By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
INDEPENDENCE: Shortly after finishing the formal portion of media day on Monday, Sergey Karasev found a basketball and began shooting around at the Cleveland Clinic Courts. General Manager Chris Grant spotted him and walked over to shake hands.
Due to Karasev’s whirlwind summer, it was the first time he and Grant spoke face to face since the Cavs drafted him 19th overall in June.
Karasev (pronounced Ku-RAH-sev) spent the summer playing in Russia’s top professional league, but left the team just long enough in June to fly to New York for the NBA Draft. Grant, however, spent draft night in Cleveland.
Karasev flew back to Russia immediately after the Cavs selected him — he didn’t even have time for a conference call with the Cleveland media. When he returned briefly to Cleveland for a news conference in July, Grant was in Las Vegas for summer league.
Karasev’s basketball commitments just recently concluded and he landed in Cleveland late Sunday night for the start of training camp, leaving this week as the first opportunity for the Cavs’ organization to really get to know him.
There is plenty to learn about the intriguing Russian, who is only 19 but speaks fluent English. His father, Vasily, is a current coach in Russia and former international player. He taught his son at an early age if he ever wanted to play professionally in Europe or America, he was going to have to learn the language. So Sergey began traveling the world with his father when he was just a boy. Now he understands English well and has no need for Vitaly Potapenko, on staff as a player development coach, to translate for him.
“I understand everything,” Karasev said. “Vitaly has just helped me to speak some Russian so I don’t forget it.”
Teams say every year they are surprised players fell to them at certain points in the draft, but in this case, it appears sincere. Before the draft, members of the Cavs’ front office privately spoke glowingly of Karasev, but didn’t think there was any chance he’d still be available in a weakened draft when they selected at No. 19.
They spent much of the days leading up to the draft and draft night unsuccessfully trying to move up, then stood by and watched as he tumbled to them anyway.
The Cavs love his ability to play with either hand. One team official said he hadn’t seen skills like Karasev flashed at a pre-draft workout since the Cavs had Klay Thompson in for a workout prior to the 2011 draft.
But he doesn’t turn 20 until the end of this month, and the Cavs aren’t going to rush him. One Cavs official said over the summer that Karasev will likely arrive for training camp exhausted after playing all summer in Russia, and that he might struggle initially before figuring things out.
Coach Mike Brown seemed to echo that this week, but thought it was due more to the time change than fatigue from playing all summer.
“His body clock is a little off. He’s a teenager, so all this is new to him,” said Brown, who joked he has two teenagers at home and one at work — and he doesn’t really trust teenagers very often. “He’s finding his way, kind of like Anthony Bennett is.”
Karasev’s biggest adjustment on the court will be defensively. He has played primarily a zone, something Brown dislikes. Plus the court he typically plays on is smaller and the overseas game is much more team-oriented. Karasev said all the isolation plays, all the pick-and-roll and two-man games are much different than what he typically plays.
Dion Waiters struggled at times as a rookie adjusting from the zone he played in college to the NBA’s man-to-man defense and Karasev will probably experience similar struggles.
“You have to remember A.B. [Anthony Bennett] was here for the whole summer,” Brown said. “He knows all the coaches, he knows all the strength and conditioning guys. All this is new to Sergey. He’s still really feeling his way through not only on the practice floor, but also trying to get to know people, get to know his way around the building and town. He’s doing good, but it’s new for him.”
Wine & Gold scrimmage
Brown has one goal for today’s Wine & Gold scrimmage on the campus of Baldwin Wallace — survive.
“Stay healthy, that’s it,” he said. “It’s another practice for us and you hope nobody gets hurt. Obviously you want everybody to have a good time. A lot of military families are coming, so you want to show your appreciation for what they do for us on a daily basis. That type of stuff is the norm, but for us, let’s get through this healthy and then get something out of it.”
Brown hasn’t decided yet how he’s going to divide the rosters for the scrimmage, which is closed to the public. Only military members and their families will have tickets, but the game will be streamed live on Cavs.com.
Brown’s father retired from the Air Force after 20-plus years and lived in Germany as a child, so the idea of opening the scrimmage only to military families hits close to him.
“With what’s going on in the world today and what the families have to go through, if you can show them your appreciation in any way, shape or form you’d love to do it,” he said. “Hopefully they enjoy it tomorrow.”
The game will consist of two 20-minute halves, and it’s Brown’s discretion if he wants to add more time. But given his stated goal of just getting out healthy, that seems unlikely.
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.