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Las Vegas Summer League 2014 Primer

Matthew Dellavedova
by Joe Gabriele Beat Writer

On Tuesday afternoon, the Cavaliers released the roster for their annual summer sabbatical to Sin City – where the Wine and Gold will make their 10th straight trip to Vegas Summer League. (The Wizards are the only other team to have participated every year since the invitational’s inception in 2004.)

The Cavaliers came to Vegas last July after drafting the No. 1 overall pick in 2013 – UNLV product, Anthony Bennett. But the native Canadian was still rehabbing from shoulder surgery and didn’t see his first real action until Training Camp. This year, the Cavs come to the desert armed with back-to-back top picks, including Bennett and this year’s No. 1, Andrew Wiggins.

But that’s just one of several story lines that should make the following fortnight in Vegas one of the more interesting runs in recent years – from the squad’s new head coach to its Canadian coming-out party to developments along the free agent front. Yes, it’s fair to say that these next two weeks should shape up most interestingly.

Normally, we adhere strictly to the axiom that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” But over the coming days, hopes to bring what happens in Vegas back to the North Coast and beyond.

With that in mind, here are a few things to keep your eye on as the Cavaliers caravan heads west …

  • Instead of deferring to an assistant coach, Cleveland’s new head coach David Blatt will coach the Summer League squad. This isn’t completely unprecedented. Steve Clifford and Jason Kidd both broke into their first year as bench boss by coaching their summer league teams in 2013.

    Blatt – fresh off being named the Euroleague’s 2013 Coach of the Year – will want to see not only what some of his youngsters are about, but to check out a bit of the league’s landscape. He’ll be joined by the Cavs recently-minted associate head coach, Tyronn Lue.

    Last year, the squad got a good look at Mike Brown’s tactics, methods and philosophies during their stretch in Vegas. For this year’s young guns – as well as their new head coach – summer school starts this week in Nevada.

  • The Cavaliers will travel with some familiar faces – including one who made his bones last year in Las Vegas. The aforementioned Anthony Bennett will join fellow sophomores Sergey Karasev, Carrick Felix, Scotty Hopson and Matthew Dellavedova, who parlayed a productive summer session into a strong Training Camp and eventually a spot in the rotation.

    Bennett will finally get his opportunity to play in the “Shark Tank,” where he starred for UNLV in his single season before being tabbed with the top pick. Karasev, picked 18 spots behind Bennett, spent his first year in the League trying to add muscle and assimilate to the size and speed of the NBA. Felix, Cleveland’s second-round selection in 2013, had his season sidelined by injury. Hopson signed with the Wine and Gold late in the season and logged only seven minutes of action, so he’ll be looking to make an impression over the next couple weeks.

    The last time Cavs fans saw Bennett and Felix on the floor together, they were combining to go 7-for-12 from the floor in the 2013-14 season finale at The Q.

  • Andrew Wiggins – the NBA’s top pick in 2014 – will have a chance to show the world why he was taken there, and in Cleveland’s opener, the two-way star will get to do so against the man he battled for that honor. On Friday night, the Cavs take on Jabari Parker and the Bucks to tip things off. On Sunday, they’ll face off against San Antonio and, the following night, battle the Sixers in the final game before tournament play begins.

    By now, most fans have seen plenty of tape on Wiggins’ aerial exploits – just not in a Cavaliers uniform. The high-flying former Jayhawk will be joined by Cleveland’s second-rounder, sharpshooting guard Joe Harris. The 6-6, 225-pounder finished second in Virginia history in made three-pointers and played more games as a Cavalier than any player in school history.

  • The Cavaliers Vegas squad will also feature a pair of players that keyed the Canton Charge’s success last season – F Shane Edwards and G Will Cherry.

    During the regular season and playoffs, the 6-7 Edwards was simply Canton’s most consistent performer – averaging 14.2 ppg and 17.3 ppg, respectively. Will Cherry joined the team after Jorge Gutierrez’s call-up with Brooklyn and brought playmaking ability and hard-nosed defense to Steve Hetzel’s squad. Cherry and Dellavedova will likely split point guard duties in Vegas.

  • Finally, the Cavaliers rounded out their roster with a few players that aren’t exactly household names, but could propel their careers with a strong showing in the desert.

    Center Alex Kirk, a true seven-footer who played three years at New Mexico, averaged double-figures in his final two seasons with the Lobos. He was a two-time All-MWC Defensive Team selection and ranks eighth in school history in rebounding, fourth in blocked shots.

    Guard Steven Gray played four years with Gonzaga and spent last season in France, starting 19 games for BCM Gravelines, where he averaged 13.7 points per contest. He averaged 11.5 ppg in 125 career games with the Zags.

    Forward Jack Cooley was an All-Big East performer for Notre Dame, playing in 123 games with the Fighting Irish. He averaged 12.8 ppg over his final two seasons at South Bend. Cooley appeared in 29 games for Trabzonspor of the Turkish Basketball League.

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