BEREA: Tyler Zeller saw his knee contorted the wrong direction and immediately feared the worst. He lost his footing fighting for positioning and soon Anderson Varejao’s 260-pound frame crumpled on top of him.
In a flash, coach Mike Brown worried his greatest fear of the day had just been realized. Brown said his only goal for the annual Wine & Gold scrimmage was to escape the day healthy, but soon 14 feet of bodies were twisted on the court under the basket.
Varejao bounced up first, but Zeller took a little longer. Eventually he realized all of his parts were still working properly and limped off the court, but Brown had seen enough. He immediately canceled the rest of the scrimmage with 6:10 left in the third quarter Saturday thankful Zeller wasn’t more seriously injured.
“Normally I’ve always been one to pop up quick, but that one scared me,” Zeller said. “You always hear about knee injuries and all that. I knew from the way my knee was bending it wasn’t supposed to be over there.”
Zeller was diagnosed with a strained left hip and is listed as day to day. He is hopeful he’ll be able to practice Monday (the Cavs are taking today off), but even missing a couple days of practice is better than the alternative.
A rainy, humid day outside made for a steamy gymnasium on the campus of Baldwin Wallace. The Cavs have held the scrimmage at Quicken Loans Arena the last couple of years, but this season closed the event to the public and opened it just to military members and their families.
Staff members did their best to wipe the condensation off the floor, but Zeller slipped on a wet spot while trying to box out following a free throw from Tristan Thompson.
“It was warm in there and you could tell from the beginning that the floor was a little moist,” Brown said. “All it took was that for me to say, ‘Oh my gosh, no more.’ ”
Zeller was having a nice day until he tumbled to the court. He had 13 points and four rebounds, took a charge and finished a dunk off a nifty lob pass from Jarrett Jack. Brown has been impressed thus far with Zeller, particularly when he rolls to the basket following a screen.
Too often last season, Zeller looked hesitant to play inside. Even when he had a decided height advantage, he often preferred bouncing outside for long jumpers. Brown doesn’t want to take that part of his game away because he has the range, but he’d like to see Zeller play inside more, too.
“If he pops sometimes and shoots a jumper, that’s great because he can do it,” Brown said. “I don’t want him to play in between. If you’re going to pop, go ahead and pop. If you’re going to roll, then roll with force because you’re able to. I thought tonight he rolled with force a couple of times and he got some pretty good results.”
Top overall pick Anthony Bennett had six points and four rebounds in the scrimmage, but missed all three of his 3-point attempts and was exhausted less than four minutes into the scrimmage.
Bennett missed most of the summer recovering from shoulder surgery and is clearly behind on his conditioning. The Cavs also held a physical workout prior to the start of the scrimmage, which might have contributed to Bennett’s early fatigue. But he was grabbing at his shorts and gasping after just a couple of trips down the floor.
“It’s hard just sitting out the whole summer and then trying to come back,” Bennett said. “It’s something I’ve been working on the past couple weeks and I still need to get better at it.”
Bennett’s weight has come up a couple of times already in the first week. He said on Monday he weighed 255 pounds and said Saturday he weighed 250. He said he played last year at UNLV between 242 and 244 and insists he’s not concerned about his weight.
“I’m still not worried about it. If I drop a couple pounds, it’ll be helpful, but at this point it’s good for me,” Bennett said. “It’s not too much. I need to get bigger in the NBA, but not so much where I lose my mobility.”
Brown teamed Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao together for the first half of the scrimmage against Jack, C.J. Miles, Bennett, Earl Clark and Zeller. Gee and Clark switched at halftime so Clark could get some minutes with the starters before the scrimmage was canceled.
Kyrie Irving had 17 points (14 in the second quarter), two assists and three turnovers. Jack had nine points and six assists.
The Cavs open the preseason Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.