INDEPENDENCE — The Cavaliers’ success this season might hinge on the development of rookie point guard Collin Sexton.
If that’s the case, what coach Tyronn Lue saw from the eighth overall pick from Alabama during the Cavs’ first practice of training camp Tuesday excited him.
“I thought he played like a veteran today. Like he’s been here before, and that’s what we need from him,” Lue said after the 2½-hour session at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
Lue said Sexton improved as the NBA Summer League went on as the Cavs finished 5-2 and advanced to the semifinals before losing in double-overtime to the Los Angeles Lakers. Sexton averaged 19.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists with 3.3 turnovers. He shot .429 from the field, .231 from 3-point range and played a team-high 201 minutes.
“He got better each game,” Lue said. “Understood the rules, how the game is going to be officiated, understood where he could pick and choose spots to score and make plays for others. I thought Summer League was a big jump for him. We had plans on not playing him all the games, but he wants to play and it was good for him.”
Lue tried to downplay expectations for Sexton.
“Just be who he is. I don’t think there’s any expectations,” Lue said. “His toughness, tenacity, the way he gets to the basket and gets to the free-throw line and can score and make guys better. I just think the biggest thing for him is his pace, speed and intensity. That’s something that we haven’t had in the past. Good to see that. Just have to play that pace for the whole 48 minutes.”
Hill the mentor
A year ago, George Hill was mentoring De’Aaron Fox, the Sacramento Kings’ fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft. Now Hill finds himself in nearly the same situation with Sexton.
Just as he did with the Kings, Hill is embracing the role.
“He’s a smart kid, has a lot of upside, and we’re going to take each day and try to do the best we can to win games,” Hill said of Sexton. “That’s all that matters. No matter who’s starting or who’s coming off the bench, or who’s playing and who’s not, we’re all going to be on the same page and learn from each other and have fun doing it.”
Hill still raves about Fox, whom he said “has so much upside and talent.” But Hill’s main messages to rookies are stories of his past experiences.
“I might not be the most athletic or the fastest or the best scorer, but I’ve been here for 11 years and I’m doing something right,” Hill said. “I just try to show them that it doesn’t take all that stuff, you’re just being fundamentally sound, being a good teammate and doing what’s right and you can stay a long time.”
Hill said he could keep up with the speedy Sexton if necessary.
“I can keep up, I’m not slow. He has good pace. He has good mobility, good start and stop time,” Hill said. “It’s just learning the game, learning the system, learning when to use his speed and when not to use his speed. I always felt like the best thing to do is learn by throwing [him] in the fire.
“Like I told him, ‘You’re going to make mistakes, make them being aggressive. No one’s perfect. Just play your game, you’re young, you’re a rookie, you’re learning and they’re putting you in this position for a reason.’”
Among the staff promotions and hires announced by the Cavs were Dan Geriot (assistant coach/player development), Mike Gerrity (director of player development/assistant coach), Terry Nooner (player development coach) and Andrew Olson (shooting coach). On the training side, the Cavs added Albert Padilla (assistant athletic trainer/performance science) and Ed Subelarrives (assistant strength and conditioning coach).
Nooner, 40, is a former teammate of Lue’s at Raytown High School in the Kansas City area. For the past three years, Nooner was an assistant coach for the University of Maryland women’s basketball team; before that he served in the same capacity for the University of Alabama women.
Lue said guard J.R. Smith was limited in practice with a sore hip.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.