By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
INDEPENDENCE: DeSagana Diop, the eighth overall pick of the Cavaliers in the 2001 draft, is back with the team as a camp invite.
Diop was a draft bust who started just five games in four years with the Cavs, but he has managed to stick around the NBA for 12 seasons. He spent the last five years with the Charlotte Bobcats and averaged 0.7 points and 2.3 rebounds in 22 games (one start).
But Diop has a strong chance of making the Cavs’ final 15-man roster because of the health risks both Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bynum present. If both big men stay healthy, Diop isn’t needed. But if one or both of them go down, the Cavs will need another big at the end of the bench.
At 7-feet and 300 pounds, Diop certainly qualifies.
“I never imagined being back here,” Diop said with a chuckle. “I had a couple of other teams looking at me, but I thought I had a good chance to play here.”
Diop has averaged 2.0 points and 3.7 rebounds throughout his 12-year career, but has managed to earn more than $47 million playing in the NBA.
“It’s hard to find big guys,” Cavs General Manager Chris Grant said. “Obviously with Andrew and other injuries we’ve had in the past, we wanted to make sure we had enough big guys for camp. “DeSagana’s done a nice job, he’s in good shape. He’s come in and worked hard. He worked out for us a few days last week and he looked good.”
Jermaine Taylor, Kenny Kadji, Henry Sims, Michael Lee and Elliot Williams are the other camp invites. The Cavs have 13 roster spots fairly secured and point guard Matthew Dellavedova seems to have an inside track on another spot, leaving one spot open this month.
Williams, a 6-foot-5 guard and former first-round pick, has signed a non-guaranteed deal with the Cavs. He was drafted 22nd overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2010, but has missed significant time to knee and shoulder injuries. He has played in just 24 games, all during the 2011-12 season, and missed all of last year with an Achilles injury.
The Cavs are already familiar with Taylor and Kadji, who both played on their summer league team. Sims is a 23-year-old 6-foot-10 forward/center from Georgetown who played in the D-League All-Star game last year.
A number of players and coach Mike Brown said they have followed the Indians’ hot September and playoff run. Kyrie Irving said he attended an Indians game incognito recently and Brown was excited to see Nick Swisher, one of his neighbors, homer in Sunday’s playoff-clinching victory.
“My wife and I have talked more about the Indians in this last month than in all five years I was here,” Brown said.
Newly signed guard Jarrett Jack said he isn’t much of a baseball fan, but he has paid attention to the Indians.
“The fans have shown that this is a sports town,” he said. “They kind of skip over this city when they mention traditional sports towns. They talk about the Boston area, the New York area, Chicago and L.A., but this place is definitely serious about their sports teams. When I was young, I always told myself I wanted to come to a place where the city took the team personally. These fans seem to do that here and I can’t wait to get out in front of them.”
Jack eloquently dismissed the idea the Cavs would be happy to just make the playoffs this season. He served as a veteran mentor on the Golden State Warriors last season and is expected to fill a similar role here, but he made his presence felt immediately on Monday when asked if making the playoffs was a goal for this season.
“Why would I be happy with just making the playoffs? What’s the point of that?” Jack asked. “Let’s work out so we can just play in April and just go home? Why can’t we just go to the championship and just win it? If that’s not the goal you’re trying to play for, or you don’t feel like you being in uniform you have a chance to do so, then we should just go home right now.
“What else are we playing for? Who cares if you got a free certificate to the playoffs and you went home with a free t-shirt they handed out for the first round? So what? Nobody cares or remembers that and I don’t think anybody should use that as their stepping stone. If you’re about to take a test, you don’t want to just get a 72, you want to get 100. Who wants to come in fifth place? It’s cool, but everyone should strive to be first. I think that’s the mindset. If it doesn’t happen this year, we set that as the bar for next year and moving forward. That’s how you build a culture in my eyes.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com.