Cavaliers Cap Off Week One of Camp

Dajuan Wagner fought through personal problems to put on a clinic on Friday night.
After a week of running skeleton drills and scoreless scrimmages, the Wine took on the Gold before a full-house on Friday night at Capital University.

For the first time in years, the Cavaliers took Training Camp on the road down at the wonderful campus in Columbus. On Friday, Paul Silas’ squad temporarily turned Crusader fans to Cavalier fans with an intersquad scrimmage that wowed the 2,100 strong.

Dajuan Wagner somehow was able to put a week’s worth of personal problems aside for 40 minutes of near-flawless basketball. Wagner’s sister was seriously injured in an school bus accident early this week in Philadelphia.

“I just wanted to get on the court and play and get my mind off things,” said the soft-spoken combo guard. “It just felt good to be out there working.”

Wagner was quick and aggressive, breaking out some weapons from last year’s arsenal – the step-through outside jumper, the teardrop – and few fans haven’t seen before. Wagner had the student body ohhhing and ahhhing over a crossover move, going left around Jeff McInnis and going with the right hand to get around a pair of defenders at the hoop.

LeBron James looked like a young man who was ready to blow off steam and his thunderous dunk midway through the third quarter gave the Capital crowd the thrill of the evening. The new father was rested and ready, even after another whirlwind summer. He couldn’t help getting a shot in over his (lack of) playing time in the Olympics.

A lot of people, big and small, have this look the first time they see LeBron James.
“I took some time off in the Olympics,” LeBron joked. “I got some rest, so I’m fine now.”

LeBron may have been the exhibition’s show-stopper, but it was the Cavaliers’ new power forward Drew Gooden that stole the show overall. Gooden out-worked everyone in the low post on Friday night, and if anyone thinks he’s a ‘finesse’ forward, they should have been on hand to watch the former Jayhawk battle Tractor Traylor.

“Drew is big time,” said Silas. “Rebounding, scoring, defending. Everything you need from him, he provided. He and Tractor went right at each other, which was great.”

Gooden did most of his damage down low, proving Paul Silas’ point that he has been playing out of position for much of his first two years in the league. On several occasions, Gooden went to his right and cut through the lane for a short bank shot.

Coach Silas was pleased with his team’s progress at Capital. His squad coming out of last year’s camp is day and night with the group he brings back to the Gund. Last year at this time his starting guard was Darius Miles. His backup guards were Kevin Ollie and J.R. Bremer. If nothing else, the Cavaliers vastly improved their depth in the off-season. Only five players remain from last season. The current Cavaliers are a potent blend of young lions and hard-nosed vets.

“Guys were really playing hard,” praised Coach Silas. “We got a lot of things to work on but if this is any indication of what we can become, then we can become a pretty good team.”

Jeff McInnis gets a warm reception as he's introduced by Coach Silas.
Before the game, Coach Silas spoke to the crowd and introduced his players. The biggest ovation by both genders was LeBron James, but the ladies loved rookie Luke Jackson. Coach Silas, in his window-rattling baritone, even had to remark on that development.

One of the funnier moments of the scrimmage came in the fourth quarter when Cavalier rookie (and European League veteran) Anderson Varejao slapped a Zydrunas Ilgauskas layup off the rim just as it was about to fall in. On the way back down the court, with the team and crowd getting a good laugh, Z explained to Vareajo that that's not kosher in the NBA.

The week at Capital University was a great experience for the Cavaliers. They got a nice retreat from the distractions of home and got to the business of basketball. As for the university, accommodations, assistance and personnel could not have been better. From the pastoral small college setting to the state-of-the-art facilities, Capital was the real deal.

“The fans here, the experience, the whole community was great to us,” said LeBron James. “If we have to come back here for training camp, this would be a great place to come back to. It’s been a great experience.”

Cleveland will now gear up for a week more of Camp at the Gund and take on the Grizzlies on Thursday night in Memphis.

But the Cavaliers have one more stop on the way up to Cleveland when they play the Wine & Gold scrimmage on Sunday night at Akron University. If that second annual exhibition is anything like Friday night’s contest at Capital, the arena will be full of happy Zips on Sunday.