Family Matters

Unlike in previous seasons during the post-LeBron Era, the only rookie at this year’s Training Camp has the luxury of growing his game out of the spotlight. But that doesn’t mean Isaiah Mobley isn’t ready to start building his career as a Cavalier. 

The elder Mobley, who just turned 23 last weekend, is known – (so far) – as the brother of Evan, the Wine & Gold’s prized power forward who’s coming off a rookie season for the ages. Evan came to Camp one season ago as the 3rd overall pick, the highest since Koby Altman’s taken the reigns of the front office, with lofty expectations to a team desperate for help. 

Isaiah comes to Cleveland as the 49th overall pick in this past June, acquired on Draft night from the Kings, fresh off a solid three-year career at USC. As a junior, the Temecula, CA native started all 32 games, leading the Trojans in points (14.2ppg) and rebounds (8.3rpg) and was named First Team All-Pac 12 in 2021-22.

In three seasons, the 6-10, 240-pounder played in 95 games – starting 72 with career averages of 10.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per. During his time at USC, Andy Enfield’s squads went 73-25.  

Although Mobley struggled from deep (2-of-16) during his Summer League stretch in Vegas, he found other ways to “impact winning” – as J.B. Bickerstaff likes to say – leading Cleveland in rebounding for the week – averaging an even 8.0 rebounds per, including a pair of games with double-digit boards.

Over that week, Mobley led the Cavs in rebounding in three of their five outings, blocked a pair of shots in back-to-back games and averaged an impressive 3.0 assists in five contests. 

Now, he comes to Camp on a two-way deal – splitting time with the Cavs and Charge and looking to carve his own name into the NBA game among a talented group of big men. After Day Two wrapped up on Wednesday, we caught up with the more talkative member of the Mobley siblings …

Jimmy Longo/ Cavs.com

Do the journeys of guys like Lamar Stevens and Dean Wade show how it’s possible to find your place on this team regardless of where (or if) you were drafted? 

Isaiah Mobley: Definitely. The Cavs have a great culture here. But it’s not just guys like Lamar Stevens and Dean Wade. It goes all the way up to D.G. and Isaac, all those guys. Even the Lottery guys, they encourage you, they welcome you with open arms. 

Everyone else has speculated how your game is unlike your brother’s. How is it different?

Mobley: I feel like I can stretch the floor. I’m more on the perimeter than (Evan) is. And he’s a better finisher inside. 

I feel like I can play-make. He can do that, as well, but I feel like it’s one of my strengths, so to speak. And I think we play off each other very well. 

You probably didn’t shoot as well you would’ve liked to in Summer League, but how did you feel about your week in Vegas overall? 

Mobley: It was more of a learning curve. There was a lot going on at that time. And so, I didn’t necessarily learn the style and the pace of the league. 

But I’m grateful for Summer League, because it showed me what I had to work on. And so far, I feel like it’s helped me so much, just coming into Camp. Even in the workouts and the open runs, prior. I feel like it’ll elevate my game. 

And now I know my role. At first, it was hard figuring it out. But that last game in Vegas, I finished strong. I was happy about that. But in the beginning, it was just a lot coming at me at once. 

You come to Camp having familiarity with both J.B. Bickerstaff, who obviously coached your brother and Mike Gerrity with the Charge, a former USC guy. How has that worked out? 

Mobley: Both of them are great. They’re vocal with me. They communicate with me, which I love. 

Mike G’s a USC guy. He always around for me. Him and the other coaches – Buck, Tone, Coach Sid. They’re all there for me when I’m trying to work out, and always have teaching points if I have a question. 

All the coaches, from J.B. to Mike G and in-between have helped me coming into Camp, and I really appreciate that. 

And how much has it helped having Evan already here?

Mobley: It’s helped a lot. And the team welcomed us to come in early and I took that opportunity and I’m happy I did, because it’s helped me with my comfort level. 

But that first day was still a lot! Because now it’s another set of plays. Different styles, different guys – and guys playing hard. But (on Wednesday), I feel like I did pretty well and I’m happy with my progress. I feel like it’s starting to translate and that’s promising for me. 

The word is you’re Evan’s “rookie” this year. Has he put you through any kind of initiation stuff so far? 

Mobley: Not him, exactly. (laughs)

D.G., a little bit. Lamar likes to play that card a little bit too. But no, nothing crazy. Yet. 

I’m the only rookie right now. But I actually appreciate it, because as much as they’re making me do those little things, they help me 100 times over. So, I’m appreciative of it. And I don’t mind it. You gotta pay your dues.  

You and your brother seem so soft-spoken, it’s hard to imagine you competing hard against one another. Do you? 

Mobley: Oh, yeah. Definitely! We’re always trying to win. 

Afterward, it’s all jokes and laughs. But if we’re against each other, whether it’d be here on the court or at the card table or wherever, we like to go at it! 

How do you see yourself fitting in with this group of big men? 

Mobley: With J.A., Ro-Lo and Evan more so around the basket – Evan, inside and outside a little more – it’s easy for me, because I like to play-make. Passing them the ball, getting them good looks, that’s what I’m good at. So, I think it’s a really nice fit. 

And then Dean being able to shoot it and Kevin Love out there as well. If I’m playing the small-ball 5, I know I can kick to them and get them a good look at a three. With those guys, and how good they are, honestly, it makes it easy on me. My job is easy, passing to some of those guys. So, I think it’s a good mesh. 

You and your brother have been praised for playing the game the right way. How much did having your dad – growing up, as an AAU coach and again at USC – influence you?   

Mobley: Well, it started when we were real young. He had us working on all skills – from basic chest-passing to bounce-passing to dribbling to shooting. And then passing, moving, motion. 

And so that familiarity carries over to now. There are different sets to all those things, but if you have a good basketball foundation, it’s pretty simple to translate. 

So, that part has been easy for me. It’s the pace, the physicality that is a little tougher to translate. But I’m not worried about it at all. I like where my progress is now, and I think I can definitely stick. 

Your AAU coach once praised you and your brother for your loyalty to his program in an age where guys jump from team to team along the way. Why is loyalty so important to you?  

Mobley: That’s Coach Etop from Compton Magic – he was our first AAU coach from about 8th, 9th grade, all the way up until we finished. And yeah, we played solely Compton Magic, no transfers. And the last two years, I think we lost two games out of 50 – one where Evan and I showed up late because of car troubles and another on a half-court heave. 

So were loyal to that team. I did USC three years, no transfer. And Evan and I, both, played for Temecula High School for four years. 

Loyalty is big for us. We feel like if a program has invested in us, we should be loyal to them, even through adversity. 

Last one: Only a few days into Training Camp, overall impressions? 

Mobley: It's been great. You know, first day, we kinda got our butts kicked. (laughs)

But it’s good, you know – learning, growing. And the struggles that I’ve had, I’ve talked to the coaches about it, and they said it’s all part of being a rook. So, I’m not too worried about it. 

Day Two, I feel I did a lot better and that the team did a lot better. A lot cleaner. Guys are getting more comfortable playing with each other, guys are getting comfortable being themselves. I know I am. 

So, hopefully by the end of Camp, the confidence will keep growing and stay steadily trending up. Day Two, I can give myself a solid ‘B” today. I can take that. So tomorrow, ‘B+’ then ‘A-.’ All the way up.