Latest posts by Sam Amico (see all)
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When you’re chasing the game, things can sometimes get scary.
Just ask Kenny Gabriel, a forward on the Cavaliers’ summer roster competing this week in Las Vegas.
The year was 2012, and Gabriel was playing professionally in Israel. He went undrafted out of Auburn and decided to take his game overseas.
At the time, Gabriel was viewed as a “tweener,” a good player who was considered too small for power forward, not quick enough for small forward.
So Gabriel headed to Israel on the advice of Milt Wagner, a former Louisville star and Auburn assistant coach at the time. Wagner was also a big star in Israel.
Gabriel landed a deal with Maccabi Ashdod near the Gaza Strip. He joined the team in August of that year. In November, a bomb detonated on a bus in Tel Aviv.
At other times, missiles actually ripped through Ashdod. Gabriel and his teammates were moved into a hotel in Tel Aviv. Nothing seemed safe.
“Knowing that a missile could hit anywhere, any time of the day, it was nerve-wracking,” he told The Birmingham (Ala.) News.
Gabriel returned to the U.S. He was ready to give up fearing for his life, but not ready to give up the game. He went on to play professionally in Greece, New Zealand and most recently, Turkey.
Now, he’s in Vegas, trying again to catch the eyes of the NBA.
This may be Gabriel’s best chance. It may be his last chance. He’s 27 years old. And he has reinvented himself.
During his Auburn days, Gabriel was known as little more than an athlete who played basketball — a high-flyer who competed in the slam dunk competition at the Final Four.
In his four years playing overseas, he’s worked tirelessly to improve his shot from the perimeter.
It seems to be doing the trick. Gabriel is no longer a guy who can only soar to points near the basket. The Cavs have noticed.
“He’s a big wing shooter,” was how Cavs assistant general manager Trent Redden described Gabriel. “That’s the role we see him playing.”
Redden even compared Gabriel to a younger James Jones, the Cavaliers’ 35-year old forward who has made a living off making important outside shots.
Gabriel buried a biggie himself Monday, his running floater beating the halftime buzzer in the Cavs’ 99-68 summer win over the Timberwolves.
He played 19 minutes and finished with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting. That included 3-of-6 on 3-pointers.
For Gabriel and most others on the Cavs’ summer roster, there are no guarantees beyond Las Vegas.
“We are looking for NBA talent that’s slipped through the cracks,” Redden said.
That may be a player like Gabriel. If not, he’ll likely head back overseas, in search of somewhere safe, in search of another game.
Forward Raphiael Putney came off the bench to score 19 points and pull down six rebounds, as the Cavaliers cruised to their first Vegas victory.
Rookie point guard Kay Felder also gave an impressive showing by scoring 15 points while displaying an ability to run the team. Gabriel and Jordan McRae added 11 apiece.