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If only for a short time, the autumn sports confluence in Cleveland is finally back.
The Browns are coming off a big primetime win in the Battle of Ohio, the Tribe is making their perennial playoff push and the Cavaliers are in Camp … sort of.
Over the course of a 10-day period, the Wine & Gold – one of eight teams excluded from the NBA’s Bubble in Orlando – will get a bubble of their own, right here in downtown Cleveland, with six practice sessions planned at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
It’s been over six months since the Cavaliers played a game. After completing season sweeps of the Nuggets and Spurs on successive nights at home in early March, the squad readied for a six-game road trip beginning with a contest in Chicago. They dropped a close one to the Bulls that night and returned home to get ready for the remainder of the roadie. Obviously, the plane never left the runway.
In Orlando, the “seeding” round for 22 teams began on July 30 and it’s been pared down to the final four here in September. Not wanting teams outside the Bubble to go that long without organized workouts, the league is allowing excluded octet to hold voluntary sessions at controlled team facilities.
The Cavaliers, who worked out last week at Cleveland Clinic Courts after returning to market, will check into their downtown hotel on Monday and practices run from September 23rd through 30th.
Not everyone will make the Cavaliers Bubble this week. As Edgerrin James once famously said: “I only went to college 2 ½ years, but I know what ‘voluntary’ means.” And for all teams holding workouts during this time, it’s completely voluntary.
The Cavaliers in attendance are veteran frontline starters – Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. – all three of last year’s first rounders – Darius Garland, Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter Jr. – the squad’s leading scorer, Collin Sexton, and reserves Dante Exum, Alfonzo McKinnie, Dean Wade and the newly-added Jordan Bell. Matt Mooney is a two-way guy.
Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova, who are free agents, Andre Drummond, who has a player option, and Cedi Osman, who’s still overseas, will not be in attendance. Ante Zizic will also not be there.
Four G-Leaguers from the Canton Charge will play in the Bubble: Marques Bolden, Sir'Dominic Pointer, Vincent Edwards, Levi Randolph.
Some storylines for the season will begin to emerge over the next 10 days.
Although J.B. Bickerstaff has been with most of the guys back to last offseason when he was John Beilein’s lead assistant. But getting his system further ingrained into the squad before they go their separate ways again will be a big emphasis over the next week-and-a-half.
The Cavs played just 11 games under Bickerstaff, but finished 5-6 in those contests, featuring signature wins over two of the four teams currently playing in the Conference Finals.
Bickerstaff coached two teams and 216 games before taking over for Beilein after last year’s All-Star Break, but he only led one into that season’s training camp. The Bubble isn’t Cleveland’s official camp, but it’s definitely J.B.’s squad heading into 2020-21.
He’ll have his full complement of youngsters, including a healthy Dylan Winder.
The only 2019 first rounder to suit up for last year’s Summer League sessions, Dylan Windler didn’t play a single minute of his rookie season, hampered by a lower leg injury that sidelined him for the duration.
Drafted No. 26 overall last summer after a monster four-year career at Belmont – leading the Ohio Valley Conference as a senior in both rebounding and three-point shooting – Windler showed flashes in Salt Lake City and Vegas.
How he progresses heading into the season – whenever that tips off – will be something to watch.
Coach Bickerstaff also got a bench makeover over the summer.
In late June, the Cavs inked free agent big man Jordan Bell, who split last season with Minnesota and Memphis after his first two years with the Warriors, making 32 postseason appearances.