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In less than a week, Larry Nance Jr.’s life has turned topsy-turvy… and that’s a good thing, he says.
In a revealing interview by Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, Nance talked about the time leading up to the NBA trade deadline, being traded to his hometown and favorite team, the Cleveland Cavaliers and his battle with Crohn’s Disease.
Trade winds ablowin’
“We were playing the Thunder that night. Well, the Lakers were playing the Thunder that night, so I was getting ready to head to shootaround” Nance said. “It was about 9:15 a.m. Like everyone else, I was following Woj (Adrian Wojnarowski) and had the tweet notifications set up just in case and just to find out what kind of stuff was happening. I had just woke up and I was going to wash my face, when I got the update that the Cavs and Lakers were in serious trade talks. I thought, “Oh? I don’t know who that could involve, but we’ll see.’”
Soon, Nance Jr., the son of Cavaliers legend Larry Nance, whose No. 22 hangs from the rafters in Quicken Loans Arena, certainly did “see.”
“Not even 30 seconds later, I got a call from [Lakers general manager] Rob Pelinka and Luke [Walton] and Magic [Johnson] were in his office with him.,” he said. “They all broke the news to me and told me that I was going to Cleveland. That’s how it happened.”
The buddy system
Nance Jr. was traded by the Lakers to the Cavaliers for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and Cleveland’s 2018 first-round draft choice with Jordan Clarkson. He said having a teammate make the transition from one team to another much easier.
“I think it makes it easier. I’ve never been traded without a teammate, but I definitely think it has made the transition easier,” Nance Jr. said. “It’s nice to have someone who you’re familiar with and who is going through the same thing as you. It’s also nice to have someone who you can go up to when you’re uncertain about something and ask, ‘Are you seeing this? Am I getting this right?’ That type of thing helps.”
A healthy situation
As a teenager, it was going well with basketball at Revere High School and with Nance Jr.’s health. His frustrations reached the point he contemplated actually quitting the game.
However, a breakthrough came, thanks to a visit to the Cleveland Clinic.
“Dr. Robert Wyllie and his staff at the Cleveland Clinic were the ones who originally diagnosed me with Crohn’s Disease when I was 16 years old. They’re also the ones who started me on [the intravenous medication], Remicade, and came up with the plan where I’d take it every two weeks and then eventually they spaced it out so I’d take it every four weeks, then every six weeks and now every seven and a half weeks,” Nance Jr. said. “In my book, they’re the best doctors out there. I wouldn’t be here without them. Going back to the Cleveland Clinic and getting to work with them again will be great. I can’t imagine a better situation for me health-wise.”
Fitting like a glove
Though he’s been a Cavalier for barely a week, Nance Jr., Clarkson and their new teammates are 2-0, recording impressive road wins at Boston and Oklahoma City, respectively.
Nance Jr. and Clarkson were joined in Cleveland by Rodney Hood and George Hill, also acquired in deals swung by first-year general manager Koby Altman in deadline-day deals Feb. 8, have combined to form The New 4, and it’s been a seamless transition, to this point.
“It’s been great! It really has been great,” Nance Jr. said. “On a team like Cleveland, everyone is completely focused on winning. When you have a player like LeBron James, winning is all that matters.
“And, look, I don’t have to worry about points, I don’t have to worry about rebounds, I don’t have to worry about assists. I don’t have to focus on stats. All I need to focus on is doing whatever I possibly can to help the team win. I just need to make winning plays – whether that’s getting offensive rebounds or playing lockdown defense or doing both! It makes things a lot easier when I can just focus on those things.”
On playing with LeBron…
What’s it like to play with James, whom he’s grown up watching and played against in his short time in the NBA?
“Well, I’ve only played two games with him, but I think what people don’t realize is just how vocal he is on both ends of the court. He’s always calling out the coverages defensively,” Nance Jr. said. “And he knows where everybody is supposed to be on offense, one through five, so if you’re in the wrong spot, he can help you out and direct you to the right spot. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s honestly been fun getting to watch him absolutely dominate games. Now, I get to cheer for him instead of having to go against him (laughs).”
Time is short
With only 26 regular-season games remaining on the schedule, what’s the potential of this Cleveland team?
“I’ve been there for a total of, like, three days,” he said through a laugh. “But this team has been to the NBA Finals for three straight years and I think we got better with the trades. So, I mean, that’s where I’d love to end up.
“But, at this point, I don’t know [how good we can be]. I’ve been on one team for my whole career and that was the Lakers. Now, I’ve been on this new team for three days, so it’s kind of tough to tell.”
Like night and day
The transition from playing with an also-ran such as the Lakers (23-34) to a championship contender such as the Cavaliers (34-22) is one Nance Jr. relishes.
“It’s very exciting. Obviously, every player and every team wants to play in the playoffs, so getting a chance to do that this year is going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “And getting the chance to do it while playing on a title contender is going to be a lot of fun, too. It feels like everything we’re doing, everything going forward, is gearing up for the playoffs and that’s so exciting.”