Amico: Don’t call them Cavaliers quite yet … or maybe ever

(From July 9, 2016)

They will be coached by real NBA coaches and wear jerseys that say “Cleveland” on the front.

They might catch a glimpse of a basketball star in the stands or have a conversation with a big-time scout.

For the 13 members of the Cavaliers’ summer roster competing in Las Vegas this week, it truly will be a time for dreams. They’ll be pro basketball players for no less than seven days.

But for some, it will be the last time anyone calls them NBA players.

So what are the Cavs hoping to find?

“NBA talent,” said assistant GM Trent Redden, the man who sets the Cavs’ summer vision. “It sounds simple, but that’s really all it is.”

On the bright side, the Cavs are confident at least a few such summer players exist.

Shooting guard Jordan McRae will be there, and he finished the season on the regular roster and picked up a championship ring along the way.

Rookie point guard Kay Felder will be there, too — and the Cavs thought highly enough of Felder to buy a second-round pick just to draft him.

But mostly, summer league is one massive search for guys “who may have slipped through the cracks, for whatever reason,” Redden said.

It could be because the player wasn’t a good fit somewhere else. It could be because the player is a late-bloomer. It could be because he simply didn’t get a long enough look by another team.

None of it matters now. Not this week. The Cavs want help. And they want someone to show he really belongs. They want NBA talent.

“If you can find a guy that makes your roster, you’re ahead of the game,” Redden said.

That may not be so easy for the Cavs, who won the first championship in franchise history less than a month ago. They did it with a star-laden bunch, a group that includes the likes of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love.

The bench is even older — with veterans such as Richard Jefferson (35) and Channing Frye (33) playing major roles. Mike Dunleavy was just added via trade and he’ll turn 36 before the season. So will James Jones. And Mo Williams is 33.


But the fact the Cavs have so many 30-somethings may actually be a good thing for summer hopefuls.

The Cavs aren’t desperate for youth, but it’s always nice to have around.

“On top of that, we lack draft picks,” Redden said. “So we need to use other ways to find a young guy who fits and can grow with the roster.”

Redden, director of pro player personnel Koby Altman, director of D-League operations Mike Gansey and Cavs GM David Griffin never really stop looking for that type of talent — and assembling the summer roster can sometimes be a mad scramble that starts as early as January.

“You try to get guys early, but even then, some will leave for what they see as a better opportunity,” Redden explained.

As for the ones who are here now, McRae and Felder are perhaps the most well-known. But the Cavs, of course, will thoroughly evaluate all.

Swingman DeAndre Liggins, point guard Michael Stockton, and forwards Raphiael Putney and Kenny Gabriel — who Redden compared to a young James Jones and described as “a big wing shooter” — are just some of the others to watch.

“We want to find guys who fit the culture and maybe have that one NBA skill where they can possibly flourish,” Redden said.

For one week, the 13 members of the Cavs’ summer roster get the chance to prove they can be that guy.

Mostly, they are hoping what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. They want to be pro basketball players in training camp, too.