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This week on Cavs.com, we’re focusing on one of Northeast Ohio’s own – Larry Nance Jr., the squad’s most versatile player and a cornerstone for the future. He’s also one of the league’s truly great guys.
The son of a franchise legend, Nance got better with each passing month during his fifth season in the Association, notching double-figures in 19 of his final 22 outings and averaging 14.6 points and 10.4 in ten starts.
He’s improved each year he’s been in the league since going No. 27 overall to the Lakers in 2015. But there’s so much more to Nance than basketball stats can explain.
So here’s a chance to see to what others had to say about him – and a few things he had to say about his famous family and his slightly circuitous route back to The Land …
Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff on Nance after leading Cleveland to an emotional comeback win over Miami in overtime …
"He takes challenges. And tonight, playing him at the three, we hadn’t done it before, obviously with this short period of time, we hadn’t practiced it, any of those things. But just knowing his competitive nature, we felt like we needed to have him on the floor, so we put him out there on the floor.
"He did a great job of chasing perimeter players who were knocking down shots early, but he put his body on them, he was physical with them and he took those guys out of the game.”
Larry Nance Jr. on the team turning its fortunes around in late February and early-March …
"During that stretch with J.B., we beat a very good Heat team. We beat the Sixers. We beat San Antonio on our home floor. We really competed with – and beat – some really good teams in that stretch, and I think it was how we did it. There was no fluke about it. I was really enjoying that – just really enjoying getting to play and win and really compete this year.
"And obviously I was also thoroughly excited to keep playing our big lineup. That was probably my favorite part of the year.”
Larry Nance Jr. recalling some early memories as a Cavaliers fan …
"My earliest Cavs memories were maybe early-Andy, late-Big Z. And obviously, I remember guys like DeSagana Diop. Guys like Ricky Davis, Darius Miles. I remember those guys.
"I even have a … placard of Lamond Murray.
"But my REAL memories were of Andy and those early LeBron teams. I remember the Shaq years as well. I remember getting to hang around the locker room a little bit and seeing those guys -- and they were just larger than life.”
Larry Nance on any advice he gives his son …
"Well, it's really easy now because he does so well. But I would like him to shoot more. Other than that, he plays a very good game.
"I think everybody would like him to shoot more because he can do it and he’s worked so hard to develop his shot.
"In my opinion, that's the only thing that's going to keep him from being an All-Star. Because he's so unselfish, he might not put up the numbers, scoring-wise. He knows the game; he understands the game. He plays hard enough. I'd like to see him be an All-Star one day.
"But he's got a lot of good stuff figured out, that's for sure.”
Larry Nance Jr. on the recruiting process that led to his choice of Wyoming …
"The recruiting process was interesting, now looking back on it.
"I probably got exactly what I deserved. You know, I wasn't really that good. I wasn't that talented, I wasn't big. So, I didn't have that many offers.
"Michigan was kind of sniffing around, but ended up not pulling the trigger. So at the time I committed, the University of Wyoming and Bowling Green were my only two offers.
"But we took one visit out to Wyoming and thought: We can really do something out here.”
Larry Nance Jr. breaking down the basketball winning percentages in the Nance household …
"So, I'll start with my dad. My dad's the all-time leader. I would say my dad has won, probably, over 60 percent of all the games. He takes it very seriously.
"Growing up, he won 100 percent of things – and this little 40 percent chunk that the kids have carved out now is only because his knees are messed up.
"And I would say the next biggest slice would be myself, just because once I started winning, I started winning.
"So I'd say me for about 25 percentage points. And then my sister is the last fifteen. And poor Pete has never won anything. Pete is just unfortunate. When he started getting competitive, I was hitting my prime. So ... good luck.”
Larry Nance Jr. following a big home win over the Sixers on February 26 …
"It’s big time. It’s big time for everybody. You know, obviously Double-T has been there for us every year, but even a guy like Kevin Love, we’ve got him sliding his feet and making great defensive plays. So, it’s been good.
"Unselfishness is contagious. You see the next guy diving on the floor and getting steals and busting their butt on defense, you’ve got to do the same.”
Larry Nance Jr. on what he’s learned about himself during the COVID-19 shutdown …
“The biggest thing I've learned about myself is I am really, really bad as a handyman. Like, really bad.
"A hammer and nails and screws and all that stuff is just not for me.”
Former Head Coach John Beilein describing Nance after a tough loss to Toronto in late January …
“Just a gritty, tough, winner. That’s all you can say, even when the ball isn’t going in. When he isn’t doing well on offense, he will take it out on his defender and come out and play better defense.
"Some people won’t do that. If the offense isn’t clicking, they are still thinking about it on the other end.
"Larry is just such a key part of this team, of this culture, of our future.”
Larry Nance Jr. on how life has changed for his dad and his family since being traded back to Cleveland …
"(Before I was) on the Cavs, (my dad) never wanted to overstep; he never wanted to come into the gym and have people be like: 'Oh, here comes Mr. Nance again’ where people were nice to him just because of that. He never wanted to be that guy.
"But with me, being back, it's really kind of crazy. Like, it's kind of made the Cavs a family thing for us. Our games are now family events.
"Growing up, we’d go to games every now and again, just like a special night. Now, every home game, it's mom, dad, sister, brother (if he's home) – like, everybody comes out.
"It’s pretty great.”
Larry Nance Jr. on being teammates with the late Kobe Bryant in his final season with the Lakers …
“I wouldn't trade that season for the world. But it was both: It was one heck of a distraction, but the best distraction you could possibly have.
"We'd go to Philly, we'd go to Boston, we'd go to Utah – it didn't matter. We were playing at home every single game. Lakers jerseys, Kobe jerseys. Fans screaming for us.
"But with all that, still, you gotta play ball. Because, you know, Kobe is doing his thing and the rest of us are trying to learn and grow with that, as well.
"So, I kind of took that year and tried to get as many offensive rebounds as I could for Kobe and get it back to him.”
Larry Nance Jr. recalling battles against his older sister, Casey, who eventually went on to star at the University of Dayton …
"Around middle school for me – around 6th, 7th, 8th grade – I really thought I should be able to beat my sister. Like, when I was in fourth, fifth grade -- yeah, she's 6-2. How am I going to beat her?
"But then I started getting older and really expected to beat her. After that, I'd throw here a little elbow now and then. But she was always bigger than me, so she'd knock the hell out of me. And she didn't want to let it go.”
Larry Nance Jr. on whether he was surprised or had some idea that he was being selected by the L.A. Lakers at No. 27 on Draft night …
"Both! It was total bull!
"So, obviously Woj (Adrian Wojnarowski) tweets out everything before it happens, so I told everybody: 'DO NOT pick up your phone! I don't want to see it. I don't want to know. Put your phones on the table!'
"The only person that was like: 'No, I'm not going to look, just let me have my phone' is my girlfriend.
"So, we're sitting around at home and around Pick 24, I see her go: "Ohhh!!"
"And we all knew exactly what had happened. And so therefore, to this day, I'm not happy with her about that. She just ruined my moment. She didn't announce the team, but once she did that, we were all like: 'Alright. Fine. Yeah.’”
Larry Nance on his son overcoming Crohn’s Disease and a slow start to his basketball career to become who he is now …
"I'm very proud, because that shows you what kind of person he is. He's not afraid of any challenge. He's not afraid to go forward and try to do it whatever he needs to do to be successful.
"So, I'm very, very proud of the route he took to get where he is right now, because it was not easy. And I think most people would have shut down. That's not the type of kid Larry is; he's a natural competitor like myself. He's very proud.