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The two main guys to watch this year are obviously JJ Hickson and Christian Eyenga. Luckily, Brian Windhorst and John Krolik are doing a great job covering both.


Here's John on Hickson from the first game against the D-League Select team


The North Carolina State product still shows flashes of brilliance, or at least extreme competence. On Tuesday, Hickson finished alley-oops, faced his man up for a strong and-1, converted a beautiful reverse layup with the explosiveness and grace of a wing player, and even drained a pull-up jumper for good measure.


The bad news for Cavaliers fans is that Hickson's defensive issues are still there. Hickson was regularly out of place on defense, and the D-League Select squad managed to shoot 56 percent on 2-point baskets against the Cavaliers' summer league team. To make matters worse, Hickson grabbed only one rebound in the first half. Hickson did step up his intensity in the second half, playing better defense and grabbing eight rebounds, but his lack of defensive focus in the first half was not what the Cavaliers coaching staff wants to see from their young power forward this summer.


After the game, Scott had this to say regarding Hickson: "[Hickson] came to me and said he thinks he can have a bigger impact. I do too. His role is obviously going to be expanded, and I told him, 'I expect you to play extremely well next year. '"


For the past two seasons, the championship-or-bust pressure on the Cavaliers made putting Hickson into the rotation a risk not worth taking. Much of that pressure is gone now, and Hickson will have much more of a chance to prove himself than he did under former coach Mike Brown. Scott expects Hickson to step up and play a major role for the post-LeBron Cavaliers. Only time will tell if Scott can mold the young power forward into the two-way force he's always been capable of becoming.




And a more complete recap of the next game against Phoenix


-Hickson (34 points) is obviously the story in this one. He’s really trying to expand his game, and he was throwing a lot of stuff against the wall against the Suns. Sometimes it worked for him, and sometimes it didn’t — he had a nice step-back jumper from the free throw line, but also had his fair share of travels in the post and forced shots out of face-up situations.


Where Hickson really shone was in the open court — this Summer League is pushing EVERYTHING, and nobody has an answer for Hickson’s athleticism in full-court situations. Even when the straight-up break didn’t work, the break did a good job of scrambling Phoenix and giving Hickson some lanes to go through. On defense, I didn’t notice him either way, which represents major progress from the D-League game.


-Eyenga is still raw, but he’ll take your breath away. He jumped clean across Matt Janning for an offensive rebound early, and it was impressive. He just glides up there. His fast-break tomahawk was also very impressive. He looks pretty lost off the dribble, although he did have one nice one-dribble drive to the hoop late that everyone on the staff wants to see more of from him. I still think he’s a year away, but there’s real talent there.


-Green played more in control, but he’s being forced to try and do way too much on his own right now. He’s not a #1 option, no matter how much stuff gets run for him. He can really play, but Summer League isn’t a good opportunity for him to show his strengths.


-Pooh Jeter wants a chance somewhere. He’s confident, and he has some skills. Not sure if he has NBA talent, but he might be forcing the Cavs to give him a look.


-After the game, I talked with Danny Green and Byron Scott. Green was excited about the up-tempo style, wants to improve his consistency, and says he’s not letting the roster moves and rumors distract him — I actually had to tell him that Z signed with Miami.


When I asked him about what he’s trying to do to get the team out on the break, he says that he’s focusing on his defense, and that he’s looking to push the ball whenever he gets it in his hands.


When I asked Byron Scott why New Orleans didn’t play at a fast pace when he played there, he said they didn’t have enough athletic wings to make it work. Chris Paul was pushing the ball, but there was nobody there to run with him except for Tyson Chandler. With Cleveland, Scott thinks that wing players like Jamario Moon, Danny Green, and Eyenga will help the Cavs run, and that JJ Hickson will be a huge asset in the up-tempo game.


When I asked him if Eyenga would be on the roster or not, Scott called him a “work in progress,” but said he loved the way Eyenga had progressed. He wants Eyenga on the weak-side a little more, which would be a great way to utilize Eyenga’s athleticism.


Alright campers, it’s been a long day. I’m starting to like the young, run-first, athletic Cavs that nobody expects to do anything. Maybe it’s just being in Vegas — anything’s possible here, right? More tomorrow, everyone.




And Windhorst on that same game, with a bigger focus on Eyenga


LAS VEGAS -- Whether you're watching him in a practice or a game, usually within a few minutes it is easy to see why the Cavaliers were so attracted to the talent of Christian Eyenga.


Often, at the same time, it is easy to see why it is hard to figure what to do with him. The 2009 first-round pick from the Congo is immensely gifted with remarkable leaping ability and long arms on his 6-foot-7 frame and the ability to get from one side of the floor to the other in an instant. He can close to block a shot in a flash or outrun everyone on the floor to finish a fast break.


But then he'll miss a defensive assignment, take the wrong angle on defending a screen roll or get trapped on the wing without a move to counter the defender.


"He's raw," said Cavs coach Byron Scott. "But so talented."


Eyenga had 13 points in the Cavs' 93-82 victory over the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night in the team's second game of the Vegas Summer League. J.J. Hickson had another impressive performance, scoring 34 points on 12-of-19 shooting with nine rebounds as he continues to show off his offensive progress against less-talented players.


But the Cavs' eyes are focusing on Eyenga. None of his points were more impressive than his vicious one-handed dunk on a fast break that lit up the fans at UNLV's Thomas and Mack Center. It was the sort of play that makes a player with Eyenga's ability stand out in a group of young players attempting to get noticed.


The Cavs are using the five games this week to help them determine if they want to sign Eyenga and bring him to training camp in the fall. Last year, after a choppy summer league, they let Eyenga sign a contract to play with a team in Spain.


But he didn't play all that well and didn't get much court time, stalling his development a bit. That perhaps convinced the team they need to bring the 21 year old to Cleveland sooner rather than later so they can more closely monitor him.


With Scott's up-tempo style, a player like Eyenga is attractive because of how he can run and jump. Plus he has the size and tools to be a good defender. But everyone admits he's got a long way to go in terms of skill development and that might even mean spending time in the D-League next season.


"I hope to come back and play in Cleveland next season," said Eyenga, who is working on his English. "I like [scott]. It is a little bit hard, he makes us work in practice but I want to play with him next season. He's likes to run and that is my game."


The Cavs will probably make the decision on Eyenga by the end of the month. Though nothing is certain, it seems like the team is leaning toward signing him. He has two seasons left on his contract with the Spanish team Joventut, but has a manageable buyout.


"I think the language barrier still holds him back," Scott said. "He'll say he's got something and then he'll make the same mistake. But I love his athleticism and I love his attitude."



And more Windhorst from today's game against Chicago, with Hickson starring again.


LAS VEGAS -- Usually what gets a lot of attention in summer league are the surprises, but often the non-surprises are the most important for the real season.


Classify what J.J. Hickson is doing for the Cavs in the Vegas Summer League as one of those positive non-surprises. As a third-year player coming off an good season in which he became a starter, the expectation is that Hickson would have his way at the event for rookies and fringe players.


He's doing just that, adding a 21-point performance Friday in the Cavs' 81-80 win over the Chicago Bulls. The Cavs came back from 16 points down and took their first lead of the game when guard Pooh Jeter hit a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left.


While Jeter was the hero Friday, Hickson has been one of the best players in the 20-team league so far and is a candidate to win the Most Valuable Player Award. He's averaging 24.3 points and 7.3 rebounds on 62 percent shooting. It is exactly the kind of performance the Cavs were looking for to give him confidence going into next season.


"He's supposed to be at this level," said Cavs assistant coach Paul Pressey, who is the head coach of the summer league team that is now 3-0.


"Summer league has given him an opportunity to show his skill level and show people that he's ready to go to the next level."


Hickson hasn't just put up the numbers by outjumping less-talented players, though there's been some of that too. He's shown an improving jump shot and a floater. Mostly, he's been relentless in attacking the basket.


Needing scoring, the Cavs will need Hickson so show such game in the fall.


"I know that I'm going to have a different role next season," Hickson said. "I'm just trying to get ready for it."

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