CLEVELAND: Each member of the Cavaliers’ young core already has his homework assignment for this summer. Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller will be going to summer league along with the Cavs’ incoming rookies.
Tristan Thompson will have his choice whether or not he wants to play in Las Vegas this summer, while Kyrie Irving’s goal is to live in the weight room and get stronger.
“I think Kyrie understands that this summer is a big summer for him,” coach Byron Scott said. “We’ve talked about how he has to get in that weight room. He has to dedicate himself to get stronger. Not necessarily bigger, but stronger. He’s not going to change his style of play and people aren’t going to change the way they guard him.”
Irving has played in 75 percent of the Cavs’ games during his first two years in the league. Everyone within the organization has targeted his health as a major focus for next season.
As for the rookies, Scott said Waiters, Zeller and Kevin Jones will all attend summer league because his rule is for all first and second-year players to go. He leaves the decision up to players entering their third year, but excluded Irving last week because “bad things seem to happen to Kyrie at summer league.”
As for Thompson, Scott said “if he wants to play, we’ll definitely bring him there. But if not, the one thing about Tristan I don’t worry about is him working.”
Jones was unable to play in summer league last year because of a foot injury. He is under contract to the Cavs for the next two years and has impressed the coaches enough the last few weeks that he’s starting to move up the rotation.
“I really wanted to go to summer league last year. I felt it was a chance to go prove myself,” Jones said. “But now I get a second chance and I have to take advantage of it. It’s kind of like a proving ground to show what you can do.”
Zeller dominated in the summer league last year in part because he was one of the oldest and most experienced players on the court.
“It was a good experience last year. You get used to the referees and different ways they call it,” Zeller said. “I was really trying to get used to playing in an NBA offense, but it’s completely different from actually playing in a real NBA game where you’ve got a bunch of high-level players playing. But it was still a good experience.”
Coming in early
Scott brought the players in for a morning shoot-around prior to Monday’s game against the Miami Heat. It was the first time in his three years in charge the Cavs held a shoot-around on the second day of a back to back.
In fact, no NBA teams regularly hold a shoot-around on the second day of a back-to-back. But given the Cavs’ pitiful effort in Sunday’s loss at the Philadelphia 76ers, coupled with the fact the team flight landed back in Cleveland around 8:30 p.m., Scott called everyone in for a morning workout.
“I’m not throwing in the towel,” Scott said. “This is what we do. Come here and get ready. I want them to know the season’s not over.”
Scott said this team doesn’t have the mentality and heart to play well on a nightly basis, but still believes the core players are the right guys for this rebuild.
“I don’t think as a group we’re the most mature group I’ve ever had. They have to learn to be a professional,” he said. “You get paid to play as hard as you can play. That’s all we can do as coaches is prepare them to go out and battle. It has to come from within.”
To that end, he doesn’t believe nights when the players give a poor effort should be a reflection on the coaching staff.
“As a coach all you can do is prepare the guys to play,” he said. “Give them the plan and they have to go out and follow it. How hard they play is completely up to them. I don’t think that’s a reflection on me and my staff and what we’re doing. We can’t play for them.”
But Scott still believes in the four core pieces already in place.
“I’m still confident we have the right core guys. They all need to grow up and get better and mature,” Scott said. “But that’s what you expect when you have young guys. Obviously we have to add other pieces to the puzzle, but those guys I’m really confident in.”
Shaun Livingston returned after missing Sunday’s game with back spasms. … Luke Walton’s tender right ankle still swells up after physical activity, which is why he has been inactive the last couple of weeks. The training staff laughed after an MRI of Walton’s ankle revealed hardly any ligaments left in the foot. He has been saying that for years. … Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was asked before the game if LeBron James was hoping to play. “I don’t know, I don’t care. I didn’t ask,” Spoelstra said. “He understands. Obviously it’s a special place for him. We’re focusing on getting everybody’s bodies right, getting in rhythm.”
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.