The Cavaliers Summer League squad began practicing for their first game – a Friday night matchup with Jabari Parker and the Bucks – on Monday morning. But we were able to attend our first workout on Tuesday night. And after taking in Tuesday’s session under new head coach David Blatt, I’m convinced the Wine and Gold could sell tickets to the man’s practices.
You could feel the energy and engagement from both Blatt and associate head coach Tyronn Lue emanating from the floor. Blatt was equal parts tough and complimentary with his youngsters. Practice was lively and competitive and Blatt peppered the late session with humor, discipline and a couple colorful metaphors that are probably best left in the gym. He’s a pure basketball coach.
As for the fellas on the floor, Cleveland’s back-to-back top picks – Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett – both participated and both looked ready to roll. Bennett, who missed Summer League last year while rehabbing a shoulder injury, looked streamlined and sharp.
This was the first time we got to see Wiggins practice with the Cavs and he was as advertised. He’s a quiet, serious kid – attentive, all-business. He and Felix – who’s every bit the athlete plus a couple years and about 15 pounds – had some very good battles on the perimeter. Defensively, they can each really get after it.
Another good matchup to watch on Tuesday night pitted Matthew Dellavedova against Will Cherry. Neither point guard gives an inch – and that is each their M.O. Delly made a big impression in last year’s run in Vegas. Cherry was a key component to Canton’s playoff run late last season. They’ll both probably be glad when Friday night rolls around and they can face off against a guy in a different jersey.
Guys sport some crazy colored shoes in today’s NBA, but Delly took the prize on Tuesday, sporting his iridescent yellow-and-green kicks that he wears with the Australian national team. The sophomore from St. Mary’s will suit up for his Aussie squad when the FIBA Basketball World Cup that tips off late next month in Spain.
Sophomore Sergey Karasav is one of the players who’s been working intensely this offseason with Cavs strength and conditioning coach Derek Millinder, and he’s added some muscle to his 6-8 frame. The added weight (he was 195 on Draft Night but hopes to be 215 by midseason) plus a comfort level with Coach Blatt – who coached his Bronze-medal winning Russian team in the 2010 Olympics – could be the impetus for a breakout second season for the 20-year-old lefty.
We’ll check back tomorrow after Wednesday’s double-sessions at Desert Oasis High School in Vegas, but before that, a quick Status Update – not an Injury Update – on Cavaliers head of security Marvin Cross, who blew out his Achilles in a pick-up game last April in Atlanta. Marvin is recovering nicely, has shed the cast, is out of his walking boot and should be back on the hardwood before the New Year.
Consider that your warning, youngbloods.