On the other side of the weekend, the Cleveland sports world turns the page.
On Sunday, the Guardians close out their season, bringing a close to the career of future Hall of Fame manager Terry Francona. Simultaneously that afternoon, the Browns take on their archrival Baltimore Ravens in a battle for first place in the Division.
The following day, with the locals still (hopefully) basking in Victory Monday, the Wine & Gold tip off the 2023-24 season with their annual Media Day festivities slated for that afternoon at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Earlier this week, Cavs.com posted Part I of our Training Camp Preview. And, as the day draws closer, here’s the second stanza …
In early August, about two weeks before the Spanish team was to play in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Ricky Rubio announced that he was going to step away from his basketball career to focus on his mental health. A fantastic player and outstanding person, the Cavaliers consider Rubio part of the family and totally supported the veteran point guard’s decision.
But it leaves them in a position to find a replacement for the player who was so integral to the Cavaliers overall turnaround in 2021-22.
Over the summer, they addressed the opening via free agency – with a young veteran and a pugnacious rookie working for the role.
Ty Jerome was part of the National Championship winning squad at Virginia back in 2019 and the native New Yorker has been with three teams in his previous four seasons as a pro. He averaged a career-high 24 minutes per game as a sophomore with Oklahoma City, and he’ll likely be asked to carry some substantial minutes backing up Darius Garland in Cleveland.
And although Caris LeVert will also do much of the ballhandling with Garland or Donovan Mitchell off the floor, the Cavaliers also snagged undrafted rookie Craig Porter Jr. out of Wichita State.
Which brings us to …
THE TWO-WAY GUYS
Sam Merrill, Emoni Bates and Isaiah Mobley justifiably got most of the love after the Cavs went undefeated and won the Summer League title in Vegas, but Craig Porter Jr. was the guy who really opened some eyes.
The 6-2 Porter, who led Wichita State in everything last year – including blocked shots. He came off the bench through his first three games in Vegas, scored 22 points in his first start and averaged 7.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists per over his last four outings.
Porter blocked 81 shots in three seasons at Wichita State, most in school history by a guard. If there’s a player who’s going to compete his tail off in Training Camp, it’s this kid.
Emoni Bates was featured in Part I of our Camp Preview, and the 6-9 swingman taken with the 49th overall pick who averaged 17.2ppg and shot 48 percent from deep in Vegas – will certainly be an intriguing player to watch, this fall and into the future.
The elder Mobley brother deserved all the love he got in Vegas as the driving force on Cleveland’s six-game run. And in an upcoming season in which the Cavaliers are trying to shore up the backup big man spot, Isaiah made his case.
Mobley – who averaged 21.0ppg in 22 starts with the Charge last year – blocked a shot in all six games and averaged 17.8 points, 8.3 boards, 4.5 assists and 1.5 blocks in leading Cleveland to the Summer League title. His leadership was just as impressive, going off for 28 points and 11 boards in the Championship game.
The Cavaliers brass has expanded the team’s depth in the offseason, but what can we expect from the starters, especially Evan Mobley in Year 3?
Last year, the then-21-year-old Mobley became just the third Cavalier in franchise history and second-youngest player in NBA history to be named All-Defense First Team. The only player younger than Mobley to earn such honors was Kobe Bryant in 1999-2000.
Defensively, the former Trojan was as efficient in the paint as away from it – the most versatile weapon of the league’s stingiest squad. Offensively, Mobley upped his scoring average from 15.0 to 16.2ppg, with 24 double-doubles. He was one of just three players to average at least 15.0 points on 50 percent shooting or better, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 blocks along, joining Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis.
The game last season that blew everyone away was the win over Milwaukee in January when the soft-spoken seven-footer went off for 38 points, becoming the fourth player in NBA history, and first since Hakeem Olajuwon, to reach that total without hitting a three-pointer.
Where does Mobley – who led both teams at 10.0rpg in the postseason series with New York – go from here? How good can he be on both ends? Will he add a three-pointer to his repertoire?
Will the Cavaliers be happy if Mobley continues his gradual brilliance or takes a massive next step? The answer is: Yes.
The Cavaliers franchise is going to have three new experiences this season – the inaugural In-Season Tournament, the mid-season journey to Paris and their late-season trip out West.
Group Play for the Cavaliers begins on Friday night, November 3 against the Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Cleveland’s group also includes Philadelphia, Atlanta and Detroit.
The Cavs other three Group Play games are on Nov. 17 (vs. DET), Tuesday, Nov. 21 (at PHI), and Nov. 28 (vs ATL). The quarterfinal games go down on December 4 and 5, with the Semifinals in Vegas slated for Thursday, Dec. 7 and the first-ever NBA Cup Champion crowned two nights later at T-Mobile Arena.
After traveling to Shanghai in 2007 and Rio de Janeiro in 2014, the Cavaliers will head across the pond on January 11 for the 2024 Paris Game.
It’s Cleveland’s first trip to Europe as a franchise and Brooklyn’s second, as the NBA continues to grow the game in country that’s produced more current players than any other outside North America.
The Paris trip in the first week of January bumps the Cavaliers (second) West Coast trip to later in the season – much later.
The Cavaliers don’t battle the big Western Conference foes essentially until the final half-month of the season, taking on the World Champs on Easter Sunday, March 31, followed by big stops in Salt Lake City and Phoenix before wrapping up with a back-to-back against the Lakers and Clippers in Tinseltown.
That seems like a long journey from here, and it is. And it all begins on Monday afternoon.