Cavs Summer League: A collection of thoughts from my trip to Vegas

Cleveland Cavaliers' Dion Waiters looks for an open man during an NBA Summer League basketball game against the Charlotte Bobcats at the Thomas & Mack Center on Sunday, July 15, 2012 in Las Vegas.Summer League came at just the right time for Dion Waiters. I think he tried to score five points every time he shot the basketball. I also think he might need to turn it up from P90X to Insanity for a few weeks prior to training camp. Besides that though, he does attack the basket fearlessly. I sat on the baseline, right under the hoop, for the Cavs game against Phoenix. Waiters went 5 for 15 that night, but he did get to the rim whenever he wanted. You could actually hear the thud of his body banging into whoever was under the basket trying to defend a few of those drives. That’s what the person meant who originally coined the term ‘going strong to the basket’. He wasn’t referring to guys slapping the backboard after a lay-up.

There’s no real reason to break down Waiters’ numbers out in Vegas either. 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists isn’t bad. Thirty percent from the floor and seventeen percent from three isn’t good. He’ll never have to play without Kyrie Irving in the backcourt, or at least that’s the idea, and it is a different sport entirely when he’s out there. I’m chalking this up as a learning experience for Waiters, and I still think he’ll be fine. If he went all Josh Selby out there last week he might not have as much incentive to get better over the next couple months. I think right now he does, and he will. [Here’s video of a conversation I had with Dion Waiters last week

Tyler Zeller was a good pick: There was some serious depth in last month’s Draft I think. The Rockets took three guys from 12 to 18, and that seemed weird until you watched Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrance Jones out running the floor together. Jones went 18th to Houston, and guys like Evan Fournier and John Jenkins went 20th and 23rd after that. I talked to each of them for a SLAM article I wrote because they all impressed me for different reasons. No matter how good those guys, or anybody else drafted 18 or later ends up playing next season though, I’m going to say right now I’ll stand with that Zeller pick at 17th overall.

I wasn’t totally thrilled about the move on Draft night, but I was when I saw him compete in person. He finished the trip averaging 11 and 7, and that included one game where he scored only 2 points on 1 of 7 shooting. He went for as many as 19 during another game, but more than the statistics I was impressed by the way he moves out there. Tyler Zeller is smooth. He’s athletic. He can put it on the floor as well as step out and hit that jumper. In a gym filled with big-man potential and upside, Zeller was as close to the finished product as any big man you’d find in Vegas. I’m encouraged by that, and also encouraged by type of guy he is after talking with him. Class act, true pro. Cleveland will love Tyler Zeller, I’d bet on that. [Here’s video of a conversation I had with Tyler Zeller]

Samardo is a health nut now: I told Samardo that he looks like all he’s eating is lettuce. He laughed, and told me that was about right. We agreed to meet up in Cleveland sometime and eat health food. That’s how Samardo rolls these days, his body is his temple. He lost a ton of weight, and looked more explosive than I’d ever seen him out there in Vegas. He averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds playing 20 minutes per over 5 games, and there were people around the League taking notice of all that to be sure. I don’t know what the Jon Leur signing means for Samuels, but before that move went down I was convinced he stay on with Cleveland as their fourth big. If he doesn’t, he will play somewhere else in the NBA next season. There will be more than a handful of teams who’d plug him into a role like that right now I think. 

Justin Holiday is cool: I didn’t know too much about Justin Holiday prior to meeting him last week. I knew he was Jrue’s brother and he went to Washington, that’s about it. After talking with him for a while I can also add that he’s good people. I told him I hoped to see him around CLE next season and he replied by saying, me too man. He’s a nice young player at 6-6, and while he didn’t light the world on fire out in Vegas, he did get progressively better in each of his five games. By that I mean he scored 3 points, then 4, then 5, then 8, before finishing the trip with 12 points in 16 minutes against against the Knicks. I think there might be something there with Holiday, hopefully he gets hot at just the right time.

Zydrunas Ilguakas stays on his Scouting Grind:
I’m not sure how he did it exactly, but it appeared to me that Zydrunas Ilgauskas watched every game that was played by every team out at Vegas Summer League last week. He was always in the gym. Even when there were two games going on, I feel like he was able to keep tabs on both somehow. He looked like a guy who was real serious about his new gig. I’ve heard throughout this past season that Big Z is killing it in the scouting department, and that seemed to line up with the information I could gather in person. I talked to Z for a few minutes too, asked him how things were going, and he said good. I wanted to do an official interview with him but he said that Chris Grant is the only person in the Cavs front office who can do interviews. I told him no worries, I’ll catch up with him on that interview when he becomes a GM someday. I’m pretty sure that’s going to happen. Big Z also caught up with Mike Brown for a few minutes, and a lot of laughing an shoulder slapping ensued. They looked like two bff’s real happy to be back hanging out together. 

Daryl Morey is a tremendous Ping Pong Player: Rockets GM Daryl Morey is a dead serious Ping Pong player. I attended the St. Jude’s charity event at the Palms Hardwood Suite and saw first hand how effective Morey is with the ping pong paddle. He won the tournament, and afterwards I caught up with the champ to get my picture taken. He was thrilled to meet me.

Another guy who competed in the Ping Pong tournament was Bobcats GM Rich Cho. That guy is the best. No offense to Chris Grant or Morey, but Cho is my favorite GM in the League right now. While he was playing out his Final Four matchup, I was standing by the table looking down at my phone. Cho executed a ferocious spike and the ball bounced off the top of my plasitc glass spilling sprite onto my shirt after dropping in off the table for a point. Luckily it dried. After his game Cho came over and apologized for the spike, even though it wasn’t his fault at all. I told him that was on me for not paying attention. He laughed, but deep down I’m sure he agreed.

I told people that after the Ping Pong tournament I put some jumpers up. I did, but unfortunately the only picture I have as evidence is me shooting a “jumper” from the block. I swear I went five for five at one point from just inside the right arc. Next year I’ll get video of that.

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine,,, and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.