The Boys of Summer
I know it’s tough to move forward with so much angst swirling around the squad and city. But the new-look Cavaliers will continue to grow and, with Byron Scott in the driver’s seat, might do so faster than anyone expects.
The healing process began in Sin City on Tuesday night, when the Cavaliers joined 21 other teams to get a sneak-peak at some youngsters and round out their Training Camp rosters.
For the top rookies – like John Wall, Wesley Johnson and DeMarcus Cousins – it’ll be a good gauge of where they’ll be when Camp tips off. For undrafted rookies and seekers of a second-chance, it’s a golden opportunity to reach the NBA promised land – whether they do so for their Summer League squad or simply leave a lasting impression for later.
With the Wine and Gold suddenly looking at some open roster spots, this year’s Summer League experience in Vegas could be big.
So, to briefly take your minds off the recent past and focus you on the future, here are five questions to ponder about this year’s Summer League squad …
1. What will Christian Eyenga bring to Summer League?
As a ballplayer, the word to describe the 6-5, 210-pounder has been “raw.” Although most Cavs fans have yet to see him dribble a ball, Eyenga is tabbed a fantastic athlete who is still working on the game’s nuances. A native of the Congo, last season’s first-rounder is just 21 years old and played in the Spanish Second Division last season, battling through an early-season injury.
“Our hope is to have him play in Summer League, evaluate his progress, see how he’s doing and make a decision on whether to bring him over here or let him play another year overseas,” said Cavs GM Chris Grant.
On Tuesday night, against the D-League Select team, Eyenga showed some flashes of that athleticism, swatting a pair of shots and running the floor well. He finished with 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting.
2. Is J.J. Hickson ready to take the next step?
Easily the most experienced Cavalier on this year’s Summer League roster is J.J. Hickson.
In his sophomore season, Hickson started 73 games – averaging 9.2 ppg and shooting 56 percent from the floor. His lack of playoff action was well-documented, but by any measure, the Atlanta native still had a breakthrough season.
This summer, Hickson will try to refine his game as he enters the 2010-11 season as one of the team’s new, young leaders. In the first D-League Game, the former No. 19 overall pick looked lean and active – leading the Wine and Gold with 18 points on 9-for-12 shooting.
3. Will we get a preview of the new coaching staff?
This year’s Summer squad will be coached by one of Byron Scott’s new assistants – Paul Pressey. (In the past two years, Chris Jent and BayHawks head coach John Traelor had assumed that role.)
Pressey, a ten-year NBA vet, was the original “point forward” during his days with Milwaukee and, like Scott, will probably try to get out and run. And although many of these players won’t reach the final roster, youngsters like Hickson, Eyenga and Danny Green might be integral parts of the new-look Cavaliers sooner than expected.
On Tuesday, the Cavaliers were already running as much as possible, even after made baskets. Byron Scott insisted that if you’re going to be a running team, you need to start from Training Camp, or, in this case, Summer League.
Pressey will join Jent, Traelor and Melvin Hunt from last year’s staff and will be joined by Spurs veteran coach Joe Prunty as well as Kornel David, once known as the “Hungarian Jordan.”
4. Are there any interesting matchups on the schedule?
Let’s just say the July 17 matchup with the Heat won’t have the same juice as the matchups these two teams will have this season.
The Cavaliers will play just five games during this year’s Summer session, beginning with Tuesday’s battle against some of the D-League’s best – including BayHawks’ sharpshooter and Olmsted Falls native, Mike Gansey.
In the successive four games, the Wine and Gold will face Phoenix on Wednesday, the Bulls on July 16, an entire team of Heat rookies on July 17 and the Bucks to close it out one day later.
5. Who are the rest of these guys and do they have a shot of reaching Training Camp?
For the first time in years, the Cavaliers come to Camp with some roster spots to fill. Some of the young guns trying to fill them with strong summer performances are …
Jerome Dyson – Long point guard was one of UConn’s captains as a senior after bouncing back from some early adversity. At one point was the only player in the country to average 19 points, five boards and five assists.
Marquis Gilstrap –Only has one year of D1 experience after rehabbing a leg injury, the forward from Iowa State averaged 14.9 points and 9.3 reb (4th in the Big 12).
Manny Harris – Four-year combo guard was 2008-09 All-Big Ten first team and was among the conference leaders in several statistical categories including: fourth in scoring, tenth in rebounds, fifth in assists, seventh in free throw percentage, second in steals.
Aaron Jackson – Was first team All-Atlantic 10, becoming the first Duquense player to do so since Mike James, leading them to their first 20-win season in 30 years. Jackson played last year in Turkey.
Nathan Jawai – Nicknamed the “Outback Shaq,” the Aussie big man averaged 17.2 points and 9.3 rebounds for Sioux Falls in the NBDL
Maciej Lampe – Drafted by the Knicks 30th overall in the 2003 Draft, Lampe was subsequently traded to the Suns, Hornets and Rockets before heading overseas where he played with Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Tasmin Mitchell – Versatile small forward averaged 14.5 ppg in four years at LSU and had an 11-point, 11-rebound debut for Cleveland on Tuesday night.