The four new members of the Cleveland Cavaliers not only practiced with their new team for the first time, they also were able to experience their first time on the floor with LeBron James.
On their side.
George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. have all gone through playing against LeBron and all four were excited to call him a teammate.
They will play alongside him Sunday afternoon in Boston against the Celtics at TD Garden.
Hill, 31, a 10-year veteran acquired from the Sacramento Kings, has the most experience squaring off against LeBron.
As the Indiana Pacers’ starting point guard from 2011 through 2016, Hill went up against James in the postseason three times while James was in Miami, including in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, Miami went on to win The Finals after eliminating the Hill and the Pacers in a series that reached seven games.
“Way to remind me of that,” Hill told reporters after his first practice as a Cavalier on Saturday in Atlanta. “You work every year to get to that point and we ran across a three-headed monster a couple times. So we just think, ‘Man, if we just would’ve gotten that Game 7 (in 2013), or maybe that Game 2 in Miami that year LeBron hit the gamewinner, who knows? We probably would’ve been champs.’
“But he’s a champ, he’s the MVP, an All-Star for a reason. One of the best to do it, so I tip my hat to him.”
Hood, traded to Cleveland from Utah, where he was a former teammate of Hill, actually attended James’ simmer Skills Academy in Las Vegas after his freshman year at Mississippi State University in 2012.
He said it means “a lot” to be on James’ side now.
“He’s the best player of our generation and I’ve been a big fan of his since I went to his camp when I was in high school,” Hood said. “To get a chance to play with him and learn from him I think will be great for me.”
Clarkson told reporters the players he watched most while growing up were James and Kobe Bryant. Clarkson’s first two seasons in the NBA were as a teammate of Bryant with the Lakers.
As a rookie, Clarkson said Bryant knew “everything about me.”
“Being able to play alongside them is pretty crazy,” Clarkson said after practice. “(It’s) something I’m going to be able to cherish for a while.”
During his rookie season, Nance Jr., the son of Cavaliers legend Larry Nance, whose No. 22 jersey hangs in the rafters of Quicken Loans Arena, also experienced playing with Bryant in his first season in the NBA.
“That first year with Kob was unbelievable, getting to travel around that locker room, his fan base was insane,” Nance said after practice. “This is going to be a whole ‘nother beast in itself. I’m anxious, I’m excited and I think I’m ready.”
While Hood, Clarkson and Nance are all still young players at age 25, Hill, the wily veteran of NBA wars perhaps put it best.
“We have one of the best players in the history of the game,” he said. “I’m sure he’s going to dictate the tempo and things like that. We just got do our job, be the best role players we can possibly be.
“He’s the Batman,” he said of James. “And we gotta be all Robins. We got to figure it out.”