year.
“I think there’s still a chance,” said Coach Scott. “Right now, all the work that he’s been doing, he’s getting better – it’s just slow. Obviously, we want that to speed up because we’d like to see him on the floor. But we’re not going to throw him out there if he can’t go. That’s just the bottom line.
When he’s ready, we’ll put him on the floor. If that’s this year, fine. If it’s not, we’ll make sure to get him ready over the summer and get him ready for next year.”
- Let’s hope Christian Eyenga realizes that not every NBA season will be as strange as his first one.
The 21-year-old swingman from the Congo has seen a little bit of everything in his first year in the States. He started the season in Erie with the BayHawks, didn’t see his first NBA action until January, went on to start 17 games before moving back to the bench, was part of an NBA-record 26-game losing streak and picked up a cool nickname along the way.
And that’s just on the court.
Off the court, he learned how to drive – kinda. During the Cavaliers’ recent West Coast trip, he and the L.A. Clippers dance team were chased off the court by a crazy man wielding a steak knife that he originally thought was a gun. (“I mean, it's America,” said Eyenga after that crazy day in L.A. “If he says he has a gun and he's going to kill everybody. I just start running.")
Most recently, Eyenga learned a valuable rookie lesson about a first-year player’s duty to pick up Krispy Kreme donuts for the vets. Eyenga failed to do so, and the veterans, possibly led by a former North Carolina star out with a finger injury, decided to fill up his ride with popcorn. And, according to his head coach, he was none too happy about it.
“I talked to (Christian) this morning because he was a little ‘salty’ – he wasn’t happy,” said Coach Scott. “And I said, ‘If you’re mad, you’re mad. Say you’re mad.’ I said, ‘But you are a rookie and when veterans ask you to do something, you do it. And if you don’t, these are the consequences. So now you know.’”
- Until he gets more comfortable in front of the camera, fans won’t know what a cut-up Christian can be in the Cavaliers locker room. Of course, sometimes he gets the most pleasure from his own jokes.
During the early stages of the NCAA Tournament, Eyenga was chiding fellow rookie Luke Harangody about his “brudda” playing on Notre Dame’s current team.
At first, the media thought he was confused and referring to Ben Hansbrough – brother of Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough. But actually, Eyenga was referring to current Notre Dame forward, Jack Cooley, who really does look like Harangody. (So much so that Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg wrote this article, entitled: “Notre Dame Didn’t Replace Luke Harangody – It Cloned Him.”)
When reporters finally figured it out, Harangody rolled his eyes and said: “He makes that same joke every day.”
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.