Notes From Cavaliers Summer League
HEY!!! PAY ATTENTION!!
Sorry. I didn’t mean to yell at our readers. But after 12 days of practices and shootarounds with new head coach David Blatt, you realize the importance of staying on your toes. The guys heard that request on the practice floor more than once in Vegas, and might’ve been hearing him in their sleep last week. That’s a good thing.
The Cavaliers wrapped up their strong Summer League experience with a win over Miami on Friday night, finishing up with a 4-1 mark. Several members of the Wine and Gold’s squad, plus their new head coach, had a rock-solid week in Sin City. And not all of it is simply measured by their record.
Almost all of us with the Cavalier caravan to Vegas returned on Saturday evening and took Sunday to decompress. And on Monday night, the 14th-seeded Rockets take on the 8th-seeded Kings (coached by Chris Jent) in Monday night’s Championship game, here are some random notes from our dozen days in Glitter Gulch.
For starters, you couldn’t cast a better basketball coach (unless it was Nick Nolte in “Blue Chips.”) than David Blatt. And after taking some guff for wearing jeans to the first night of practice, he was the one giving it out. That’s not to say he’s rough on the guys. But he demands that they be sharp – physically and mentally. He’ll stop practice to tighten things up. He hands out compliments as freely as critiques – and he’s constantly teaching. On our second night there, he showed Andrew Wiggins something as simple as challenging a right-handed shooter with his left hand. Wiggins applied that later in the week and blocked his opponent’s shot.
Anyone who actually watched Wiggins play knows that he’s destined to be an elite NBA defender. The best word to describe the No. 1 overall pick on the defensive end is “instinctive.” He just knows where to be and what to do. He’s long, quick and aggressive on that end. When asked what his goals were at his introductory press conference at CCC the day after he was drafted, one of them was “All-Defensive Team.” What rookie says that?!
Yes, he led the Cavaliers in scoring at 15.5 ppg. But he also led the team in blocks (1.5) and steals (1.3) per game.
As impressive as his game is, especially on the defensive end, his demeanor might be what’s most striking. The 19-year-old swingman wasn’t rattled by anything, including the rumors that began swirling around him by the time he finished his first game. Nothing thrown at Wiggins last week in Vegas was too big for him.
“You know what you have to like about a kid like that – it doesn’t matter if it’s the fourth game of Summer League or his fourth game in seven days or if people are keying on him or if the crowd has funny things to say to him. He just goes out there and plays and has a nice calm about him and real good demeanor. Andrews’ gonna be a high-level player.”
Summer League is mostly reserved for first- and second-year players. But here and there, guys attempting comebacks dot the roster. The dean of comeback kids was Josh Howard, an 11-year NBA vet who suited up for the Pelicans. The second-most tenured vets were eight-year veterans, Delonte West and Shannon Brown – names very familiar to Cavalier fans. (Dwayne Jones, who was on the 2007 Cavs squad with Brown that reached the Finals, suited up for Sacramento.) Delonte averaged 6.0 points and shot 36 percent from the floor in three games with the Clippers. Brown averaged 7.4 ppg in five games with the Knicks.
I might have been the only person who was rooting for games to reach double-overtime. Summer League has some unique rules – like allowing players 10 personal fouls in pre-tournament games. But the extra-sessions rules might be the most unique: If a two-minute overtime goes to double-OT, it’s sudden death. The first team to score wins.
Before Matthew Delladova departed to join his Boomers as they prepare for play in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain, he and Will Cherry waged epic battles on the practice court. And they worked just as well in tandem once games tipped off. Delly averaged 11.6 points, 4.6 boards and 4.6 assists per contest – running the team fluidly and playing his usual brand of tenacious D. He and Cherry took over the fourth quarter in the opening win over Milwaukee and led everyone with 19 points to keep the Cavaliers undefeated in Monday’s victory over Philly.
Cherry took the cake for the most fun Cavalier to watch night-in and night-out. In last Sunday’s win over the Spurs, he scored 14 of his team-high 21 points in the final period, going 9-for-13 from the floor, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, adding seven boards, four assists and a steal. In Thursday’s loss to Houston, he netted 18 of his 21 points after intermission, going 8-for-14 from the floor.
When the explosive point guard got the ball at the top, his teammates would yell: “Blow-by! Blow-by!” from the bench. And more often than not, he took their requests. Cherry, who guided the Canton Charge to the D-League postseason averaged 12.8 ppg – shooting 52 percent from the field in five games with Cleveland.
The Samsung All-NBA Summer League First Team was: Doug McDermott (CHI), Donatas Motiejunas (HOU), Otto Porter (WAS), Glen Rice, Jr. (WAS) and Tony Snell (CHI) – with Rice winning the League’s MVP Award. My All-Summer League Name Team includes: Amath M’Baye (LAC), Chad Posthumus (CHI), Frantz Massenat (WAS), Ognjen Kuzmic (GSW), Omar Oraby (HOU), Vander Blue (SAS), Halil Kanacevic (DEN) Nobel Boungou-Colo (SAS) and Rob Loe (GSW).
Finally, my I’m-So-Old-I-Used-to-Watch-These-Guys-Dad’s-Play Team includes: James Michael McAdoo (GSW), Tim Hardaway Jr. (NYK), Glen Rice Jr. (WAS), Renaldo Woolridge (LAL), Larry Drew (MIA), Glenn Robinson III (MIN), David Stockton (PHX), Seth Curry (PHX) and our own Andrew Wiggins.
Where our Cavaliers ranked among Summer League performers: Wiggins was 25th among all scorers at 15.5 ppg; Dellavedova was 3rd in assists (4.7 apg) and Anthony Bennett was 15th in rebounding (7.8 rpg). In the sports world, you hate to play the hypothetical game, but one has to wonder what Anthony Bennett’s rookie season would have been like had he been able to participate in Summer League last year.
For the most part, Bennett looked like a new man during his stint in Vegas. He was essentially playing in front of a home crowd each night (his high school principal even showed up for a game) and his heightened confidence was tangible. Having his tonsils removed definitely improved his stamina – he was third on the team, averaging 29.8 minutes before sitting out the final game.
A slimmed-down Bennett finished second on the squad in scoring (13.3 ppg), first in rebounding and shot 43 percent from the floor. He should leave the week feeling good about his game and will hopefully parlay his performance into a strong Training Camp.
Maybe the most impressive player at Summer League was Sim Bhullar, the rookie from New Mexico State who played for Sacramento’s squad. His numbers weren’t anything special – he averaged 0.5 points and 0.5 rebounds in four contests. What’s impressive is his mammoth size – he’s 7-5 and weighs 360 pounds. (Bhullar’s younger brother stands 7-3.)
Cavaliers assistant coach and former NBA big man, Vitaly Potapenko joked that he didn’t even want to stand next to him. Vitaly stands 6-10 and weighs approximately 280 pounds.
Some Canton Charge numbers from the week: Arinze Onuaku averaged 2.7 points and 4.0 boards in three games with the Pelicans. In five games with Minnesota, Kyrylo Fesenko averaged 8.4 points on 59 percent shooting and Kevin Jones averaged 10.0 points and 5.0 boards for the D-League Select squad. The Cavaliers’ Will Cherry averaged 12.8 ppg in five appearances, starting the last two games.
As good as Cherry was in representing the Charge, Shane Edwards was just as impressive. In his last three games of Summer League, Canton’s most consistent performer last year doubled-up against Philly with 14 points and 11 boards, went 4-for-4 from the floor on Thursday night against Houston and closed out the week with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting in Friday’s win over Miami – adding three boards, an assist and a blocked shot.
The Cavaliers got some good – if not consistent – performances from their second-rounders out in Vegas. The 33rd pick in the previous Draft, Joe Harris, showed the shooting stroke and mature game that got him to the top of the second round. He plays within himself and proved to be a better ball-handler and passer than expected.
Carrick Felix, last year’s second-rounder, got off to a slow start, but acquitted himself well as the week progressed. Against the Rockets, the former Sun Devil finished with seven points, seven boards and a block – drilling a pair of three-pointers.
Dwight Powell, the 45th overall pick in this June’s Draft who was acquired by the Cavs just over a week ago, got off to a slow start but closed out strong, notching 15 points and a game-high nine boards – going 4-of-7 from the floor and 7-for-7 from the stripe – in the finale against Miami.
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