When I asked Manny Harris last month about whether or not he was interested in playing professionally overseas during this lockout, at that time he told me he wasn't. The reason he wasn't looking to chase down some foreign currency while the Cavaliers held onto his game check was that he remained "committed to playing in the NBA." He didn't want to shift his focus away from the ultimate goal he worked his whole life to accomplish, and he was training three times a day in an attempt to "stay as ready as possible so when the lockout does end [he'll] be on [his] A-game."
I've said this a few times since, but I can't stress enough how much I respect that mindset from an second year guy like Manny who went out and took advantage of an opportunity that nobody handed him last season by way of an NBA draft pick. Professional athletes have a certain window to make as many dollars as they can playing a kids game amongst men for as long as their bodies will allow them too, and this lockout could theoretcially eliminate one of those revenue earning years completely for guys like Harris and everybody else he played in the League with last season. He could go sign overseas and make whatever monies he can in the short-term, but doing so certainly would not allow him completely focus his every second of every day on the intensified pursuit of continuing his NBA career.
The fact that he hasn't gone overseas will also allow him the opportunity to play in the Impact Basketball League that's starting up next month, which I would have to imagine will be a tremendous opportunity to get better as a player for him and everybody else in it. This league will be loaded with NBA All Star level talent, and reportedly will include somewhere around 70 NBA players on league rosters when the games get underway on September 12th. Manny Harris has a relationship with Impact Basketball, and has worked out at Impact’s two locations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles this summer. He may very well be playing when league play tips off in a couple weeks, and some other notable names repotedly ready to lace 'em up out at Impact include Chauncey Billups, John Wall, Paul Pierce, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Brandon Jennings, Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes, Danny Granger and a long list of others, as well as former Cavaliers Mo Williams and JJ Hickson.
Should be some real good runs out there for sure, and no way guys like Manny Harris who compete in this league won't come out of the experience as better players. We'll keep an eye on Harris as well as the goings on out at Impact later on in September, but as Cavalier fans you should be encouraged about the productive way Manny is spending his extended off-season.
On Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson Heading Back To School
This is another thing Cavaliers fans should be encouraged about as well in my opinion. Scott over at Waiting For Next Year referenced this a couple days ago, but if you missed that Kyrie and Tristan are opting to continue their education while they wait out the current impasse that is the NBA and their labor negotiations, which I think is a solid move for both guys for sure. A big part of that is the fact that both guys will continue to work out with the Duke and Texas programs respectively while attending school, but the opportunity to not rush into the real world - so to speak - as young players who left college after their freshmen campaign will also help too.
It has to be a world-wind to go from HS to the top-five in the NBA Draft in a little over 12 months from a personal development standpoint, and frankly some very talented players have not been able to make that transition. I can only imagine what I'd be like if I went through something like that, and while I can guarantee that guys like Tristan and Kyrie would and certainly are handling it way better than I would, I think this opportunity to spend a little more time developing as a person on a college campus they're comfortable on will only help. They've each now had a chance, based on the lockout, to sorta dip their toes in the world of basketball super-stardom, and are now afforded an opportunity to regroup, take a deep breath, and proceed from there with a unique perspective that only the lockout would allow college freshmen making this jump.
Beyond all that, it's great from a basketball perspective too, especially for Kyrie Irving. I have no idea what the real status of his previously injured toe is, and while it could very well be one hundred percent at this point, he has no need to push that right now. Additionally, he will be allowed to continue to workout under the watchful eye of Coach K in the meantime, and compete against arguably the 1st overall pick of next year's draft every single day during the lockout in Duke Freshmen sensation Austin Rivers. All sorts of good things as far as I can tell, and maybe this lockout just might have hit at the best possible time in Cavaliers history. It's also true that maybe I'm just trying to rationalize being real bored starting in October, but I don't think it's as much that as it is the former. Hopefully Kyrie and Tristan are able to get good deals on Trapper Keepers this year though since they'll be coming out of pocket for a while; they deserve that much.
Photos: Manny Harris, JohnBeilein.com; Kyrie Irving, MediaSpokesman.com