The word undefeated comes to mind. I'm not trying to put too much pressure on anybody though so I'll streamline into a series of other notes that jumped out at me from there.
Cavs fans will have the opportunity to see 3rd overall pick Bradley Beal play here in Cleveland on opening night when his Wizards come to town. He'll be matched up with 4th overall pick Dion Waiters.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the 2nd overall selection in this year's Draft, won't be back here to CLE until the second last home game of the season on February 6th. January 4th the Cavaliers travel to Charlotte for a road match-up in their only other meeting of the season with his Bobcats.
At first I thought the Cavaliers would not be playing against 1st overall pick Anthony Davis and his New Orleans Hornets. Somehow I didn't see the February 20th home date between this year's number one pick and last year's. Pretty weird I missed that.
It will also be weird when Skyenga and his Lakers make their triumphant return to Cleveland on December 11th, but you already had that one circled. Steve Nash is coming with Kobe and Christian that night, along with Antawn Jamison.
Ryan Hollins will also be out for revenge himself on November 5th when the Cavs head to Los Angeles to do battle with his Clippers. Ryan will have teammates Chris Paul and Blake Griffin fired up for that one to be sure.
That Clipper game is also the second road game during a month in November where the Cavaliers play 11 of 15 away from the Q. After playing Washington and then Chicago at home to open the season, their next six games are on the road; a stretch that ends on November 13th when they make their first trip out to Brooklyn.
I'm not anywhere near trying to project wins or losses right now, but if the Cavs come out of their first 17 games above .500 that's doing something I think.
Here's some other notes I pulled out of the Cavaliers press release on the schedule:
The word undefeated comes to mind. I'm not trying to put too much pressure on anybody though so I'll streamline into a series of other notes that jumped out at me from there.
Chris Grant has seemingly involved himself in every major NBA trade discussion this off-season. He's appeared to engage teams desperate to make monumental moves as a third-party facilitator in hopes to fleece somebody for an undervalued asset along the way. Wednesday was not one of those deals. In a straight-up exchange with the Grizzlies, Chris Grant pulled the trigger on a trade that sends DJ Kennedy to Memphis. I understand, most of you didn't even realize the Cavaliers could trade DJ Kennedy. They did though. In return, Jeremy Pargo is now a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cash considerations are also earmarked for Cleveland in the deal, along with a 2014 2nd Round Pick.
Mark Deeks from ShamSports called this move a salary dump on behalf of the Grizzlies, and he's probably right. I'm not sure DJ Kennedy had anything to do with it. Pargo has a $1 million guaranteed deal for the 2012/13 season, and the Grizzlies are doing everything they can right now to not pay the luxury tax. Every little bit helps. Josh Selby also makes Pargo expendable for Memphis. After showing some promise this past season at times, the 2nd Round pick from Kansas was absolutely killing in Vegas last week. Maybe that's why this move was made now from the Grizzlies perspective. From the Cavaliers side of things, in some ways they were simply paying $1 million for a second round pick. In others, they now match Donald Sloan up with Jeremy Pargo in a battle for the back-up PG spot. Let the best man win.
For what it's worth, I did always like the way Jeremy Pargo approached his NBA career. Maybe he can catch some traction on that here in Cleveland. Instead of biding his time in the D-League after a four-year run at Gonzaga, he went over to Israel to play a couple seasons there. Work on his game, mature through the overseas experience, compete at a high level. When he felt he was ready for his one shot at the League, he made the jump at 26 years old. Last season was his rookie year down in Memphis, and he only put up 2.9 points and 1.3 assits in 9.7 minutes per game. This after averaging double figure points and over 5 assists for two seasons in Israel. Maybe Byron Scott's Princeton attack is just the look he needed stateside. Or maybe the Cavaliers will end up with a stud second round pick in 2014. Regardless, best of luck to DJ Kennedy. Sorry we didn't get to know you better my man.
A scout from the Western Conference told me that he believed there were twenty players in the D-League better than Alonzo Gee. That sounded real harsh to me when he said it. I'm almost not sure that's even fair to say, and I immediately thought this guy might still be bitter over a missed opportunity to recommend Alonzo to his GM or something a couple years back. Instead of saying all that though, I simply replied with "really?" He continued. "Hey, I'm not saying the guy didn't capitalize on his opportunity. He did, and great for him. He was very productive this season, and he plays real hard. I'm just saying that my team, we'd never sign him. He's not the type of player we're looking for."
I mention this because Alonzo Gee did average 10.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season. The Cavaliers extended him a $2.7 million offer sheet as a result earlier this month but he wasn't interested. He instead opted to test the free agent market, and that market has responded with zero offers so far. Despite being a solid defender, punishing finisher at the rim, double digit score and effective rebounder from the small forward position, it's possible that the scout I talked with isn't alone. I think being a player who emerged from the D-League might be working against Alonzo right now in some respects. That guy's just a D-League player, people around the League might still be saying. Even though it's clear he's more than simply that.
Cavs meeting with CJ Miles:
Sam Amico from Fox Sports Ohio reports that the Cavaliers will be meeting with C.J. Miles: The Cavaliers have scheduled a two-day visit with free agent small forward C.J. Miles, a source familiar with the meeting told FOX Sports Ohio late Tuesday. Miles, 25, is an unrestricted free agent, able to sign with any team and leaving the Jazz without the option to match. He has spent all seven of his NBA seasons in Utah. The Cavs are said to be far apart in negotiations with Alonzo Gee, who finished this past season as the team’s starting small forward. The meeting with Miles may signify that the team is considering other options at the position, the source said.
Miles is an okay player. He underwhelmed as the 34th pick out of highschool back when you still could come out of highschool (2005), and went on to average 9.1 points per game last season. He shot 38-percent in the process coming off the Jazz's bench. The year before that he averaged 12.8 points, which was his best year ever in the League. If I had to guess, I'd say that meeting with Miles is a positioning move for the Cavaliers in their negotiations with Alonzo Gee. So Alonzo, we offered you $2.7 million, the market set your price at zero, and now we're meeting with other small forwards. Would you like to talk a little bit more maybe?
Delonte West will remain a Maverick:
Delonte West's broken finger allowed him to play only 44 games last season, but he did enough to re-up with the Dallas Mavericks. On behalf of all of us here at Stepien Rules, congrats on that Mr. West. Terms of his contract were not known, but it is reportedly thought to be more than the $1.1 million he played for last season. This from the Dallas Morning News:
Summer League came at just the right time for Dion Waiters. I think he tried to score five points every time he shot the basketball. I also think he might need to turn it up from P90X to Insanity for a few weeks prior to training camp. Besides that though, he does attack the basket fearlessly. I sat on the baseline, right under the hoop, for the Cavs game against Phoenix. Waiters went 5 for 15 that night, but he did get to the rim whenever he wanted. You could actually hear the thud of his body banging into whoever was under the basket trying to defend a few of those drives. That's what the person meant who originally coined the term 'going strong to the basket'. He wasn't referring to guys slapping the backboard after a lay-up.
There's no real reason to break down Waiters' numbers out in Vegas either. 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists isn't bad. Thirty percent from the floor and seventeen percent from three isn't good. He'll never have to play without Kyrie Irving in the backcourt, or at least that's the idea, and it is a different sport entirely when he's out there. I'm chalking this up as a learning experience for Waiters, and I still think he'll be fine. If he went all Josh Selby out there last week he might not have as much incentive to get better over the next couple months. I think right now he does, and he will. [Here's video of a conversation I had with Dion Waiters last week]
Tyler Zeller was a good pick: There was some serious depth in last month's Draft I think. The Rockets took three guys from 12 to 18, and that seemed weird until you watched Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrance Jones out running the floor together. Jones went 18th to Houston, and guys like Evan Fournier and John Jenkins went 20th and 23rd after that. I talked to each of them for a SLAM article I wrote because they all impressed me for different reasons. No matter how good those guys, or anybody else drafted 18 or later ends up playing next season though, I'm going to say right now I'll stand with that Zeller pick at 17th overall.
I wasn't totally thrilled about the move on Draft night, but I was when I saw him compete in person. He finished the trip averaging 11 and 7, and that included one game where he scored only 2 points on 1 of 7 shooting. He went for as many as 19 during another game, but more than the statistics I was impressed by the way he moves out there. Tyler Zeller is smooth. He's athletic. He can put it on the floor as well as step out and hit that jumper. In a gym filled with big-man potential and upside, Zeller was as close to the finished product as any big man you'd find in Vegas. I'm encouraged by that, and also encouraged by type of guy he is after talking with him. Class act, true pro. Cleveland will love Tyler Zeller, I'd bet on that. [Here's video of a conversation I had with Tyler Zeller]
It’s about time for another Andrew Bynum to Cleveland rumor to heat up. Until Dwight Howard is officially traded to another team, the Cavaliers will likely be linked to such dealings because they are able to make it work. But only giving up Anderson Varejao and some draft picks for arguably the second best center in the League? Sounds a little too good to be true if you ask me.
It’s fun to dream of Bynum trekking across the country and donning the Wine and Gold. When going through my timeline on Twitter, the majority of fans want Bynum in Cleveland and it’s easy to understand why. He averaged 18 and 11, with a PER of 23 as the third option in Los Angeles. He is a 24 year old, 7-footer entering his prime. Pairing him with Kyrie Irving, I think we have a playoff contender on our hands.
Acquiring Bynum would give the Cavs a core of him, Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller; where do I sign up? Bynum in the paint for the Cavs opens up so many possibilities. Bynum would give the Cavs a legit scorer in the pivot. He commands attention down there. That opens Thompson up to do what he does best, crash the offensive boards and get some buckets. A two-man pick and roll game with Irving and Bynum would be a lethal combo. Clearly, you can see why Cavs fans are drooling.
In June of 2009, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Danny Green with the 46th overall pick out of North Carolina. He'd play in 20 games for the Cavs as a rookie, and average 6 minutes and 2 points per night for the season. In October of 2010, he'd be cut by the team who drafted him. About thirty days later, he'd be cut again for the second time in his pro career. Despite that, earlier this month, Danny Green would go on to ink a 3-year, $12 million fully guaranteed deal with the San Antonio Spurs.
This week I caught with Danny Green out in Vegas. He wasn't playing in the NBA Summer League this time around because he proved his NBA worth this past season with the Spurs. He started 38 games during the regular season, shot 44-percent from three point range, and averaged just over 9 points per game. We talked first about where he came from to get where he is now, after being cut by the Cavaliers two season ago.
"There was definitely a point in time where things were kinda shaky", Green told StepienRules.com. "I was inconsistent, and I was losing confidence. That's the biggest thing, lack of confidence was what got to me. Confidence can change a person's whole character."
That confidence was the first thing Green needed to change, he went on to say, before he had any chance of making a real go of things in the League.
"That confidence is the biggest thing that's turned around everything for me since", Green said. "I see a lot of these guys who weren't playing well last year but are playing better this year, and that's because of confidence. Back when I was cut by the Cavs, I didn't know whether I was going to get back into the NBA or not. I thought maybe I was going to get stuck overseas, I didn't know what was going to happen."
What ended up happening first for Green, was that he signed with the Spurs one month after being cut by the Cavs in Novemeber of 2010. Two weeks after that, however, he'd be cut for the second time in his short NBA career.
Donald Sloan could be the back-up PG for the Cleveland Cavaliers next season when training camp opens. Byron Scott has said that Dion Waiters will get some time spelling Kyrie Irving at the one, but after that there aren't too many options.
There's been talk of the Cavs bringing in a veteran free agent point guard this off-season, but nothing's happened yet. Names like Johnny Flynn and Derek Fisher have been tossed around out there, but I'm not sure either guy is better than Donald Sloan right now. That, coupled with the Irving injury, has given Donald Sloan an extended opportunity to show the Cavs organization what he can do out here in Vegas.
I caught up with D-Sloan this week and he talked about all that, as well as his initial impressions of playing with Cavs rookies Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller.
Dion Waiters had his best performance to date out here in Vegas on Tuesday against Phoenix. He attacked the basket with force all night long, played the role of facilitator at times, and looked generally more comfortable than he had in his first two games. His first two Summer League games. The jumper didn't quite fall as much as it eventually will, but he got to the basket at will. He hasn't played alongside Kyrie Irving yet either as a reminder.
I had a chance to catch up with the Cavaliers 4th overall pick out here in Vegas this week, and that conversation is below.
StepienRules: How would you introduce yourself to Cavs fans in Cleveland, what would you want them to know about you off the court?
Dion Waiters: I'm a hard worker. I'm passionate, I love the game, I bring enthusiasm, just everything. I leave it all out there, I play the game like it's my last.
StepienRules: You spent some time in Cleveland since the Draft, what are your general impressions just of the city, interacting with some of the fans, and the people that you've met around town?
Dion Waiters: Nice, quiet, laid-back, real calm. They're real passionate about their sports out here, that's one thing I know. It reminds me of Syracuse a little bit, so it's cool.
StepienRules: You're real active on Twitter, you're always retweeting after the games. What are some of your favorite tweets that you've gotten recently and what are some of the good things you've heard from Cavs fans so far?
Dion Waiters: I can't tell you my favorite retweets because I retweet so much. I just try to show everybody love, talk to them as much as I can, interact with them. And just be a regular person, show them I'm a regular person just like they are.
Tyler Zeller has been impressive throughout the Cavaliers trip through Vegas Summer League. He's bigger and more athletic than most people thought he would be entering the League, and his offensive game is almost as polished as his interview skills. This guy's walking into his NBA career as a pro already, and it was good talking with him for the first time earlier this week out in Vegas.
I asked TZ about his initial impressions of Cleveland and how he's felt competing out here so far as a member of the Cavs. I also talked business with the former Academic All American from North Carolina, and asked Tyler if Dan Gilbert has hit him up yet for any advice.
StepienRules: What are your initial impressions of Cleveland so far?
Tyler Zeller: The people are fantastic. They are avid fans and they are very, very nice. I haven't really gotten into the city of Cleveland much, I've got two tours of it, but I really haven't done anything yet. We've been more in Independence where the practice facility is. That's a fantastic practice facility, I went to the Q one time and that's phenomenal also. So I know I'll move there in August / September, and I'll get more experience then.
StepienRules: How are you feeling out there moving around with just your initial impressions of the NBA game?
Tyler Zeller: Yeah I feel decent. Anytime you're a rookie you got to get used to a different system, different terminology, different rules, so that's probably the hardest part. They got me a couple times, like the no sub after a made free throw, so just different rules that I didn't know. But other than that I feel pretty comfortable.
StepienRules: At North Carolina you were a two-time Academic All American, and where did you intern at?
Tyler Zeller: Morgan Creek Capital Management.
StepienRules: Has Dan Gilbert approached you for any business tips yet?
Tyler Zeller: I don't think he needs any help, I think he's doing very well himself. He's a business guru, and I'm very impressed with what he can do.
I am heading out to Vegas Summer League later on today. If I feel cool enough while boarding my flight, I might even tweet out "wheels up" prior to take-off. That little airplane image may even be included in said tweet. Whether I announce my trip as such or not though, do keep up with me here at Stepien Rules and on Twitter over the next few days if you get the chance. I'll be catching up with your Cleveland Cavaliers as they continue to make their way through the summer league circuit, and who knows who else while I'm out there. Last time I was in Vegas I bumped into Pete Rose, so maybe I'll link back up with him at somepoint. Thanks for staying tuned, plenty more throughout the week.
On Kyrie's Hand: I'm looking at Kyrie Irving's recent hand injury like this - I am more encouraged by the fact that Kyrie is so competitive he'd smack a padded wall out of frustration over a turnover during a meaningless off-season practice with so much force he'd fracture his hand, more than I am worried about the impact of this actual injury. Long sentence, I know. But all this injury means, for now at least, is that the Cavs won't be rolling out the greatest Summer League team ever assembled after all. It would've been good for Dion Waiters and Irving to gain some backcourt familiarity over the next couple weeks, but they'll make up for that in about two practices once the season begins. If Irving is able to return for the start of training camp, which is expected right now, there's no real issue here. Mistakes happen, move on, he'll learn from it and stop punching walls in the future.
Waiters last night: Just prior to tip-off against Charlotte, I set the over/under on total points for Dion Waiters at 12.5 on Twitter. It's Summer League, guys don't really score like they do in real games. There's four ten minute quarters, teams substitute freely, guys don't go for thirty all that often. People tweeted at me with 14 over picks. Way over, most people said, but Waiters finished just under with 10 points on the game. If Cavs fans are disappointed by that performance though, they're making a mistake. He was right around where he should be getting into double figures. He missed some shots he'd like to get back, but the important thing is how uber-aggressive he was from the jump. He came out firing, and that's what I hoped to see more than anything else from Waiters. The timeout he called at the end wasn't good, but the shot he hit just before it was clutch. All those other shots he missed last night will eventually fall.