The Boys of Summer

The Cavaliers franchise is less than a month removed from winning the Association’s postseason tournament – taking the NBA title in an epic seven-game series over the Warriors.

As sweet as winning the Whole Enchilada was for Clevelanders and Cavalier fans worldwide, it might have been even sweeter for Cavs Director of Player Development Phil Handy – born and raised in the Bay area.

Handy – probably the most hands-on of all the Cavaliers basketball operations staff, who, among other duties, parries with Kyrie Irving in a one-on-one duel previous to every game – drew the assignment of coaching this year’s Summer League squad in Las Vegas. And he’s enjoying every minute of it.

Not only is Handy helming a team that features some interesting young pieces that will help the Wine and Gold defend their crown, but he’s also able to watch the progress of his son, McKenzie Moore – a combo guard who spent last season playing in New Zealand and is currently on the Mavericks Summer League squad.

The Cavaliers dropped their first two games in Vegas before crushing the Timberwolves in the third game of scheduled play on Monday – with Jordan McRae leading the team in scoring at 20.3 ppg, good for 9th overall.

On Wednesday night in Las Vegas, the Summer League tournament tips off – with the Wine and Gold taking on the Boston Celtics at 8 p.m. Before the Cavs try to win their second tourney in as many months, Coach Handy took a moment to talk with Cavs.com after practice in Nevada …

What’s the reception been like with the Cavs coming to Las Vegas as World Champs?

Phil Handy: Man, you know what? All the coaches, players, scouts – even GMs – everyone’s been really congratulatory. It’s kind of sinking in a little bit when you start seeing players and coaches, people around the league, walking up to you and congratulating you.

So it’s been a very warm reception from everybody.

What have these few weeks been like for you personally?

Handy: It’s been a little bit of this and a little bit of that. (laughs) It’s actually been really low-key. I think the biggest thing is: I still wake up some days and I pinch myself, man. Just like: Is this real? Did we really do that? Did we really just win the NBA Championship?

So it hasn’t fully sunken in yet, but I still have moments where I have chills and get semi-emotional thinking about it. It’s definitely very real and the feelings are there every day.

It’s been great – the best experience of my life, of my career. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve really been enjoying it – off the court, on the court.

Who needs a break? I’ll take this every year.

How has your son McKenzie been playing and are you able to watch him a little?

Handy: He’d started for Dallas the first two games, and I’m going to go watch him later today. He’s doing pretty well. He’s playing combo – both the 1 and the 2 – and I’ve been able to watch both of his games.

Jordan McRae

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He’s playing pretty well. But it’d be nice to see him be a little more aggressive. And I don’t mean aggressive scoring, but just being aggressive with just some of the things he does naturally. I think he’s been trying to fit in, trying not to make mistakes but I want to see him go out there and play the way he knows how to play.

In terms of our guys, the only roster player on the team is Jordan McRae. How has he looked?

Handy: For us, I think the biggest thing we’ve been looking for from Jordan is just giving maximum effort. We know he can score. The dude is a prolific scorer and we know he’s very talented offensively.

I’ve been staying on him about being really aggressive, defensively – being alert and locked in on the defensive end of the floor.

I think he’s been playing well and he’s been getting better every game. He hasn’t shot the ball well, but I like what he’s doing out there. He’s trying to be a little more vocal with his teammates. He’s trying to keep the right attitude and be a professional. I really like what he’s been doing.

I thought last game (vs. Minnesota) was his most efficient – he played well on the offensive end and defensively as well.

McRae’s a guy you’re really focusing on in Vegas …

Handy: Well, because he’s got a real opportunity with this club.

There’s some open spots (when he) comes in for Training Camp, and I know T. Lue and management really like him. And he can put himself in a position where he understands: ‘What do I have to do to earn some playing time?’

And of course, you have to be able to knock down open shots, but more importantly, he has to be able to defend and earn T. Lue’s trust. That he can do all the right things defensively and stay on the court.

What have been your impressions of rookie Kay Felder?

Handy: Man, I love him! I love that kid. He’s got a chip on his shoulder. He competes. He’s tough. And he’s got a nice little moxie to him.

I really believe he’s in a transition period, but he’s been playing well. I’ve been really happy with the way he’s been playing.

He hasn’t forced shots, he’s doing a pretty good job of running the team and he’s been picking up full-court on almost every possession. I love what he brings and he’s only going to get better.

If he continues to understand the NBA game – he’s quick enough, he’s athletic enough, he’s explosive enough. He’s like a combo of Nate Robinson and Isaiah Thomas. He’s got that type of ability.

What are you working on with him to get him ready for Training Camp?

Handy: Everybody talks about his shot, but Kay’s a better shooter than people give him credit for.

And then it’s about him being vocal. Kay’s a pretty quiet kid. He’s very coachable. But he’s very quiet, and we want him to get more comfortable from that point guard position.

Has anyone surprised you so far?

Handy: For me, I didn’t know (DeAndre) Liggins. I was not very familiar with him. I know a lot of people around the D-League and in the league knew about him, but this is my first experience seeing him play and obviously, coaching him. I’m a big fan of his.

I think he has a lot of intangibles that you can’t teach. I think his instincts for the game defensively and offensively are really good. He’s really smart and he’s a tenacious competitor. So he’s really stood out to me.

I know that’s not a surprise to a lot of people around here, but it’s the first time I’ve gotten to see him play up-close. I’ve been quite pleased with what he’s done on both ends of the floor. He doesn’t have to score to impact the game.

What were your goals for the squad in Vegas?

Handy: The only thing I told those guys when we first met that we were going to be the hardest-working team in Summer League. That’s it.

To me, that trumps everything else. You’re going to make shots, you’re going to miss shots. But the effort – playing hard and competing hard – every game, every quarter, every possession, that was our goal.

And I give these guys credit: they’ve been doing exactly that.