Cavs Close Up, Prepare for Big Summer

April 27, 2012
by Joe Gabriele Beat Writer

On Friday, the Cavaliers split up for the summer, but in this non-lockout offseason, you get a sense they’ll be back to work soon.

The Wine and Gold dropped their finale against Chicago on Thursday night and on Friday morning they got together for Getaway Day at Cleveland Clinic Courts. After the team met with the media, Coach Bryon Scott and GM Chris Grant wrapped up the 2011-12 season.

Cleveland struggled down the stretch this season, dropping eight of their last nine to finish 21-45. Injuries and inexperience took their toll on the Cavs for the second straight season. The Cavaliers utilized eight D-Leaguers this year – tops in the NBA.

The young Cavaliers are about to get a little younger this offseason – with an infusion of talent via four picks in this June’s NBA Draft.

The seven ties were broken on Friday in New York. The Cavaliers won the tiebreaker with New Orleans and owns the Hornets’ pick in the second round. So, along with whichever selection they’ll get in the Lottery, Cleveland also has the 24th, 33rd and 34th picks on June 28.

They’ll be joining what should be a very interesting Summer League squad – which will feature this past June’s top picks, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson.

Both young guns said their temporary goodbyes and summed up their seasons on Friday morning.

“This offseason is big for us – especially for the current players and the guys we’re drafting,” said Thompson, who topped all rookies in total rebounds. “We have four picks so it’s going to be interesting. We have a young nucleus going on right now and it’s going to be fun.”

Irving humbly approached the impending addition to his trophy case.

“If I do get (Rookie of the Year), it’ll be a great accomplishment for the city of Cleveland, my teammates and myself,” said Irving. “I couldn’t have done it without them. The confidence they had in me allowed me to be myself and play my game.”

Irving exceeded expectations in the shortened season – leading all first-year players in scoring, finishing second in assists, three-point and free-throw shooting. More importantly, he ran the team with a veteran savvy and showed a killer instinct Cavalier fans haven’t seen in awhile – wielding the dagger against the Pistons, Mavericks, Celtics and Thunder.

Kyrie cited the wins over Dallas and Oklahoma City as highlights from his rookie season.

Irving famously played only 11 games in his college career at Duke. He played almost five times that many as a Cavalier. Tristan Thompson doubled his workload as a rookie.

But age didn’t matter. Everyone involved could agree that this 66-game season was a grind.

“Me, growing up playing basketball, I always fought through everything,” explained Omri Casspi. “When you’re going through some tough times, tough stretches, it can be hard – especially in this type of season. You play so many games, there’s no practice, you don’t have days off or a time to just to relax and think about what’s going on. You have another game, then it’s a back-to-back, then a back-to-back-to-back, then five in seven.”

Thompson concurred, especially when compared to a college season.

“Three games in three nights (is) definitely not college,” laughed Thompson. “That was definitely an eye-opener and it kind of showed, I guess, the repercussions of the lockout – having to play so many games. So, it was fun. I’m going to tell my kids about it when I’m older – tell them I played a 66-game season in, what, four months?”

After the Cavaliers cleared out, Coach Scott and Chris Grant talked about this offseason – arguably one of the biggest in Cavaliers’ history. Grant expressed great optimism, tempered with hard work.

“We do have a lot of work to do,” said Grant. “We have to grow internally, to grow from within. The coaching staff, which had some changes to it, did a really nice job with the young guys and I think the combination of our coaches and our young guys having success and some of the other players, I call them our middle-age veterans, taking a larger piece of leadership, puts us in a good position.

“Combine that with a lot of draft picks going forth, a decent amount of flexibilty with the cap. Now, we have to do the work, be disciplined and make the right decisions.”

Coach Scott and his coaching staff will be looking forward to working with the young talent this summer. Last summer’s lockout hurt the Cavaliers, as it did many teams. Samardo Samuels and Manny Harris, to name just a pair of players, admittedly suffered from the work stoppage.

This offseason, Scott’s staff will be able to work with them as they approach Summer League in August.

Scott will have some new youngsters to work with by early July, and he kept his optimism measured.

“We want to get better as a basketball team,” said Scott. “We want our individual players to get better as players. I don't think we're going to put expectations on our guys as far as playoffs or wins or anything like that. As long as we continue to get better, we'll be all right.”

The Cavaliers have a big summer – a big future -- ahead of them. But before any of that, Kyrie Irving wants to see his sisters and Byron Scott wants to see his granddaughter. Omri Casspi wants to see his family in Israel and Luke Walton wants to see Bill Walton.

Everyone --- players, coaches, fans – can decompress and watch the Playoffs start to unfold. And in 33 days, Nick Gilbert & Co. head to Times Square to get the big offseason underway.