What's up man, how are things? I'm not sure if you're going to end up playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers next season, but Twitter has been saying you might. Which is why I thought now might be a good time to talk. Yep, it's about that first time we met. I know it's been eating you alive on the inside too. It's all good though, that's why I'm writing you this, so we can clear the air.
You were pretty rude that first time we met, but I understand more now where you were coming from. You see, I don't watch reality television, and somebody already has the People Magazine every time I go to the dentist. I didn't understand the totality of what you were going through with that show and everything. I shouldn't have even asked you about doing that interview this past season, my bad on that.
The thing was though, Hump, I did go up to you before your game in Cleveland and ask about it first. Real professionally, remember? I introduced myself to you, and told you I was looking to do a brief Q+A about your thoughts on the season. I even knew enough about the other stuff to specifically say I would only ask basketball related questions. Truth is, I wouldn't have even known what to ask about the other stuff because I never watched your show before.
I actually tweeted during the game you played in Cleveland that it made no sense for Cavs fans to being booing you because of whatever happened on your show. You don't know that, because you don't follow me on Twitter, but that's cool too. I did have your back. Even after you punked me, I still believe that you are a bizarre person for Cleveland sports fans to boo. I actually gave you credit for hooking up with her in the first place, and still do if I'm being honest about it.
But getting back to what happened, why you rubbed me the wrong way about the whole thing, was that you told me pregame that you were down to do the interview. You were even real cool about it actually. You slapped me five, gave me that handshake that made me think we were friends, and told me to check in with you after the game. I thought we were all good, and to be honest I was kinda pumped. But I think you might have been messing with me in retrospect.
So anyways, after you told me you were down, and the game ended, I rolled back over to your locker postgame. You were eating that plate of food, remember? Staring directly down at it while I walked over and stood in front of you. You had that PR guy assigned to your locker standing there. Not a happy person that guy. And if you didn't want to do an interview, right then is when you should've said it. Or he could've said it. Not a big deal. But I know you know that now.
It was a great time at the Ohio Homecoming Battle for Ohio Game this weekend. I'm already looking forward to the 2nd Annual meeting between Team 216 and Team 614 in Cleveland next year, and expect it to be even bigger. It's a great event, put on by great people, and you could feel the momentum building towards Cleveland's game inside St. John's Arena on Saturday. Tristan Thompson's voluntary participation this weekend is an important reason for that momentum too. I mentioned this while on the air with Joe Lull at 92.3 The Fan on Saturday following the game, but just wanted to reiterate.
Tristan was the fourth pick in the NBA Draft. The last exhibition game he participated in was the Rookie / Sophomore Challenge at All Star Weekend. He's from Canada and went to college at Texas. He did not have to drive 2-plus hours to Columbus in order to be the lone Cavaliers representative for Team Cleveland in the game on Saturday. He did though, because the community he now represents as a member of the Cavs is important to him. Next year, when the game is in the 216, and Team Columbus gets that call to make the same drive Tristan Thompson made to their city, guys are more likely to do it because he just did. I appreciate all that, and think it shouldn't be lost on Cavs fans right now amidst the free agent hysteria.
I talked with Tristan while we were down there about the Draft and what he's up to this summer, and our conversation is below.
StepienRules: How did you end up deciding to play in this game, and how was the experience for you?
Tristan Thompson: Coming down here, repping for Cleveland, it was great. I was glad the guys reached out to me on it and I was happy to get involved with the community in a game like this. Without the fans we’re nothing, and I really appreciate the love they show, and the love they showed to everybody down here.
StepienRules: How's your summer going, what are you up to, and have you had a chance to reflect back on last season at all?
Tristan Thompson: To think that just two years ago I was a McDonald’s All American in High School, and now I’m here with an opportunity to help build something special with the Cavs, it's just something I don't take for granted. So I’m just trying to do everything I can to get better this summer. I think we had a great draft, added two great draft picks with Zeller and Dion, and I’m excited about what we can do moving forward. I think we added two great players in the draft who are also great guys, and I'm just working everyday to get better.
StepienRules: Have you talked with Dion [Waiters] or Tyler [Zeller] since the Draft, had a chance to spend any time with them lately?
Tristan Thompson: Yeah, I have. They're both in Cleveland full-time right now, and I'm in Cleveland, so we’ve all been doing individuals, and working out with the strength and conditioning coach lately. We're just trying to build that chemistry right now. We’re trying to build something special here, so we feel like each day we’re able to be around each other just makes us better.
StepienRules: What are your thoughts about playing alongside Tyler in the front-court together, do you feel like your game's compliment each other?
Tristan Thompson: Whenever you can play with a 7-footer like Tyler it makes your life easier. With him now I can play the four. I also think with him being long, me being athletic, we can both make shots, all that will create a some space inside for us. I think we’re going to be two young front-court guys in the NBA who are going to play well off each other as we continue to grow, and I'm excited about it.
It’s pretty well documented that night two years ago today wasn’t really fun. Not only was he leaving with objectives unfulfilled but also with our franchise’s relevance. All of which paled in comparison to a city having it’s excitement taken away. I’m 31-years old and have lived through two legitimate sporting eras. The 90’s Tribe and the Lebron Cavs. I’ll remember and cherish both for years to come, however on that night it was pretty difficult to put it into proper perspective. My first thoughts after he actually went through with it were “wow, the Cavs are going to be bad for a really really long time.” The excitement that would come over me, my family, my friends, and my city around playoff time each year just died a pretty tragic death.
The ensuing year felt pretty much like I thought it would. Painful. Culminated by getting our doors blown off by those Heat in front of a national audience while our fans were spewing hate and bitterness all over the Q. I tuned out Cavs basketball for months afterward and the NBA all together. Having only a team to root against, the fun had been completely sucked out of the NBA experience.
Then came the trade. February 24th, 2011. The first day I felt a sense of excitement again. The day Grant and Gilbert started out on a truly defined direction. Tear it down and build it back up the right way. Show patience. Take no shortcuts. As we all know, we sent Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to the Clippers for Baron Davis and their UNPROTECTED lottery pick. Gilbert basically showed the world how much purchasing a lotto pick costs. Alright, so now I had two teams to root against and more importantly a process to follow and to root for. Without a contender we were stuck with a team in which winning would be counter productive for a few years but had that process to get excited about. That one move gave me and my friends something to dissect and banter about. Cavs basketball: the future version. How can we rise back up?
Then, the lottery. Little Nick Gilbert, his tiny frame chalk full of resiliency and courage, energized the franchise and the fan base. That asset grab at the previous trading deadline turned into the first pick of the NBA draft. Cleveland was fully injected with that seemingly one thing that keeps the NBA alive in small to mid markets: hope.
Grant and Co. followed up the Draft with a relatively silent free agency period. Sticking to the plan of patience. We came in to the 2011-2012 season not knowing what to expect. Should we win? Should we lose? Is this kid gonna be ok? Could he be great?no comments
The Battle for Ohio Celebrity Game tips off at noon ET in Columbus tomorrow, and Tristan Thompson will be headlining the event for Team Cleveland. Pretty cool of the Canada native to adapt his new area code as his own and make that trek down I-71 to participate I think.
Evan Turner, who averaged 11 and 8 during 13 playoff games for the Sixers this past season, will be headlining the game for Team Columbus. Also on the marquee for the Cleveland side is his former Ohio State teammate David Lighty, who spent this past season playing professionally in Italy.
I caught up with both Turner and Lighty earlier this week for a SLAMonline article that posted this afternoon. Here's an excerpt of that from my conversation with Turner:
“I’m excited to be a part of it,” Turner said about participating in the event. “It’s going to be great for the city of Columbus, and I think it’s something cool. As a former Ohio State player, I think it’s a great opportunity to celebrate the tradition of Ohio State, as well as the tradition of a basketball-rich Ohio. I have a house in Columbus, so I go back at least once a month, for about a week or so at a time. I love being in Columbus, and if I’m not in my hometown of Chicago, or in Philly, I’m down in Columbus.”
I also talked with Lighty about the interest he's receiving from around the NBA, including the Cavaliers, and here's a portion of that:
“I’ve been working out for five teams,” Lighty said. “Coming up with Summer League Vegas, I’m going to be with Phoenix. I was going to play with Atlanta, but after their recent trade they brought in three wing players, or three guards. So my agent and I decided to play with Phoenix. I had a couple Cavs workouts, Pacers, Spurs, Hawks, and then Phoenix as well. Those teams are interested in me, and I’m just going to keep working, proving myself everyday, and hopefully get signed.”
Full article: SLAM - Bragging Rights; Evan Turner and David Lighty check in before the Battle for Ohio Celebrity game
Team Cleveland also includes also includes Dallas Lauderdale, Tony Stockman, Damon Stringer, Sam Clancy, Julius Juby Johnson, Marcus Johnson, Dru Joyce, Chet Mason, and Keith McLeod. Besides Lighty, Team Columbus will feature Brian Brown, Terence Dials, Jon Diebler, Ivan Harris, George Reese, JJ Sullinger, Scoonie Penn, Antonio Daniels and Samaki Walker.
The Stepien Rules team will be on location for the game in Columbus tomorrow too, so stay tuned. Hit me up on Twitter if you have any questions you want me to ask those guys. Be back here then.
Before signing a two-year deal worth roughly $10 million with the Minnesota Timberwolves, reports indicated that the Cleveland Cavaliers were interested in singing Brandon Roy. I was really behind the move for the Cavs, until I saw what Minnesota wanted to pay him. If the Cavs signed Roy and his half a knee, he is still a major upgrade over the D-League shooting guards Cleveland's been trotting off the bench for the better part of two seasons. But what happens when it turns into a Grady Sizemore situation, and the Cavs are stuck paying out $5 million per year for a guy who isn't healthy enough to play?
Before he was forced to retire with chronic knee pain, Roy was one of the top young players in the League. He played with tremendous explosiveness and had a great feel for the game. He got to the rim whenever he wanted, and mixed that with a nice mid-range game. Not a great 3-point shooter, but still very capable. He was one of the most dynamic players in the League, consistently coming through in the clutch for Portland. I would have put him possibly in the top five of 2- guards in the League for a time. Unfortunately for Portland though, injuries ended all that.
That franchise has some terrible luck, and maybe none worse than when Roy’s knees began to deteriorate in the 2010-11 season. A career 19-point per game scorer, Roy saw his scoring average drop to 12.2 per game as he struggled to stay on the court. Personally, I really hope his year off has helped him; I was an a big fan of his game and still am a fan of his. But for $5 million? I'm not sure I want to take that type of risk, and I'm glad the Cavaliers didn't.
On the Other Free Agent Shooting Guards Available:
We caught up w/ Sean Keeley, Creator of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, to talk about Dion Waiters and his time at Syracuse. Our exchange is below. Follow Sean on Twitter here, and buy his book too.
StepienRules: Why should Cavs fans be excited about Dion Waiters?
Sean Keeley: Jim Boeheim doesn't throw around high praises too often. So when he says that Dion Waiters is the most NBA-ready guard he's ever coached, that means something. Having watched Dion for two years, it's impressive how quickly he caught up to the speed of the game and, in some cases, surpassed it. He's a clutch transition offensive player and a great play-maker. I've seen some people say his defense is bad but that was freshman year stuff. He's made great strides since then and became a great turnover creator. If nothing else, he's going to be fast and fun to watch on the court.
StepienRules: Waiters said he matured as a man by coming off the bench in college during his introductory press conference in CLE. In what ways would you say he matured in his time with the Orange?
SK: Well you're talking about a guy who basically told Boeheim to "go F himself" as a freshman and then almost transferred following the season. Rather than run from his issues, Waiters stuck it out, did the work, committed to the team and his coach and ended up putting together a Sixth Man of the Year season that saw him become the most electric player on the court anytime he was on it. There's no way that Freshman Dion would have been okay sitting on the bench as a sophomore. He matured a lot quickly in that respect.
StepienRules: As far as NBA player comparisons for Waiters go, who / what do you think would be a best case scenario for him in the League? Who would be a worst case? Are the comparisons to Wade & Wesbrook warranted / fair?
SK: I never liked to see any kind of comparisons to elite All-Stars when a guy is just coming out of college. No one knows any of that stuff. To me the Wade comparison is more about how they look and how they play the game, not that Waiters is just as good. That's not to say that Dion doesn't have it in him to become a star, he does. But in the meantime let's set the bar at the Jason Terry level for success. Worst case scenario is that he never grows as an all-around player and he's out of the league in 4-5 years. He's at least got the athletic talent to make it that far.
StepienRules: Why did he not start for Syracuse last season? Did the fact he didn't start ever matter to you, or to Orange fans?
SK: Dion's not starting was more tactical than anything. It was not because Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche were "better" than him. Boeheim used Waiters as a not-so-secret weapon. So when the other team's starters started to come out, here comes Dion with all his energy and athleticism. After that, he played just as many minutes as Scoop and Triche and played in crunchtime just as often. I see a lot of people citing that Ohio State game as proof he doesn't play in big games. Did those people watch that game? The refs were on such a foul-calling spree it's amazing everyone didn't foul out in the first half. The fact that he didn't start never mattered to us and we find the whole "he never started!" complaint rather humorous. When the game was on the line, most SU fans would tell you they wanted the ball in Dion's hands.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been linked to CSKA Moscow's Alexey Shved as a potential Free Agent target over the last couple days. I wanted to learn more about him so I reached out to some people familiar with Shved and the CSKA organization last night. I asked about Shved's contract situation with CSKA, as well as how they would describe Alexey as a player. I also asked if they knew anything directly related to Shved and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but they didn't.
What I did learn about the guard from Russia is below:
Alexey is under contract with CSKA until 2013. He does have an opt-out clause, but that number isn't too big. Meaning it isn't going to cost a premium to buy him out of his CSKA contract for next season, should he end up with an NBA offer. I was also told that it does appear Shved is serious about making the jump to the NBA in general. If he receives a good NBA offer CSKA will support that too, and not try to prevent him from leaving before his contract is up. As a player, he is very skinny right now at 23-years old, but very quick as well. He likes to finish at the rim and make spectacular plays. He has pretty good court vision, can shoot from the outside, but is more of spot-up shooter. This past year he improved significantly on the defensive end, but still has problems fighting over screens because of how skinny he is. That will be a concern for him defensively in the NBA as well.
I then watched a bunch of his YouTube videos; here's one from the Euroleague Final Four last season. Put it on mute, the music's kind of annoying.
Oh and here's a between the legs dunk he attempted. In a game. He missed it, but yikes. Dude tried a between the legs dunk in a real game.
NBA Free Agency has begun. Omer Asik has been offered a contract valued at over $2.68 million per point averaged last season (avg'd 3.1 ppg, contract 3 yrs 25.1M). Roy Hibbert received a contract offer equivalent to what LeBron is being paid. Dwight Howard wants to be traded because he reportedly feels he's been blackmailed into picking up his final year with Orlando, and our guy Gody already received a qualifying offer. Which leads me to the Cavaliers who extended that offer to Luke on Friday.
So far, the list of Free Agents being targeted by the Cavaliers looks like this as far as I can tell:
Alonzo Gee: The Cavaliers extended a $2.7 million qualifying offer to swingman Alonzo Gee on Friday, meaning the team can match any offer he receives in order to keep the restricted free agent. Gerald Wallace is a 6-7 SF who's 29 years old. He averaged 14 points and 7 rebounds last season. The Brooklyn Nets just offered Wallace 4 years, $40 million. I can't see paying Gee more than the $4 million per year we discussed back in May, but somebody might. Things are crazy out there right now.
Luke Harangody: The Cavs made a $1 million qualifying offer to forward Luke Harangody on Friday as well. He won't get any other offers, most likely, but a guaranteed million is a job well done for our favorite flat-top wearing Forward. He put in some serious work last season, and it seems he might be rewarded for that by way of one million dollars to play basketball. For what it's worth, Gody also has ties to first round pick Tyler Zeller. Tyler's oldest brother Luke Zeller also played at Notre Dame when Harangody was there.
Semih Erden: The Cavs extended a qualifying offer to center Semih Erden too, General Manager Chris Grant announced from Cleveland Clinic Courts on Saturday. Per league and team policy, terms of the offer were not announced. By extending qualifying offers to each player (Gee, Gody, Erden) prior to June 30, Cleveland owns the right to match any offer sheet they may sign with another team. Here's one thing on Erden before you talk about how he won't get any offers: He averaged 3.5 points per game last season. Asik averaged 3.1. He's tall, and therefore somebody else will make an offer to Semih also - bet on that.
Jonny Flynn: After being traded from Houston last season, Flynn finished the year out with the Blazers. I attended a couple of his workouts in the Cleveland area last month. The latest report linking Flynn with the Cavaliers reads like this from CSNNW.com: The unrestricted free agent point guard, Jonny Flynn, has received interest from the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks, a source tells CSNNW.com. Currently the mutual interest is in its beginning stages and no visits have been arranged for the former Syracuse Orangemen standout as of yet. The free-agency period began today and Flynn must wait for the high-profile point guards to find landing spots before more teams begin calling regarding his services. Flynn is only 23 years old and has career averages of 9.2 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds per game. Those aren't good numbers for a guy drafted in the top-5, but as a back-up PG? I'd be interested in Flynn for that role in Cleveland.Sonny Weems: Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico tweeted yesterday that Small Forward Sonny Weems is drawing interest from the Cavaliers. Alex Kennedy from Hoopsworld also added that the Celtics, Clippers, and Pistons have shown interest in addition to the Cavs. Weems is a 6-6 Forward who managed his way through the Lockout last season by playing overseas. He proved himself as an NBA player during his time as a Toronto Raptor though, and would be a solid option at SF for the Cavaliers. I'm not sure if he's being viewed as a back-up plan to Alonzo Gee, in the event somebody does throw $6 mil-plus at Gee, or if Weems would be a compliment to Gee, Kevin Jones? and Omri Casspi. That seems like too many SF's, but who knows at this point.
As far as where the Cavaliers contract / roster situation currently stands as a team right now, our good friend Ben Cox put it in laymen's terms over the weekend when he posted the following at WFNY:
After having a full day to soak in the 2012 NBA Draft I can see the pieces of the puzzle coming together. The rebuild is in full steam now with two more young players in the fold. My thoughts:
THEY’RE REALLY HAPPY
I think most Cavs fans felt that initial jolt when #4 was announced. The results of our mock draft based craziness when it comes to drafts reared it’s ugly head. REACH!! WHO?? I’m Done!!! We all saw it on twitter or heard it in person. Basically nobody, and I mean NOBODY, had Waiters slotted to us therefore it was a crazy thing to do right? Well, don’t tell that to Chris Grant or Byron Scott because they’re acting like that dude in Die Hard 3 riding out of NYC with dump trucks full of gold. Based off of what they’re saying and the insight in the great article by Brian Windhorst, who was in the Cavs war room, it appears the Cavs had a plan and executed it to a tee. My own initial reaction was about 10 seconds of disappointment followed by happiness. I wanted Barnes because I wanted the Cavs to think scoring. They clearly had that mindset but just had Waiters way over Barnes on their board. I also was high enough on Waiters to tweet a few days before the draft that I could see him winning rookie of the year. I just had no idea he’d be in play for us at #4. It seems, on the surface, the Cavs came away with two young players at extreme need positions that they were targeting all along.
ON DION WAITERS
I love a lot about this pick but have questions also. I guess my only gripe is not sitting down and interviewing this kid. If I’m Chris Grant there’s definitely questions I want answered but I’m not going to focus in on that right now because I’m feeling pretty optimistic about this pick overall. First off, I love that he truly loves basketball. I love the story of him almost collapsing in tears after the Buckeyes ended his season this March. I love that when he was dealing with family tragedy after family tragedy he took to the courts. His Mom said he was out there all day and night rain or shine playing basketball. He has a bravado on the court that leads people to refer to him as “a pit bull” or say that he “doesn’t shy away from anyone.” He brings a playground toughness to our team that we don’t have. He’s physical and he thinks he can destroy anyone. I get the feeling we’re going to love rooting for this kid because on top of his mentality he has loads of talent. According to Draft Express he shot 47% from between 17 ft and the 3 point line. He shot 36% from 3 point range (better than Beal) and is a nightmare in both transition and in pick and roll. But his overwhelming strength is, scouts say, that nobody can keep him out of the lane. I can already feel myself berating NBA officials on his behalf.
ON TYLER ZELLER
I really wanted to see the Cleveland Cavaliers draft Michael Kidd-Gilchrist last night. I had completely convinced myself that Thomas Robinson would end up going second to the Bobcats. There was no doubt in my mind that Bradley Beal would go three to the Wizards. MKGtoCLE felt R-E-A-L. I was planning on toasting the pick at our Draft Tweet-Up immediately upon its announcement. One of those 'remember where you were moments in Cleveland sports history' was about to unfold, I thought. The Bobcats would take Kidd-Gilchrist off the board at pick number two, however, and the dream died. Quickly. It took me about twenty-minutes to realize what just happened. Then #DionWaitersToCLE did.
Wadduppppp yourself, D. Welcome to Cleveland.
I'm not going to get too carried away with the fact he didn't start as a sophomore at Syracuse last year either. It is kinda strange to wonder what he did at practice to make Boeheim not start him, but then again there was a lot going on last year at 'Cuse. He averaged 24.1 minutes per game last year, shot 48% from the field, 36% from three, and averaged 12 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists. He tests out through the roof analytically, there's reports of GM's around the League saying they secretly had him high on their respective board now surfacing this morning, and he's definitely a young kid loaded with potential. He'll be an exciting player in transition on the wing next to Kyrie Irving, and he may have been the best wing player available at pick number four. My Cavaliers board read MKG, Beal, Harrison Barnes. MKG and Beal were gone. The Cavaliers liked Dion Waiters more than Harrison Barnes. It's that simple really, and now Waiters is a Cavalier.
Thanks for stopping by the Draft Tweet-Up Last Night, you guys: Really appreciate everybody that came by Mullarkey's last night. Big shout out to Cleveland.com and Glenn Moore for teaming up with us to broadcast live from Mullarkey's Pub in Downtown Willoughby. Great working with the Social Dudes as always on everything. Thanks to Gray & Company, Team Cribbs, the Cleveland Browns, Verizon, Fresh Brewed Tees and Sports Time Ohio for the giveaways. Really awesome of you guys, and I had a lot of fun. Hope we can do it again soon. Felt like the broadcast with Glenn went great, and thanks to everybody who participated on Twitter in the Cavaliers Trivia Contest we put together too. I plan to be recapping the party in a bit more detail over the weekend, but just wanted to genuinely say thanks first this morning.
I'll be down at the media availabilities later today and plan to have more here at StepienRules following all that. More on Tyler Zeller then too; not mad at either pick, feel like the Cavaliers got two nice pieces last night.