INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – The Cleveland Cavaliers are ready to play some games that count.
The Cavaliers had their last practice before the regular season Tuesday afternoon at Cleveland Clinic Courts. The season opener is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. against the Orlando Magic in Florida, and coach John Beilein is ready to see how his team performs.
“I think we’re excited about it,” Beilein said after practice. “I’m excited as I’ve been. Each year it’s pretty much the same thing. You get a few scrimmages, exhibition games and now the real stuff and you find out where you are.”
Beilein noted that the Cavs are playing some good teams to begin the season. The Magic were a playoff team last season, losing to the Toronto Raptors in the first round. The next four games are against the Indiana Pacers, at Milwaukee, Chicago at home and then the Pacers again in Indianapolis. All but the Bulls were in the playoffs last season.
“Orlando’s really good,” Beilein said. “You can see what they did last year and making the playoffs, very veteran. And it’s going to be a challenge for us, but I can’t wait to find out more about our team tomorrow night.”
The Magic have length all around, with Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic all at 6-foot-7 or taller. With his athleticism, Gordon presents matchup problems on the perimeter. Isaac is a solid rim protector, ranking second on the team in blocks per game (1.3) last season. Fournier is a good shooter, and Vucevic was an All-Star last season.
“Coach (Steve) Clifford is a really good coach in our league,” Tristan Thompson said after practice. “He wants to get the big fella going, Vucevic, but he also wants to get Fournier going, especially going to his right.”
As the Cavs prepare, a question after Monday’s practice remained unanswered: Who will start at point guard? The Cavs have a bevy of guards, but on Tuesday there was a bit more certainty about whether Matthew Dellavedova or rookie Darius Garland takes the court at tipoff. Beilein said it’s “probable” Garland starts.
Beilein said center John Henson, who has been recovering from groin and ankle injuries, did some half court work. He doesn’t expect Henson to be ready Wednesday, but it isn’t yet decided.
The season has arrived, and Thompson and the Cavs are simply ready to hoop. Thompson is heading into his ninth season, and there aren’t any jitters.
“It’s been a long summer,” Thompson said. “Training camp has been long. Just ready to play basketball. Just ready to play when it matters.”