CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – For the first time since mid-March, basketballs are bouncing once again at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
A total of 15 players are in Cleveland for the Cavaliers voluntary workout program which will last about a week.
“There was a ton of energy in the building today,” head coach JB Bickerstaff said following the first workout during a Zoom video conference with reporters. “We had to pull the guys off the court from playing.”
Bickerstaff’s main goal over the next few days is simple.
“A foundation,” Bickerstaff said. “We have enough time where systematically we can lay the groundwork for what we want to look like in the future, and on top of that be able to experiment with some things.”
Under the agreement between the NBPA and NBA, the Cavs, along with the 7 other teams that weren’t invited to the restart in Orlando, have created their own in-market bubble that includes players, coaches and staff quarantined at a local hotel.
They are tested daily for COVID-19 and only travel to and from the arena to work. The Cavs can hold practice during the day and a shooting session in the evening.
“It gives us some sense of continuity, some sense of togetherness,” forward Kevin Love said. “Unlike those other teams, they were able to get together. Even other teams that didn’t make the playoffs, they still had eight games. They got to play for something.
“We weren’t able to do that. So it’s huge for us to be on the same court, even just seeing each other and spending time with each other and be around one another.”
Love’s presence this week speaks volumes.
It’s not like the 12-year veteran needs to polish his game or anything but he made it clear during his Zoom video conference that being in Cleveland for the camp meant as much to him as it does the organization.
“For me, if all of us are getting together, I’m going to be here,” Love said. “I might have to cut out a couple days early but more than anything I wanted to make sure I showed my face, make sure that continuity when we step back onto the floor is going to be there. This is really good for all of us to be here, myself included.
“I had my 12th season, I don’t want to say taken away from me, but it was like an abrupt finish to it. That hurt. That definitely hurt. I felt like we had a good thing going. We had 17 games left and that was a big opportunity to end the season on a good note and we had that taken away from us. So I felt it was paramount, not only for myself, but what did we have, 15 guys here? That’s a good number to show up to voluntary workouts.”
Love struggled at times last season with the rebuilding plan under former coach John Beilein, who resigned abruptly in February. Bickerstaff, who was an assistant with the Timberwolves while Love was in Minnesota, took over and was named as Beilein’s permanent successor.
The Cavs won 5 of 11 games before the season came to a halt due to the pandemic under Bickerstaff and the mutual respect Love and Bickerstaff have for each other seems to have re-engaged Love.
“For him to show up it shows a commitment to the team and the organization,” Bickerstaff said. “It shows the young guys that he’s in, and I think that’s huge for us building our chemistry and trying to establish the culture and environment that we’re trying to create.”
Collin Sexton appreciates Love’s presence this week.
“It’s amazing to have our vet, our leader there when he doesn’t have to [be],” Sexton said. “This will be, what, Year 13 for Kevin coming up? He didn’t have to be here, but for him to take the time to come mentor the younger guys and mentor me and some of the guys trying to fight for a spot, it’s amazing that he didn’t feel selfish enough to stay home.”
Sexton spent his time this summer reshaping his diet by limiting portions and adding 10 pounds of muscle, which he hopes will help him elevate his game in Year 3.
The only work the Cavs have gotten since the NBA shutdown in the spring were 2 sets of individual workouts at their training facility in Independence.
“Definitely felt great to be back under one roof and pretty much be all together because we haven’t been together in forever,” Sexton said. “Even though we were together in August or whatever, that was individual. Today, actually able to get on the floor and get up and down. Being able to go through different things with your teammates is a big deal. May not think this is going to help us moving forward and into the future but I feel like this chemistry is definitely going to continue to build.”
This week they’re able to practice and work as a team, including running 5-on-5 drills which allow Bickerstaff to experiment with various lineups to see what does and doesn’t work.
Center Andre Drummond is not participating due to a “personal situation” and the protocols that are in place won’t allow him to either.
“To be able to participate you have to have 7 consecutive negative tests before you’re allowed to come into the bubble and then you have to quarantine for 36 hours,” Bickerstaff said. “By the time he is able to get through all that stuff, we would be finished already.”