While point guards and power forwards continue to rack up Wine and Gold headlines and quote-filled columns, it is the shooting guards who have provided some of the most interesting nuggets of information in what has been a chaotic NBA preseason. While the Cavaliers added Anthony Parker in a free agency move to bolster their young and inexperienced locker room, Daniel Gibson, Manny Harris and Christian Eyenga may have been the stars of an offseason which was rife with uncertainty.
Rather than suiting up with a few of his colleagues in Las Vegas or Rucker Park, Gibson chose to use the extended offseason to swap the orange roundie for a pair of black padded gloves and a roped off ring. The Houston native had long had an interest in boxing due to a few of his friends taking up the hobby, but opting to stay at home with his wife and infant son, the early-morning runs and hand speed workouts were something that the Cavs veteran can do on his own time rather than having to become subject to the schedules of others.
“I hadn’t had this much time before,” Gibson tells WFNY via telphone, speaking of the lockout-laced offseason, circumstances which just so happened to aid his hobby due to the occasional pent up aggression from news rooted in impasse. “I’m used to just having a couple weeks here and there, this allowed me to be real strict.”
Gibson is coming off of what is largely his best campaign as a professional basketball player, averaging 11.6 points per game and drawing 15 starts. Unfortunately, as the season wore on, Gibson wore down, sustaining various injuries to his shoulder, leg and foot, missing 15 games during the team’s 19-win season.
Though Boobie had partaken in the occasional boxing workout with his boys back home, he summoned the help of Houston-based trainer Anthony (“Tony”) Brady, a man who worked with him on strength and endurance drills as well as the requisite sparring sessions; Gibson wore the proper padded headgear as to not sustain any contact-related injuries. When he wasn’t tossing around a punching bag or sparring partner, Gibson could be found running with sleds or parachutes attached to his back, aiming to add even more explosion and endurance to his repertoire.
“Normally, when I would run, all the weight would just fall off,” Gibson said. “This time, I’m a lot stronger, but it’s lean muscle. I’m in great shape.”
His declaration of physical condition will hopefully reward him handsomely as the team will have to play 66 games in a little over four months. Typically, a training regiment of this caliber would prepare a player for Camp Scott, the annual training camp hosted by the Cavaliers head coach who shares its namesake, but this year’s version is a little toned down. Gibson, however, appears ready to go both physically and mentally as what would be a night of back-to-back games will now turn into three games in a row or a week consisting of five games in seven nights.
The ever-annoying chant that Cavalier fans had to hear echo through Quicken Loans Arena during the late aughts may actually provide dividends. With his 27-point outing against the Phoenix Suns still fresh in his mind and an unguarateed contract looming overhead, second-year guard Manny Harris took part in any basketball-related activities he could. A hoops vagabond of sorts, the Detroit native took to the road, playing basketball in Philadelphia, Los Angeles (with Baron Davis) and Las Vegas with a host of other NBA players.
And while all of these organized activities may have helped Corperryale L’Adorable stay loose, it was his connections back home that may have helped the most as NBA veteran Ben Gordon and Harris spent plenty of time together with the goal of making the University of Michigan product a better professional. The two men worked on Harris’ mid-range game with hopes of making the volume-friendly player even more efficient, but also tweaked and monitored ancillary items such as the 22-year old’s diet and stretching routines.
“It gave me a different look at what the NBA life was all about,” Harris, with his “Kill or Be Killed” tattoo front and center on his right shoulder, told WFNY of his first offseason as a professional basketball player.
Harris will have his work cut out for him among the Cavalier guards if he hopes to replicate the successes he had during spurts in 2010-11. Presently missing tome with a foot injury sustained in the offseason, any additional work he can put in to give himself greater chances is obviously time well spent.
Eyenga really is Skyenga
One look at Cavaliers swingman Christian Eyenga and it is easy to see how fans forget that he is just 22 years of age. The Congolese guard with pogo sticks for legs somehow managed to have a growth spurt this past summer, entering camp at 6-feet-7-inches tall, a full two inches taller than he was when the group convened for the 2010 preseason.
Already an insane athlete, Eyegna was often criticized for his lack of height and inexperience during his rookie campaign which had plenty of ups and downs. This time around, the former first-round draft pick is hoping to kill two birds with one stone as he’s that much taller and is also boasting a year of NBA life under his belt. Hopefully, he can grow three more inches and we can play him at center,” joked Byron Scott late last week.
It goes without saying that there is a big difference between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-7 when it comes to the NBA. Sasha Pavlovic was a starting shooting guard on a playoff team largely because he stands at 6-feet-8-inches. Daniel Gibson was overlooked by Mike Brown largely because he’s just 6-foot-2. Having a player with Eyenga’s athleticism, wingspan and motor, and then have him grow two inches is something that cannot be taught.
There’s no telling what Eyenga will do with this gift as playing time and consistency are still presiding over him in the shape of question marks. That said, Brendan over at Stepien Rules, naturally, is thrilled with this development.
(Gibson photo: AP /Tony Dejak; Eyenga photo: Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images)