Even though he was given a Cleveland Cavaliers No. 2 jersey with his last name stitched on the back when he was introduced at his first press conference Friday, Collin Sexton has zero concerns with it.
Even though No. 2 was previously worn by Kyrie Irving, Sexton said he feels zero pressure to match what Irving did in Cleveland.
“I feel like I’m not going to have to live up to anybody’s shoes,” Sexton, selected with the No. 8 pick in the draft that the Cavs acquired from the Boston Celtics when they traded Irving on Aug. 22, said. “I’m going to come in and learn and be the best player I can be on the court as well as off the court.”
With Irving long gone and now a Boston Celtic, the Cavaliers believe Sexton, a former star at Alabama, is a player the franchise can grow with.
“When you got guys who work as hard as Collin does, to get to where he wants to get, those are the guys you want on your team,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “And his toughness, his character, being a great student in the classroom — all that exemplifies what we want to do here in Cleveland.
“And I’m glad he’s a part of it.”
Avery Johnson was Sexton’s coach at Alabama. The former NBA player coincidentally was Lue’s coach late in his playing career as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.
“Avery is great,” Lue said. “He was the hardest on his point guards because he played the position, he won championships and he was tough on me.”
Johnson heaped praise on Sexton on a conference call with reporters Friday morning, saying that he had the potential to be a perennial All-Star in the NBA. Neither Johnson nor Lue ever were All-Stars in their combined 27 seasons in the NBA.
“The bigger the stage, the better,” Johnson said of Sexton. “He’s not afraid of the big stage, the lights. When you’re playing against all of these elite point guards in the NBA, he’s not going to ask anybody for their autographs, OK? He’s going to show them a healthy dose of respect, but he’s going to think he belongs on the floor. It’s not fabricated. It’s just who he is.”
Lue said he will be actively involved in Sexton’s progress through workouts with him and Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson this summer in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
“I’m just excited, man,” Lue said. “Just to be able to have a young talent that I can help mold and build and make better and teach him what suit to wear, what shoes to wear with a suit, how to tie a tie, when you go to dinner, things like that that Brian Shaw and Robert Horry and Ron Harper and those guys taught me (with the Los Angeles Lakers), so I’m very excited about that.”
Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman believes Sexton and other younger members of the team including Clarkson, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic represent sort of a changing of the guard in Cleveland.
“Winning championships is still our goal and will always be our goal,” Altman said. “But through that process we wanted to focus on long-term success, sustainability. Going through this year we were able to get younger and talented and athletic and have some real momentum going into the future.
“For the first time in a long time, we’re going to be in the player-development business.”
After he was drafted by the Cavaliers on Thursday night, he made a recruiting pitch to LeBron James to remain with the Cavaliers during ESPN’s broadcast of the draft.
Sexton watched Game 4 of the Finals between the Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors from the stands at Quicken Loans Arena and he said he intends to be on the court for it in the future.
“Just the energy when I was sitting and watching the game, like the seats were shaking,” Sexton said. “Fans were screaming. Just, I feel like I’ll be ready to play in something like that when it’s my time.”