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Cavaliers Get Back to Work on the Hardwood
Here’s a newsflash from the first official day of Training Camp: The Cavaliers are loaded.
One-third of the Big Three has relocated to Beantown, but the Wine & Gold still took Tuesday’s hardwood with LeBron James heading up easily the deepest team since his return to Cleveland.
And aside from the veteran heavyweights on the floor, All-NBA Second Teamer Isaiah Thomas is waiting in the wings – riding the stationary bike as he continues his rehab. And the buyout winds that produced Andrew Bogut and Deron Williams last year are expected to produce another big name within the next few days.
“I’m all for having more players, more depth, more dogs – guys that want to prove themselves,” said Tristan Thompson, as the rumors continued to swirl about Dwyane Wade following his buyout by Chicago. “Definitely welcome him with open arms and if does show up I’ll tell him he was late for Media Day and give him some (expletive) about it.”
On the floor, aside from I.T., the Cavaliers are healthy, happy and drama-free. There aren’t any lingering contract issues – as there was with Tristan and J.R. Smith over the last two seasons. This year’s Cavs aren’t searching for point guard depth or concerned about who might be able to give LeBron a blow (especially after Jeff Green’s performance in Tuesday’s practice).
The heightened competition had the guys looking sharp and hungry in Independence. And the competition’s only going to get stiffer.
”Guys are hungry. (Last year’s Finals) definitely left a bad taste in our mouth. Coming back this year, we have a lot of different looks, a lot of versatility – offensively and defensively. I’m very excited, the guys are very excited. Today was very competitive. We have a lot of guys who deserve to play, who can play. It’s a great mix here.”
With just over a week to go before the preseason opener – next Wednesday night against Atlanta at The Q – Tyronn Lue will have to get his new-look squad on the same page. While he does, a few observations from the first practice of 2017 Training Camp …
1 With all the focus on Cleveland’s high-profile veterans, there are a couple young international guys looking to make their mark at the start of Camp.
For many, this was the first in-person appearance by swingman Cedi Osman and center Ante Zizic.
Osman, the 31st pick of the 2015 Draft, who the Cavs acquired from Minnesota played in 35 games with Anadolu Efes in the Turkish Basketball League last year – averaging 13.2 points on .496 shooting. He showed off his effortless shooting stroke on Tuesday, but it’s obvious that he’s still getting used to the speed of the NBA game.
Zizic, who doesn’t turn 21 until January, is a true seven-footer who can really run the floor. He looked sharp and showed off a soft shooting touch on Tuesday. Zizic hopes to join a list of versatile, skilled big men who’ve recently emerged from the Adriatic League – including Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic.
Like Osman, it’ll take Zizic – the 23rd pick of the 2016 Draft – a minute to get used to NBA speed, especially on a veteran-laden squad like the Wine & Gold.
2 After borrowing Channing Frye’s “LeBron 1”s on Media Day, he mooched more gear on Tuesday afternoon, wearing jersey No. 9 (Cedi Osman) and No. 10 (John Holland) at different stages of practice.
3 To round out the 20-man Training Camp roster, on Tuesday afternoon the Cavaliers inked forward JaCorey Williams, who was named last year’s Conference USA Player of the Year after averaging 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds for Middle Tennessee State. Williams wasted absolutely NO time getting into the mix. He arrived at CCC after practice began and was already in drills by the mid-way point.
4If there was one guy who made a major impression on Day 1, it was veteran forward Jeff Green, who smushed home two monster dunks – the second, a gliding right-handed flush actually made his teammates stop and take notice. Green’s energy and aggressiveness weren’t lost on the King, who joked about how every play Green makes like that means a couple more minutes of rest for him.
The quiet 10-year veteran averaged double-figure scoring in each of his first eight seasons before dipping to 9.2 ppg last season with Orlando and is a career 43 percent shooter.
In 2016, the Cavaliers went into the NBA Finals with Shawn Marion and Mike Miller as their backup small forwards. Richard Jefferson has held that role for the past two seasons. This year, R.J., Jae Crowder and Green will all vy for minutes behind (and alongside) Number 23.
5 It might be a tall order for 33-year-old big man Kendrick Perkins to make the regular season roster, but the 13-year veteran did come to Camp in tremendous shape, barely resembling the lumbering bruiser from his Boston days.