Working for the Roster

October 22, 2013
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Henry Sims
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images

For some players the NBA preseason is a mere formality. For others, it represents the most important few weeks of their entire lives.

For the latter group, these seemingly insignificant games could mean the difference between the NBA life – and all the wonderful things that go with it – or the prospect of working their way back though the D-League or playing ball in a land thousands of miles from home.

Cavs big man Henry Sims has experienced some of each. And within the next few days, as he claws for one of the remaining roster spots, he’ll know which path will spell his immediate basketball future.

“This is my second year going around, and I feel like I personally should have been in the NBA last year,” said Sims. “But the powers that be, that wasn’t their will for me. This year, I’m doing everything in my power to make sure that if I don’t make it, it’s nothing that I did. If I don’t make it, I know I know I put everything on the table in order for me to get to this spot. Preferably speaking, I hope I make it. But if I don’t make it, I’m not looking back saying ‘coulda-woulda-shoulda.”

After a four-year career at Georgetown, Sims went undrafted in 2012. As a junior for the Hoyas, he led the squad in field goal percentage. As a senior, he led the team in both assists and blocks and was the only player in the Big East to finish in the top 15 in both categories.

He participated in the 2012 Summer League with both the Jazz and Bulls and signed with the Knicks before preseason. Sims still recalls his first action as a pro.

“I remember my first preseason game with the Knicks last year,” smiled Sims. “I had to guard Kevin Garnett and he just goes. I feel like it was my second or third trip down the floor and I was gassed. (I) could hardly move, my arms were shaking. I’ve never felt that tired in a game before. And I remember telling myself: ‘It’s early, but next offseason, you better be running every day, getting in shape for this.’

“And as the year went on, I played a few more games and slowly but surely, I started getting used to it. And when the D-League came along I felt like I was getting even more used to it. When the call-up came, it was a lot of learning, but it was more of just me getting comfortable playing again.”

Sims has definitely gotten comfortable in his second year – and he’s making a very strong case to make the Cavaliers out of Camp.

As of Monday night’s win over the Sixers in which he went 6-of-6 from the floor, Sims is easily leading the squad in field goal percentage – shooting a team-best 68 percent (17-of-25) from the field – including an eye-popping 81 percent (17-of-21) over the last five contests.

“I think I’m starting to get comfortable – especially with these guys,” said Sims. “I’ve been with them for over a month and I’ve seen these guys every day over that time and I feel comfortable around them, playing my game. And last year in the D-League, it really allowed me to get comfortable with the NBA game so it’s not as much learning. It’s a good feeling to just go out there and play my game and enjoy the game.”

Sims averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 41 games with the Erie BayHawks last season. He ranked seventh in the D-League in rebounding and was named to the 2013 D-League All-Star Game.

When the D-League season wrapped up, Sims signed with the Petron Blaze Boosters of the Philippines Basketball Association.

“I went over there without any real expectations,” said Sims of his stint overseas. “And if I were to have expectations, the players there superseded those expectations. The players were good, their footwork was great and they could shoot. I definitely didn’t expect that. And then the Americans I was up against were high level, skilled, NBA guys that had been in and out of the NBA.

“I enjoyed the city of Manila; the team took care of me. So I definitely enjoyed my stay there.”

Sims was signed by the Blaze Boosters after former first-round pick Renaldo Balkman had his highly-publicized on-court meltdown with the team.

“It was unfortunate for him and for the team,” said Sims. “But I’m glad they found me.”

Sims knows he has a short time to make an impression on the Cavs coaching staff, but he hasn’t pressed. Every minute on the court is valuable, and he’s tried the make the most out of every one of them.

“Realistically, when you’re out there, you’re not going to make a spectacular play every minute you’re out there, you just have to make sure you make the right play,” said the former Hoya. “When you’re out there, you can always be sure you’re in the right spot and even if you aren’t, the effort to get back into the right spot is what Coach is more so concerned about. He knows things are going to be mucked up and not go the right way all the time, but you have to forth the effort. If you miss a play, what are you going to do after that play to make up for it? Don’t dwell on the play you missed, just move forward.”

After stretches in the D-League and the Philippines, the Baltimore native’s complete focus is now on securing a spot with the Wine and Gold. And so far, he’s fit in well with the team’s rapidly-improving frontline. He grabbed 10 boards in 20 minutes off the bench against Detroit, two nights after snagging nine rebounds (four off the offensive glass) against the Bobcats in Canton.

“I think I do the same things (the Cavs frontline) does – rebound, run the floor, defend,” asserts Sims. “And I do some other things that are specific to my own game as far as making plays offensively, being able to shoot the ball from 17, 18 feet.

“I like the group of guys, I like Coach Brown. I love his philosophy, his coaching style. And I’d love to play here in Cleveland.”