On any given night, Cavaliers swingman Alonzo Gee isn’t quite sure what to expect.
Given the state of flux that has been the small forward spot for Byron Scott’s group in the 2010-11 season, Gee has seen his playing time come and go since being signed in late December. However, with the team’s recent trade of Jamario Moon and Scott decision to pull back the reigns a bit on rookie Christian Eyenga, Gee was presented the opportunity to not only start against the San Antonio Spurs, but play considerable minutes against the team that gave him his first chance as a professional basketball player.
The result: a season-high 18 points to go along with seven rebounds, a steal in transition and two three-pointers made as the Cavaliers battled, but came up on the short end of a 109-99 contest.
While the final score was not indicatvie of how easily the Spurs handled the Wine and Gold, the game was also about how a starting five with only one player north of 24 years of age would stand against the best team in the NBA, one that was undoubtedly hungry for a win after an embarrassing loss the night before.
“I thought Alonzo did a good job of taking the challenge and understanding what we talked about with what he needed to do on both ends of the floor,” Scott said postgame. “He had a pretty good game. The key will be consistency.”
Gee attributes a lot of his improvement to practicing outside of team-orchastrated activities, especially an increased focus on his jump shot and decision making skills. Several times in the game against the Spurs, Gee passed up three-point attempts early in the shot clock to either facilitate Scott’s offense or create a shot attempt closer to the rim.
In his up-and-down season, Scott says that he and Alonzo have had several discussions about being aggressive but also being smart and making sure shots are taken with the flow of the game. Scott was also pleased with his young forward’s defense as he pulled down seven rebounds (three offensive) and was frequently seen in the paint attempting to impede his opponent from successfully hitting the glass and getting out in transition.
With five minutes remaining in the first quarter, Gee stole a Tim Duncan outelt pass at the free throw line and turned it into two quick points by soaring in for the lay-up right in the face of the future Hall-of-Famer.
“[It] just comes with working hard and putting in more time at the gym,” said Gee postgame. “I’m getting better.”
In line with unknown playing time, following the Spurs contest, the Cavalier swingman was quick to shower and dress and was going to head on his way home for the night before team PR informed him that he would be a target for some postgame discussion. However, Gee is not a man of many words. When discussing facets of the game, he is succinct and soft-spoken, reminding those around him how hard he is working to improve his game with hopes of a future with the Cavs.
Having a chance to talk to a few individuals close to the player, his responses in private do not vary much from those said in front of cameras: Gee’s hard work in the gym, outside of the time mandated by the team may finally be paying off.
San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich spoke very highly of Gee who spent considerable time with their D-League team in Austin. While he only mustered approximately 15 minutes through five games with San Antonio, Popovich’s staff saw a lot of potential in Gee’s game.
“We learned a lot about [Alonzo] because he played in the D-League for us,” Popovich told WFNY before the game. “[He’s] always a hard-nosed competitor and someone who always wanted to prove himself. He’s someone who wanted to work on his shot and offensive capabilities, stick his nose in, play hard and was a good teammate for everybody.”
Equally, Gee feels that the NBDL helped propel him to the fortuitous position he was able to earn last night as the starting small forward for an NBA franchise, playing just under 38 minutes of above-the-rim basketball.
“The D-Leauge was a great experience for me,” said Gee. “Playing in [the Spurs] organization, they had everybody there working with us everyday. It was a grind, but it helped me out a lot.”
There is no telling what the future holds for the 23-year-old athlete, but as long as he continues to be given the playing time, he hopes to make a lasting impact on a team that will certainly address the wing positions in the offseason. When asked what his plans are for the same post-regular season period, Gee answered with acknowledged that he still has a long way to go but is not above working to trying to get there, echoing his coach’s wishes of consistent production.
“Being consistent overall, making the jump shot and defending the ball, just being consistent overall,” said Gee. “I just have to keep improving, keep getting better and keep working.”