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With Training Camp tipping off on Tuesday, the John Beilein Era is officially underway in Cleveland.
It was an all-hands-on-deck affair – minus Larry Nance Jr. (who wasn’t feeling well), Darius Garland (who’s been working out regularly with the team but missed Tuesday with foot soreness) and Dylan Windler (likely out through the preseason with left leg soreness).
Tuesday marked another first – the first time John Henson was actually able to officially practice with the squad after missing almost all of last season with an injured wrist.
Cleveland hasn’t had a player block over 100 shots since Zydrunas Ilgauskas did so in 2007-08 and were dead last in the league last season. Henson, part of the three-team trade last December that brought Matthew Dellavedova back to Cleveland while sending George Hill to the Bucks and Sam Dekker to the Wizards, hopes to change that this year.
"(Being able to practice) is a blessing, man,” said Henson. “I came to practice with butterflies in my stomach. I haven’t been able to practice since, like, November 14 of last year. So I’m happy to be running up and down, getting to hang with the team, playing with the team and building that kind of relationship."
The 14th overall pick of the 2012 Draft, Henson has played in 405 career games with Milwaukee before the trade – averaging 7.8 points on 54 percent shooting to go with 5.4 boards and 1.48 blocks. He’s swatted over a hundred shots in four of his first seven seasons. In 2014-15, the former Tar Heel blocked 135 shots; last year, the Cavaliers blocked 195 as a team.
If John Beilein wants to put an emphasis on defense (and start a pair of point guards), his squad will need a rim protector. A healthy Henson might just be the answer.
* On Media Day, Collin Sexton mentioned the “Beilein ball.” At first, it sounds like a system, like “small ball.” But it’s actually a specific basketball (pictured above) that Beilein uses to illustrate the rotation on the basketball – using a thick stripe around its circumference.
On Monday, the new head coach was asked about its origin.
"Back before I had the budget to buy basketballs like that, I used to just take a magic marker and go around it just to get people to understand the great spin you need in passing; and it’s just as important as shooting," recalled Beilein. "Then, after we started having some success, I approached a company called The Rock, which makes basketballs. Now I have my own ball, it’s called the Beilein.
"It’s a different ball than the Spalding ball. So, Spalding was kind enough to laser on the stripe, so we can see the spin and they understand the spin. It’s a little thing, but it’s important."
When asked about marketing the ball, Coach quipped: "I won’t give any of you guys a deal, but you can buy it for $39.95."
* As Training Camp tips off every year, it’s pretty evident which players hit the weight room a little harder. Two Cavaliers who look visibly stronger this season are Collin Sexton and Tristan Thompson.
* There’s been so much made about the Cavaliers dynamic young backcourt duo of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. But there’s also a good battle going on for backup minutes behind the youngsters.
As the coaching staff broke down the squad into groups, one of them – the green team – featured Jordan Clarkson, Matthew Dellavedova and Brandon Knight.
Clarkson didn’t start a single game last year and led the Eastern Conference in bench scoring. Delly made his triumphant return to Cleveland in December, but missed the season’s final 17 games with a concussion. Brandon Knight resuscitated his season and maybe his career, starting the final 26 games last year alongside Collin Sexton.
On Tuesday, Clarkson showed one of Cleveland’s youngsters – Kevin Porter Jr. – why he’s the East’s top-scoring reserve -- as the USC product struggled to stay in front of him during 5-on-5 scrimmaging.
* The Cavaliers are scheduled to practice every day this week, with their preseason opener looming less than a week away – welcoming San Lorenzo di Amalgro to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Next Friday, the Cavaliers travel to Detroit to face the Pistons before wrapping up the preseason with a road contest in Boston (10/13) followed by a visit from the Celtics two nights later in Cleveland.