September 21, 2014

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Cavs notes: GM Grant promises to be active this offseason

INDEPENDENCE — Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant was happy to add Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.

Grant, however, was the first to admit Friday at an introductory press conference at Cleveland Clinic Courts for Bennett and Felix — Karasev returned to Russia to play in a game — that there is still plenty of work to be done.

“We’re going to be active in the trade market and free agency,” Grant said. “We have some other areas we’re going to try to address.”

Grant mentioned a backup point guard, big man and shooting as needs, but the Cavs also have decisions to make regarding their current roster before they dive headfirst into free agency, which officially begins at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

Cleveland has until midnight Sunday to decide whether to extend qualifying offers to shooting guard Wayne Ellington ($3.1 million) and small forward Omri Casspi ($3.3 million), as well as whether to pick up its $2.2 million team option on the second and final year of small forward C.J. Miles’ deal.

The Cavs will almost certainly let Casspi walk and become an unrestricted free agent, but they could extend a qualifying offer to Ellington. The guard could simply accept the one-year qualifying offer or test the market as a restricted free agent.

It will be interesting to see what the Cavs do with Miles. His deal is cheap, by NBA standards, but Cleveland added swingman types Karasev and Felix in the draft.

The biggest question regarding the current roster — whether big man Marreese Speights will opt out of his $4.5 million contract for next season — is uncertain.

Speights is unlikely to make that kind of money on the free agent market, but he might want to try to land a long-term deal now rather than wait until next season, when the talent pool is expected to be much deeper.

If Speights opts out, the Cavs could pursue big man Earl Clark, who played for Cleveland coach Mike Brown when Brown was in charge of the Los Angeles Lakers. If Speights stays, the Cavs would appear to have enough big men in him, Bennett, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Anderson Varejao.

The Cavs might also pursue a small forward in free agency, and one name to keep an eye on is sharpshooter Mike Dunleavy.

Daniel Gibson and Luke Walton are unrestricted free agents and won’t be back. Shaun Livingston and Kevin Jones are also unrestricted. There’s a chance one or both could return if they don’t find a quality offer and come cheaply.

Felix the cat

The 6-foot-6 Felix, a small forward chosen with the No. 33 pick out of Arizona State, is considered a quality athlete and hard-nosed defender.

Grant went on record Friday as saying he expects the 22-year-old to make the team.
“He’s gutsy,” the GM said. “He’s fearless. He’s willing to guard anybody. He brings energy every day.”

Felix played three seasons at Arizona State after spending one year at a junior college and averaged 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds as a senior. He will turn 23 on Aug. 17.

“I’m going to compete,” he said. “I’m a high-energy guy.”

Breathtaking

Bennett suffers from asthma, but said it is “under control” and not an issue unless he is sick or playing in high altitude.

The 20-year-old’s conditioning has also been called into question — his weight has reportedly ballooned to 261 pounds — but Grant sees a ton of positives.

“The first time we saw Anthony, all of us walked out of the gym just amazed with his ability and talent,” he said. “The more we got to know Anthony and that he was an incredibly hard worker and was going to do everything to be the best he could possibly be, it became a very easy decision (to take him No. 1).”

Dunking machine

Bennett used to keep a list of everyone he dunked on, but he’s stopped the practice.

“I thought it was fun to do,” he said. “It was just between me and my friends growing up. … It went up every game, every game. I think I gave it a year and a half, until I got to 100, and I stopped.”

Coaching staff

Though none of the names have been publicly announced by the Cavs, Brown’s coaching staff now numbers seven.

In addition to lead assistant Jim Boylan, Igor Kokoskov, holdover Jamahl Mosley, Vitaly Potapenko and Phil Handy, Grant revealed the team has also hired former longtime head coach Bernie Bickerstaff and Bret Brielmaier.

Boylan, Bickerstaff, Kokoskov and Mosley will join Brown on the bench, while Handy and Potapenko will concentrate on player development. Brielmaier’s primary duties are not known.

Bickerstaff, 69, has been in charge of five NBA teams in a 15-year career as a head coach. He most recently led the Lakers for 10 games as interim coach last season after Brown was fired just five games into the season. Bickerstaff’s career record is 419-518.

Tip-ins

Bennett posed with jersey No. 12 and Felix had No. 30 at the press conference, but a Cavs official said the rookies are not locked into those numbers.

* Grant said the Cavs’ roster for the upcoming Las Vegas Summer League was basically set, but he would not release names.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.