The Cavaliers kicked off training camp today with media day and, from the first of interviews, things got off to a quick start. Here are a few bits of news and notes from media day.
A J.R. Smith update
Cavaliers GM David Griffin and coach Tyronn Lue dove right into J.R. Smith situation in the opening moments of their availability. Griffin said that the team has made Smith a ‘highly competitive’ offer and that he hopes the situation gets resolved soon.
"As we have stated and coach has previously stated, we think very highly of J.R. and we love him as a member of our team, as a member of our locker room," Griffin said. "He was essential to our success and for that reason we have made an incredibly competitive and aggressive offer in re-signing him."
LeBron James also expressed hope that Smith signs a deal soon and called him “the most liked guy in the locker room”.
"We all know, from you guys, us in the locker room and from the organization, that J.R. is a huge piece of our team and without him we don't win a championship last year,” James said. “He brings a dimension to our team that we just don't have. He's a two-way player, he's a space guy, a great locker room guy and he's been great in the community and things of that nature as well. We look forward to getting him back and hopefully we can get it done as soon as possible because we miss the guy."
Later on in the day, Cavs forward Tristan Thompson spoke on Smith’s status and how it compares to his situation a year ago. He said the situation saddens him, but he knows that Smith is trying to be fairly compensated for his work.
“We cannot win a championship without J.R. Smith here,” Thompson said.
Tristan Thompson on J.R. Smith: pic.twitter.com/u7WocbjmFh— Chris Manning (@cwmwrites) September 26, 2016
Mo Williams’ change of heart
After addressing Smith’s situation, David Griffin announced that Mo Williams was going to retire. It was previously reported that he was going to come back for next season and Williams himself indicated on Twitter that he was going to return this season.
By all accounts, this happened last minute. Williams was on the roster provided to the media in attendance and, per Griffin, Williams’ agent notified the team this morning of his client’s change of heart. While Griffin said the team was preparing for the situation, it appeared to surprise them some.
“We were planning for this eventuality,” Griffin said. “We feel very comfortable with where we are at the point guard position. The versatility we have in our lineup to absorb that, we have other people that can guard the position. Because of LeBron, we have additional people that can also play the position defensively. And frankly, we are excited to find out what some of our young players can do.”
When Williams officially retires, it’ll save the Cavs $2.2 million. But it also begs a question: Does Cleveland have enough depth at point guard? Among players currently on the roster, Jordan McRae and Kay Felder would appear to leading candidates to take up Williams minutes. And according to Cavs guard Kyrie Irving, this summer was about getting them ready to play. He also seemed impressed by McRae, who added around eight pounds of muscle this summer.
“He’s been in here dedicating himself, not only to the weight room, but to the gym too,” Irving said. “This is a very important year for him.”
Griffin also acknowledged that the team is happy with how McRae has developed, but noted that his role in summer league doesn’t directly translate to what the Cavs will ask him to do during the regular season. In Las Vegas, McRae was one of the team’s primary ball handlers and scorers. And as a result, most of his work came with the ball in his hands. If and when he shares the court with Irving, LeBron James and/or Kevin Love, that won’t be the case.
“What Jordan did as a player in summer league was because we put the ball in his hand,” Griffin said. “We got to see him do things both as a point guard and a shooting guard.”
“What we didn’t get to see him do in summer league, because he wasn’t playing with the types of players with our ‘varsity’ if you will, is he didn’t get to play off the ball. What we need to see Jordan do is play the role he actually would on our team.”
For his part, Richard Jefferson made a “bet” out of the situation by saying he and Williams flip-flopped on who would actually retire all summer. According to Jefferson, his appearance at media day means he lost.
Talking about protests
A reoccurring theme during the day was the topic of protests. Everyone from David Griffin to LeBron James to Iman Shumpert was asked about how the team will proceed. While no set, unified plan was put forward, everyone spoke in support of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the idea of peaceful protests.
First up were Griffin and coach Tyronn Lue, who said they support the idea of protests. Lue went first and said that the team has the right to protest that he hopes it for “the right purpose and the right cause”.
Ty Lue on possible protests pic.twitter.com/rGK3WjyV8i— Chris Manning (@cwmwrites) September 26, 2016
Griffin, meanwhile, decided on his own to address the topic - the question was directed at Lue only - and said he’s proud of being part of a league that wants to bring meaningful change. He also said the team will talk about it as a group.
Here's Griff's answer to the same question: pic.twitter.com/qsmJEXPKPD— Chris Manning (@cwmwrites) September 26, 2016
LeBron, for his part, said that he will stand for the national anthem, but says he does support Colin Kaepernick’s decision to protest in the manner he has. He also said that he feared for his 12-year-old, LeBron Jr., being able to go out into the world, especially when he can drive in a few years.
"You see these videos that continue to come out, it's a scary-ass situation that if my son calls me and said if he got pulled over, that I'm not that confident that things are gonna go well and my son is going to return home," James said. "My son just started the sixth grade."
LeBron on Kaepernick and protests: pic.twitter.com/gDE1nZq9yu— Chris Manning (@cwmwrites) September 26, 2016
Shumpert was the last player to address the protests. Recently, he rapped that he would take a knee for the anthem, but has since changed his mind and wants to work towards change in other ways.
“After talking with my teammates and the organization, it’s better for me to do something about it [with them] than only do it individually,” he said. “I think a lot of it came from me making that song in an emotional state. It was good for me to get it out, to let people know that what’s going on it’s not OK. But at the same token, I want to make sure I stand with my team and whatever my team decides to do, I’ll be doing it with them. As long as we come to a consensus, I’ll be doing it with them.”
Odds and ends
- Channing Frye will wear No. 8 this year after wearing No. 9 last year. No. 8 was Matthew Dellavedova’s old number and, funny enough, he originally wore No. 9 and switched jerseys when the Cavaliers acquired Luol Deng.
- Shoe watch: Kyrie rocked Kyrie 1s instead of Kyrie 2s. A number of players - Tristan Thompson, Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen, Cory Jefferson and James Jones most notably - rocked wine and white LeBron Soldier 10s. Shumpert, formally an Adidas guy, wore a pair of Nike Kyrie 2s.
- A retro LeBron line may also be coming soon, as noted by STACK Media’s Jordan Zirm:
So, LeBron says he doesn't have a nickname for these 3s, but that "it's coming." "It" being his retro line. pic.twitter.com/srkN3cseSx— Jordan Zirm (@clevezirm) September 26, 2016
- Kevin Love no longer looks like David Foster Wallace. Love also noted that he spent most of this summer in Park City, Utah working on getting stronger at elevation. He spent last summer in Utah as well when he working his way back from a shoulder injury.
- During his availability, Mike Dunleavy talked about the Cavaliers’ past interest in him. He noted that last summer, when he was a free agent, he considered Cleveland.
- As for the trade this summer, he said the deal really came out of nowhere and it wasn’t until right before it happened that he thought it might be a possibility. He first realized that he might be on the move after the Bulls signed Dwyane Wade to a two-year, $47 million deal. To sign Wade, Chicago had to clear cap space.
- “The Bulls could have sent me nearly anywhere, pretty much every team in the league had cap space,” Dunleavy said. “There were a few hours of concern about where I was going to end up and then they called me and told me where I was headed and I was pleasantly surprised.”
- “It was like Christmas in July for me,” he added.
- Here’s a look at what the title patch looks like on the back of the jersey:
Here's a look at the gold title mark the Cavs' jerseys now sport: pic.twitter.com/ARFEWh04Si— Chris Manning (@cwmwrites) September 26, 2016
- Thompson was asked about the Warriors adding Kevin Durant and the challenge of facing them.
- “Bring it,” he said. “We'll see them on Christmas and we get to bump it.”