Then there’s the train that makes all stops, the one that brought Alonzo Gee – maybe this year’s most-improved Cavalier – to Cleveland.
In his pro career, just in the two years after leaving Alabama in 2009, Gee went undrafted, signed with the Austin Toros of the D-League, signed two 10-day contracts with the Wizards, was named NBDL’s Rookie of the Year, signed a deal and was later waived by the Spurs. He then re-signed with Washington and was released less than a month later.
Gee signed with Cleveland last December 28 and played in 40 games with the Wine and Gold – starting 29. The hard-working former Floridian averaged 7.7 ppg and was one of the bright spots of a very difficult season. Then came Poland.
What does a kid who grew up near Palm Beach know about Poland? This past offseason, Gee found out.
“Cold,” was Alonzo’s one-word descriptor for the Central European nation. “I didn’t know anything about Poland.”
After his solid half-season in with the Wine and Gold, Gee’s coaches wanted him to further develop his game during the offseason. So when it looked like the NBA work stoppage would impede his progress, the former ‘Bama standout left for Asseco Prokom Gdynia – Poland’s top team.
“(My agent) said he had a couple teams that were interested,” explained Gee. “And he said Poland was a good look for me just because it was Euroleague and it was good talent. So that’s what we decided to do.”
As with many overseas travelers, the first difference that Gee noticed was with the food. Sokolowski’s University Inn, it wasn’t.
“Some places (the food) was OK, other places it was just bad,” smiled Gee. “It just tastes different. They have pancakes that are really, really thin. Like thin as this paper. And it tasted bad.”
So did he resort to what most Americans do when foreign food got the better of him – seek the Golden Arches?
“The McDonald’s was really good over there,” he said. “Maybe it was because I was outside the United States and it was the only thing I knew. But it was really good.”
Luckily, Gee wasn’t alone in Poland. He had a certain teammate that paralleled his journey. It was former Cavalier – Devin Brown – who wore the same uniform number as Gee does with the Wine and Gold. But the similarities didn’t stop there.
“That’s my guy!” beamed the 6-6, 220-pounder. “He was telling me how much he loved Cleveland. He was just a good dude. We experienced the same things. He went to the D-League, I went to the D-League; he was rookie of the year, I was rookie of the year; he was in San Antonio, he was with the Cavs. Everything was related to each other, so it was good.”
Gee was in Poland for about three months and the work he’s done on his game has carried into 2011-12. He’s again one of the team’s most consistent defenders, he’s netted double-figures six of Cleveland’s 13 games and has seen action in every contest.
“I just worked on my overall game – improve everything,” said the soft-spoken forward. “(Coaches wanted me) to come back, be able to make the corner three, make shots and still attack the basket. But play great defense as well. Defense is big for (the Cavs) – just focusing on that defensive end. That’s been my main focus.”
Now, the Cavaliers traveling man has found a home – and a solid spot in Byron Scott’s rotation. Being in one spot with one team, combined with his offseason experience in Europe has helped him become an integral member of the Cavaliers.
“It helps out a lot, just knowing that I’m part of team and that I had a place to go back to.”
“My offseason work was pretty good this summer,” concluded Gee. “And playing with (Cleveland) last year and finishing the season pretty strong. (I’m) just building off what I did last year.”