CLEVELAND – It was a scene straight out of the world of LeBron James. Only it didn’t actually involve James.
Instead, the man of the moment was Cavaliers shooting guard Jordan McRae, who had just scored 20 points in the preseason-opening win over Orlando.
McRae is 6-foot-5 and his height was the only way to identify him among the mass of reporters surrounding his locker.
For James or Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love, this type of mad media rush for a quote is a normal occurrence. For reserves such as McRae? Well, it’s a rarity.
James watched all of this unfold from across the locker room and smiled widely. Then the Cavs superstar broke out a playful song as he stood and finished getting dressed.
He swayed back and forth and eventually yelled to McRae, “Man, you were the first one out of the locker room last season.”
Love sat a few lockers down from McRae and quickly contributed to the commotion. Love was still wearing his uniform with his feet soaking in a bucket of ice. But like James, Love loudly began to celebrate McRae’s newfound fame.
McRae tried to act reserved, hesitant to acknowledge his teammates’ over-the-top attention. Finally, he let out a crooked smile.
“I’m just playing as hard as I can,” McRae said. “I’m trying to do what I can to get in the rotation, to do what the team needs.”
McRae understands his quest for minutes won’t come easily. The Cavaliers are world champions and for now, have Iman Shumpert starting at his position. And everyone assumes regular starter J.R. Smith will re-sign at some point.
Still, coach Tyronn Lue and the Cavs are closely monitoring McRae’s continued rise.
With his wiry frame, strength and driving ability, McRae can finish at the basket and hit shots from deep. He can pull up, fill it up and draw fouls.
“Jordan has a unique combination of length and scoring ability,” Cavs general manager David Griffin told Amico Hoops. “We’re intrigued by his versatility and upside.”
At the very least, McRae is a tough cover who makes the rotation players work hard in practice. At best, he offers fresh legs and automatic offense off the bench.
The Cavs could use all of the above. That’s especially true with Smith still working out his contract situation.
McRae scored 36 points in 47 minutes in the Cavs’ regular-season finale last season vs. Detroit. The outcome of that particular game didn’t matter — but McRae’s play earned him a roster spot and a championship ring. The Cavs exercised the option on his contract in the offseason.
McRae scored 61 in a D-League game last year, and erupted for the Cavs’ summer team in July. He was named first-team All-Las Vegas.
Overall, the guy has come a long way from his humble pro basketball beginnings. He was selected by San Antonio in the second round of the 2014 draft (No. 58 overall). The Spurs immediately traded him to Philadelphia, and the 76ers told him it would be best to start overseas.
So before the Cavs, McRae spent most of his time alternating between Australia, the D-League and 10-day contracts.
Now, he may have finally found a home, a place where he is the future of a team that is living for the present.
“During the regular season, it’s not going to be my job to score this much,” McRae said. “LeBron and Kyrie, those are the guys we’ll be relying on. If I’m able to knock down some shots and get in a flow, then I will.”
Until then, McRae will just try to make the most of what he’s given. And hey, a song from LeBron James isn’t so bad.