Up and Running
Wine & Gold Tip Off Training Camp with a Return to Media Day
You can’t always put a ton of stock of what’s said and done on Media Day. It’s a day for players and coaches to shoot their photos and videos, with a few select players meeting the collective media.
But sometimes you can sense a theme. And the theme from the Cavs brass and players on the unofficial first day of Training Camp seemed to focus on expectations – finally putting the pieces together to make a bigger dent in the win column.
With so many exceptionally young players – many of whom spoke on Monday – the Wine & Gold’s expectations aren’t unrealistic, and nobody was throwing around win totals. But there’s also a sense that it’s time to reach the next level.
”We’re ready to work, we’re ready to show what it takes to win,” said Jarrett Allen, who’ll get his first opening day start as the Cavs center next month. “We haven’t really felt what it’s like to win, so we’re ready to put everything we have in us to do that -- going into the season hoping to play meaningful games at the end of the year.
”I know we’ve heard that a million times, but we’re going to reiterate that a million times because it’s something that we truly believe we can do.”
Allen is one of the keys to Cleveland’s young core, which includes Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkenen and Evan Mobley. The No. 3 overall pick is completely green entering his rookie season. The other four members of that young quintet, all under the age of 24, has already logged a combined 619 NBA contests.
”There is some accomplishment already, in terms of minutes played and success at their positions,” said Cavs GM Koby Altman, referring to his young guns. “How do we put that together and make a substantial improvement? We’ve made some additions to help that – obviously drafting an Evan Mobley, that level of talent is going to help right out of the gate. Adding Ricky Rubio, adding Lauri Markkanen – those kind of pieces really help. You still have Kevin Love in house.
”But we’re gonna rely heavily on the young guys to take us there – put more pressure, put more expectations on them. I think Collin said it best at our team dinner. We have to hold each other accountable. They have to hold each other, internally, accountable and take that next step forward.”
Darius Garland is one of the squad’s bright young stars – hitting a new gear last April and parlaying a stellar sophomore season into a spot on Team USA’s select squad in Las Vegas. He’ll also be relied on as one of the team’s young leaders – although he plans to lean on the old-heads for help.
”Just picking these (veteran)’s brains, I think that should help us a lot – especially with Ricky (Rubio) coming in,” said Garland. “He’s seen a lot of basketball; K. Love has seen a lot of basketball. Mix some of their knowledge in with our youth and it should be really fun. And hopefully, we’ll get around April and make it to the Playoffs, so we can really do some exciting things.”
"It’s been two or three years that the rebuilding process has been in play, I think it’s time to really show it. Are we sick of losing or are we tired of losing? It’s two different things."
The addition of Rubio – coming off an outstanding run with the Spain national team, leading all Olympic scorer’s this past summer in Tokyo – might be one of the offseason’s most underrated moves. The team sorely lacked a consistent veteran presence at the backup point guard spot one season ago.
”I think there’s a lot of teams that get lost because they don’t take the next step – and I think it’s the hardest one to take,” said the 10th-year man. “You have young, talented guys that are really good – but they can’t do it every night in an 82-game schedule? I think that’s mental toughness and I think that comes with experience, as well. And being young is good and bad. Being young is good, you have a lot of energy, you’re hungry. But it also means a lot of mistakes. Do we learn from those mistakes quickly or not quickly enough?
”It’s been two or three years that the rebuilding process has been in play, I think it’s time to really show it. Are we sick of losing or are we tired of losing? It’s two different things.”
Training Camp starts for real on Tuesday and the Wine & Gold will tip off the preseason in Chicago in eight days. The team has had consistent participation in their offseason workouts at CCC. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff has liked what he’s seen – and he’s ready to see his squad take the next step.
”Very few teams in our situation are able to turn things around in one year,” said Bickerstaff. “They go through very difficult times and difficult experiences. And then you start to get those callouses so when you face that difficult experience again, you’re able to get through it more easily.
”That’s where our guys are now. Our guys are fed up. They want to win basketball games.”