INDEPENDENCE: Samardo Samuels walked around the basketball floor of the practice facility with his shirt off. General Manager Chris Grant was talking about free agency and coaching vacancies.
Slowly but surely, the NBA is returning to relevance this week.
The Cavs opened their practice facility to players and media Thursday for the first time since the lockout began. Four Cavs players showed up for voluntary workouts — Samuels, Ramon Sessions, Anderson Varejao, and Manny Harris. They weren’t allowed to interact with Grant, coach Byron Scott or any of his assistants.
They were, however, able to work with the strength staff and receive medical treatment, if necessary. At least a few of those players are expected to take physicals today and start gearing up for what should be a hectic training camp that begins Dec. 9.
“We’re pumped, we’re excited,” Grant said. “Our guys are ready to go.”
Teams and agents were allowed to begin talking Wednesday, and one of Grant’s first calls was to Henry Thomas, the agent for free agent Anthony Parker. Grant made it clear Thursday his top priority in free agency is bringing back Parker, who is 36 and averaged 8.3 points and 3.0 assists last season.
“We absolutely want AP back,” Grant said. “We think he’s fantastic, thought he played great last year and he’s an even better leader for us. He’s just one of those people we feel great about.”
The Cavs aren’t likely to be very aggressive in free agency beyond Parker. Grant turned over a fair amount of the roster in the final days before the lockout, drafting Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson and trading for Omri Casspi. He wants to give his new nucleus a chance to play together to evaluate what he has.
“If there are nice pieces that fit into our core of what we’re trying to do, we’ll be aggressive,” Grant said. “If not, we’re perfectly happy where we are with this young core group to have some time to play and grow together. We have to give these young guys a chance to work together.”
The players voted Thursday to reform the union, CBSSports.com reported, the next necessary step in ending the 5-month-old lockout. Until the new labor deal is ratified, Grant is unable to comment on specifics of the amnesty clause or the possibility of using the trade exception acquired in the LeBron James deal. The league has yet to rule whether or not the Cavs will get back the nine days they lost to the lockout.
The goal for the Cavs is to get the players back in town and checked out physically. The big concern right now is Semih Erden, who broke his thumb while playing overseas. The Cavs have no idea the significance of the injury or how long he would miss until they see him.
Beyond that, Sessions had hernia surgery at the end of last season, and Casspi suffered a knee injury over the summer. The Cavs’ medical staff hasn’t seen either player.
“There’s a process of getting all the players here, letting our medical team at the clinic look at them and find out what’s going on with past injuries,” Grant said. “Then we need to find out what kind of shape they’re in.”
Once training camps and free agency both begin Dec. 9, it’s sure to be a frantic pace to get ready for the season. The Cavs will have two preseason games and one scrimmage open to the public before the season begins on Christmas Day.
The Cavs had a game scheduled at Quicken Loans Arena for Dec. 26, and it would only make sense for the team to open at home that day, since the arena is already reserved for basketball, but the official schedule hasn’t been released.
When it is, the Cavs will begin mending fractured relationships with fans caused by the lockout.
“We know we have a lot of hard work to do with our fans to earn their support and continue to earn their support,” Grant said. “I woke up a couple mornings ago really looking forward to driving down to the Q to a sold-out place that’s just rocking. That’s because of our fans. We have great fans here and we appreciate them. That’s what makes this place special. We understand we have to continue to earn that.”