INDEPENDENCE: It’s easy to see why Cavaliers coach Byron Scott says new forward Jon Leuer needs to have a little more confidence in himself. It’s also easy to see why Leuer might need a little ego boost.
Last season was his rookie year in the NBA, yet the Cavs represent his fourth professional team. He was both traded and released within a span of three weeks and now will try to restart his career here, in what would appear to be an ideal situation.
Leuer could sure use some stability right about now, and the Cavs could use a forward who can stretch the floor after the departure of Antawn Jamison.
“He can take up a little bit of what Antawn did for us because he does have a little 3-point range,” Scott said. “One of the biggest problems is he thinks he’s just OK. I don’t think he has the confidence in himself right now to go out there and be able to produce on a night-to-night basis. But I think he does, and it’s something he has to develop.”
Leuer was drafted in the second round last year by the Milwaukee Bucks, but the lockout forced him to go play in Germany. Upon returning, he averaged 4.7 points and 2.6 rebounds and even started 12 games for the Bucks. He scored in double figures 10 times and led the team in rebounding twice.
But when the Houston Rockets became infatuated with trading for Dwight Howard over the summer, Leuer became an NBA casualty. He was dealt to the Rockets in exchange for Samuel Dalembert because they were trying to move up higher in the first round in order to put a suitable package together for Howard, and the Bucks needed another center after trading Andrew Bogut.
“We had no intention of moving Jon,” Bucks General Manager John Hammond told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel over the summer. “The only reason we did it was because it was the only way to make the salary structure work to complete the deal.
“I’m always concerned about moving quality people. When I talked to [Leuer] on the phone, I was apologetic. It really did hurt to make that call.”
The Rockets were forced to waive Leuer when they ran out of roster spots and needed a place for free agent Omer Asik, leaving the Cavs with what could be a gift of a waiver claim.
“It has been a whirlwind for the last year,” Leuer said. “It’s unlike anything I’ve been part of before … Eventually I knew I wasn’t going to be there [in Houston], and I felt like I landed in a good spot.”
Leuer had 8 points and 6 rebounds in the preseason loss Tuesday to the Bucks, his former team. He went just 3 of 9 on 3-pointers last season, but Scott has seen enough from him in camp to feel comfortable with him shooting from as far away as the 3-point line. He was a guard when he first learned the game but became a post player after he grew 10 inches in high school. He was 6 feet tall as a freshman, but 6-10 by the time he graduated high school. He averaged 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds as a college senior at Wisconsin.
Tristan Thompson is entrenched as the starting power forward, but there are plenty of minutes available to both Leuer and Samardo Samuels as backups.
Scott said Leuer could play on the wing in a pinch, but he wants to keep him at power forward this season to simplify his responsibilities and boost his confidence.
Leuer said he doesn’t have a lack of confidence, but Scott sees things differently. He has instilled confidence in guys before, resurrecting the careers of Tyson Chandler with the New Orleans Hornets and Daniel Gibson during the pair’s first year together with the Cavs.
With both Chandler and Gibson, Scott said he was just honest in his assessment of where they were and what they could become in the NBA. He is doing the same with Leuer.
“One of the biggest things in our game is confidence,” Scott said. “If you don’t have confidence in yourself, it’s going to be hard for the coach to have confidence in you.
“With young guys like that, it’s a fact they will lose confidence if they bounce around and they’re not playing. With a guy like Jon, this is going to be a great situation for him and he’s going to have his chance to really grow as a basketball player.”
Guards Kevin Anderson and Justin Holiday were waived on Wednesday, trimming the camp roster to 18. Anderson and Holiday were the last two players signed for camp purposes, and neither had much chance to make the team.
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.