Rookie Tales ... with Cedi Osman

Rookie Tales ... with Cedi Osman

Cavs Forward Recalls His Rookie Days After Arriving from Overseas

by Joe Gabriele (@CavsJoeG)
4/5/20 | Cavs.com

It’s somehow not surprising that Cedi Osman’s rookie year wasn’t the brutal slog it can be for some first-year players, especially ones from overseas.

That’s because Cedi is intrinsically likeable, both on and off the court.

On the floor, the third-year forward from Macedonia plays hard and unselfishly in both games and practice. He’s durable, coachable and never complains. He’s generous and courteous with media and has adoring fans in three continents. He’s even got a Head and Shoulders commercial.

From the start, Cedi and local fans struck up an immediate friendship. In Cavalier Country, he’s on a first-name basis.

After starring overseas, the now-25-year-old was drafted with the 31st overall pick of the 2015 Draft by the Timberwolves, but his rights (along with Rakeem Christmas) were sent to Cleveland in exchange for guard Tyus Jones. Two years later, after wrapping up his deal with the Euroleague’s Anadolu Efes in 2017, Osman made his Cavaliers debut later that fall during garbage time in Milwaukee.

Before the league’s mandatory hiatus, Osman was having a solid third season, although slightly down across the board from his sophomore campaign. But he was actually on the upswing before play stopped – netting double-figures in four of his previous five outings, averaging 16.5ppg over that stretch.

Osman’s rookie season was spent backing up a guy named LeBron James on a squad littered with big names like Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Dwyane Wade, Isaiah Thomas, J.R. Smith and Derrick Rose.

Cedi didn’t see much action that first year – averaging just 11.0mpg on a veteran-heavy squad that was in the midst of its fourth straight run to the NBA Finals. But he did grow up as a man and a ballplayer that season.

So while we’re all social distancing and trying to stay safe during this difficult time, here’s a Cavalier fan favorite recalling his rookie campaign with the Wine & Gold …

Cedi Osman was having a solid run before the NBA hiatus, averaging 16.5ppg over a four-game span.
Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Was it a good thing or a bad thing to come into the league on a team so loaded with veterans?

Cedi Osman: I think it was a good thing, because my first year we had a relly great team. I think they'd played in three straight NBA Finals. So I was really excited, you know? A chance to win an NBA Championship in my first year!

But at one point, I realized that for me to play, I had to really earn my spot because we already had a lot of a lot of great players, a lot of star players.

So I think that year really helped me a lot. It helped my game, but I also developed some really great friendships here, too.

For some overseas guys coming over, the language barrier is the biggest hurdle. What were some of the big adjustments you had to make?

Cedi: The language was not a big problem because my English was getting better every year. So, I really felt comfortable and I had trust in myself, you know, talking to people. Even though I know I was making mistakes, I still kept talking.

So that's how I learned English.

But I think the biggest adjustment for me was the food, because it's a different type of food here.

But thanks to my teammates, the coaches and really the entire organization, they really helped me adjust quickly. So, I really didn't have a lot of problems with adjustments.

What was different about the food here?

Cedi: Kind of more fried stuff. That's the one thing I had to adjust to.

It's not like it's gross or anything. I like fried stuff, too. Just not every day.

Because you’d been playing professionally so young, did you feel ready for the league when you made the jump?

Cedi: Yeah, I was ready for the NBA. Because I went through a lot of things back overseas.

And you know, playing professionally from a young age and then playing against the older guys – guys over 30; older, talented guys – was really tough, but it also helped my game grow and just get me ready for the NBA.

That first year, before you even started practicing, is it correct that you had some uniform number issues with Dwyane Wade?

Cedi: Well, my number was always 6, actually. And obviously, I couldn't take 6. So I chose 9. I preferred taking 9 because of the 6 – just upside down.

"No matter what, if I got in for one minute or five minutes – especially that first year, minutes were really crucial for me – I played hard. And I think they just took me under their wing because I was really playing hard and I really showed them that I want to be a part of the team."

Cedi Osman, on getting the veterans to accept him as a rookie

So, it started with Cobra (Cavs Director of Team Operations, Mark Cashman) telling me that D-Wade, he wants number 9 and he's gonna talk to you. And then the second thing was I saw on Twitter somebody tweeted, like, you know: 'Wade is going to take No. 9 from Osman. He'll have to pick another number.' Stuff like that.

But I was totally cool with it and he (Wade) was totally cool with it. It wasn't that big of issue. So, I was like: No problem, buddy. We swapped jerseys and that was it.

So he took 9 and I picked 16 – just because has a '6' in it.

It seemed like the veterans embraced you right away as an incoming rookie.

Cedi: They did. I think it's just because I worked really hard and I was playing hard all the time.

No matter what, if I got in for one minute or five minutes – especially that first year, minutes were really crucial for me – I played hard. And I think they just took me under their wing because I was really playing hard and I really showed them that I want to be a part of the team and help the team.

All the veterans we had my first year were great character guys, great people. Whenever I asked about something, they were always ready to help me. They never told me: 'Go away, I don't want to talk right now.'

They were always trying to explain things and teach me. So that's why I really feel lucky for that first season.

I just thing was because my energy was matching with everybody. And that's why I felt like we had like a small brother-big brother relationship.

I heard so much negative about the rookie year, but it really wasn't like that for me.

Looking back, that could have been a different story. What do you remember about that fateful first practice against LeBron?

Cedi: Yeah, I'll probably always remember that scene. (Laughs)

It wasn't my first practice. Actually, it was my second. We practiced in the morning and the second one that night was a scrimmage.

So we're just playing, and LeBron comes from the other end – I was guarding someone else – and he came running at full-sprint.

And I saw him and I tried to, you know, move away. But it just happened so quick, he stepped on my foot and twisted his ankle.

And that's really when I started being panicked, asking if he's good and everything. He went right from the court to the cold tub. And then we kept playing, obviously, but my mind was not there. My mind was on LeBron: If he's good, if he's gonna be able to play, if anything bad happened.

We had games coming up right away, so I was very nervous.

So as soon as I got subbed out, I went right to the to the trainer's room and he was in the cold tub. And I went there, asked him if he's good, you know, that I'm sorry. I said I tried to move, but he's just so fast.

He was like: ‘Don't worry about it. Keep playing hard. I like how you're playing, keep doing it.’

How much did having a friendship with him help with your confidence?

Cedi: For me, it was really special – being able to talk to him, practice with him and then play in games with him.

And then just outside of the court, being able to sit at lunch and talk about stuff was really was really a big thing for me. So I'm really thankful.

I really wasn't expecting something like that. But I'm glad that it happened.

Did you hit the ‘rookie wall’ at any point during that season?

Cedi: No, I really didn't. And that's also because of my teammates.

I mean, it's a long season. It's not easy. But I really didn’t hit it, and that's thanks to them.

When I would have a bad game, especially Bron, would always be like: 'Keep your head up. You played hard and that's the most important thing. Doesn't matter if you miss or make shots. You played hard.'

You really did have a charmed rookie season.

Cedi: (laughs) I did! I really did.

Did you at least have some kind of rookie initiation or anything?

Cedi: I mean, donuts on a game day. That's kind of routine. I think Channing, one time he asked me to buy him an iPhone charger.

Besides that, really nothing serious and nothing too tough. You know, just like: 'Buy me a toothbrush' or whatever. Simple things, it really wasn't hard for me.

But you see me on the court, passing? I really like to share with my teammates! So, getting stuff for them was no big deal. It was good for me!