As the Cavs were taking on the Bulls, Saturday night, I traveled to downtown Canton to take in the Charge home opener. The Cavs’ G-League little brother, The Canton Charge, took down Atlanta’s affiliate, the Erie Bayhawks, 116-112 in a haphazard affair that saw no less than seven technical free throws, five delay of game calls, and 45 turnovers. It’s a whole different atmosphere down in the GL. There’s a casualness to the whole affair: a resigned acceptance of chaos and borderline competence. While Cavs games are all spectacle and glitz (currently wrapped around a lackluster package), the guys down on the GL play like they just got off a smoke break to take on the dinner rush at Applebee’s – which is probably where they’re all heading after the game.
Not that there’s any shame in that. Everyone’s got to eat, and everyone’s got to work. And while they’re grinding, the guys on these teams live with the reality that while they’re chasing their NBA dream, and that they’re very unlikely to achieve it. Only 2-3 guys on each team have a shot at making an NBA squad, and the odds on being an NBA rotation player are far longer. The G-Leaguers also pass up a bigger paycheck overseas to make 7K a month. If they’re lucky enough to get a two-way deal, they can make serious money. Unfortunately, that also means that the guys on two-ways can coast.
So who was coasting and who was balling, Saturday night? The Charge ran a starting lineup of Levi Randolph, everybody’s favorite All-American, Bonzie Colson, Emmanuel Terry, who the Cavs signed for the last preseason game, training camp guard Kobi Simmons, and summer league standout Scoochie Smith. For the Bayhawks, we got to see onetime Celtics draft pick, R.J. Hunter, and one-time Rockets power forward Terrence Jones.
Kobi Simmons is a livewire, and can get up and down the court, but he’s listed as six-foot-four, and 170 pounds. If he weighs 170 soaking wet , then I’m the lead dancer at the Bolshoi. Anyway, Kobi is almost as tall Colson and weighs about 70 pounds less. He also has the narrowest shoulders I’ve ever seen on a pro basketball player. While he’s fast, he jacks a lot of shots: 5-14 in 35 minutes, and 0-4 from downtown with three turnovers and two dimes. Truth be told, he doesn’t have great floor vision or shot selection, and he’s so slight it’s so easy to knock him off his shot. Kobi did go 8-8 from the line, but if he sniffs the NBA, then go see me in Swan Lake.
Emmanuel Terry (left) is an interesting case. He is a superior athlete. The four year DII standout was even called out in the pregame program as being a guy who “goes to the rim with dangerous intentions.” Starting at the center spot, Terry was a part of the group that got off to a disastrous start to the game, and when I moved into better seats in the second half, the Cantonite behind me was not a fan. But clearly, Terry is not used to playing against athletes this good, and was frequently caught out of position defensively as he went -8 in 24 minutes with nine points and eight rebounds. Terry did have a couple great blocks and three steals, but the wiry Terry got routinely abused by Erie’s Isaac Humphries outside early and Terrence Jones inside in the third. It will take more than a season of seasoning to see if Terry can be an end of roster NBA player.
“Get Number 33’s bubble gum chewin’ a** out of there!” the woman behind yelled at Terry the second half . “Put JaCorey back in!” The object of her affection, JaCorey Williams (title pic) was Canton’s best bench player off the bench. The dude was aggressive attacking the basket in transition, in the post, and as a roll man. He even iso-ed a bit. Jakori dropped 21 in 23 minutes with four boards. He’s got a crazy free throw stroke where both hands go back up over the top of his head like a trebuchet, but it’s somewhat effective. JaCorey was 9-13 from the line and shot 61% from there last year. Williams posted a game high +7 and is +29 on the season. He also had a couple monster blocks defensively. At six-foot-eight, the pride of Middle Tennessee State is probably too short and not a good enough shooter (just 23% from three last year) to make the show, but maybe he could be an Ekpe Udoh type defensive type in a best case scenario. That scenario is probably in Europe.
There was a time Sir’Dominic Pointer was considered an intriguing prospect for the Cavs. I have to think those days are over for the 53rd pick of the 2015 draft. Sir’Dom was 0-4 in 11 minutes and didn’t do much in the GLeague last year. The role of plucky combo guard could be taken up by Michigan’s all time games leader, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who averaged a modest 13/4/3 in college but had some nice moments with the second unit before fouling out with seven points. Rahman turned it over three times, but showed some active hands on D and a very smooth stroke from three. Starter Levi Randolph looked solid (for the GL) and forgettable for Cleveland too
For the Bayhawks, one of their coveted two-way contracts is owned by Jaylen Adams who was with the Hawks, Saturday. The other is manned by Kentucky’s Alex Poythress who did not play. The guy who did Play, R.J. Hunter looks every bit the part of the player Boston thought they were drafting with the 25th pick in 2015: a rangy, athletic, sweet stroking two guard. In 37 minutes, Hunter finished with 22 on 5-13 and 9-9 at the line to go with six boards, four dimes, and three steals. Erie ran their entire offense through him in crunch time, often isolating him on the right wing. He was far and away their best player. The problem? Hunter never met a shot he didn’t like. Hunter has launched 29 threes in four games and made just 7. Yet he shoots 89% at the line. Hunter Routinely dribbled into 28 foot isolation jacks, instead of driving or playing the pick and roll game.
Larry Nance was very smart to sign a four year, 45 million dollar extension with the Cavs. Why do I mention this? Because when I recognized a six-foot-nine guy with linebacker shoulders, I went, “Holy BLEEP,” That’s Terrence Jones. Terrence and Donatas Montejunas declined to take extensions in 2015, bet big on themselves, and lost big after solid 14-15 seasons. Then they saw their NBA careers go down the tubes. After a respectable stint in New Orleans in 16-17, Jones spent last year in China. Part of the problem with not taking the extension is your team no longer feels willing to invest in you if they don’t think they can re-sign you. That seems to be what happened to Jones. Way to get the bag, Larry.
Terrence put up some numbers, leading all scorers with 25/10/6 four steals, two blocks, but was a comical 1-6 from three with a whopping nine turnovers. The Charge did a great job of crowding him when he put it on the floor, and of reading his passes. The dude can score, shoot, and pass but just doesn’t always play smart, and he shoots just poorly enough to shoot you out of games. Still, if the Cavs could figure out how to get him to shoot above 33% from deep, he’d be a better backup power forward than they have on the team. Attitude, basketball IQ, halitosis… Something has to have kept this dude out of the Association.
To me, the class of the Cavs is Bonzie Colson who has a monster wingspan, and a monster vertical. The dude got up for some defensive rebounds, and came out of the sky for a couple o-boards and putbacks, and has a really nice second jump. He was deft around the basket with a couple nifty turnarounds on the block, though, he really ought to develop a hook. He also showed good timing on cuts and an ability to run a pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll on his way to 17 points.
The Cavs’ guards were often reluctant to pitch it into him, when he had position, perhaps knowing it might not come back out. Colson was 0-3 from downtown on the night and looked like he needs to lock himself in a gym and work on on his J. But his athleticism was undenaible. He also is content to not contest layups. Bonzie did have one extreme hustle play where he ran 3/4 of the floor and layed out for a loose ball, but looked like he’d hurt his hip when he got up. I don’t know whether the hip affected his hustle later.
I still say he has the chops to be a 3-4 combo off the bench but at only an inch taller than Kobi Simmons, he has to play with an extreme motor and an extreme skill level. Like most of the guys Saturday night, those things sputtered at times. Also, in case you’re asking, the answer is yes. Bonzie had the “Sugardale” logo plastered across his belly like everyone else.
Speaking of coasters, Billy Preston seems like he’s coasting on that two way deal. Preston played 20 minutes and had a very nice game with 11 and seven, including 2-2 on buttery treys. But Billy never seems like he’s trying all that hard, and he reaches on D. He ended up with four fouls in limited minutes. Preston’s also 5-17 from from the field so far this year, and his finishing ability, to put it mildly, needs work. To quote Jay Bilas on Bruno Cabloclo, “He’s a couple years away from being a couple years away.”
Finally, the Charge are led by a guy who stood out as a very polished point guard in the summer, Scoochie Smith. Scoochie did not disappoint Saturday either, as he was far and away the best player on the team and the squad’s leader. He banged out 22/5/8 with four steals with 77 TS% and just three turnovers. Scoochie had one of the more comical plays of the game near the beginning of the second half when he stole the worst sideline inbounds pass I’ve ever seen from Isaac Humphries at mid-court, and badly blew the layup, got his own miss and converted. It was a metaphor for the game as a whole.
Still, Scoochie set up guys all night with great dribbling, point guard footwork, and a herky jerky offensive repetoire. Smith, pushed the ball, shot well off the dribble and the drive, and simply looked completely in control in his time on the floor. He was the most mature and polished player in Canton, Saturday. Check out the highlight package above, especially the full court pass on a rope that ends the clip.
Smith did cough it up once late, but scored the go-ahead bucket to put Canton up 122-120 with 22 seconds left. If the Cavs move George Hill and want to call up a backup point, they could do worse than give Scoochie a try. The dude isn’t the athlete one needs to be to stick in the Association, but he has a really nice feel for the game and is currently No. 2 in assists in the GL with 11 per game. Yeah, he’ll probably get roasted on D, but wouldn’t it be nice if the Cavs played with a real passer at the point at least a few minutes a night if Hill gets moved? If the dude keeps up his play, he’s earned a look.
This one wrapped late, and it was a pleasure to go to. If you do hit Canton, remember in the GL, even the refs are trying to make it to the Association. They certainly let the whistles fly in this one, calling 68 personal fouls which led to 94 free throws. The refs called more delay of game calls than I have ever seen. They even ejected Erie’s starting shooting guard, Craig Sword, for mouthing off twice in a row. G-League officials don’t play around.
So I’d heartily recommend doing some scouting for yourself. The cheapest seat in the house is $8 and once you’re in there might be some seats with better site-lines. Add some Pizza Oven (the best pie in Stark County) slices and Canton Brewing Company suds, and you’ve got yourself an evening.
Who knows. You might just defy the odds and see a future Cavs rotation player. This season? Anything’s possible.