CLEVELAND — Shortly after riding Kyrie Irving to a 105-100 win over visiting New Orleans on Wednesday, Cavaliers teammates Marreese Speights, C.J. Miles and Wayne Ellington headed for a downtown restaurant.
There’s plenty of food in the locker room, but they wanted to relax and visit, and maybe grab a little something to eat. It’s this type of camaraderie Cavs general manager Chris Grant will take into consideration as the NBA’s trading deadline arrives Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.
The Cavs (17-37) have won 10 of 22 since the New Year, and suddenly look like a young and developing team that’s starting to get it.
The play of older reserves such as Speights, Miles, Ellington and Shaun Livingston are major factors in that. All are in their first year as Cavs. Several are in their first weeks.
And as good as Irving has been (35 points on Wednesday, including 20 in the fourth quarter) — it’s the cohesion of the bench bunch that’s beginning to turn this into a basketball symphony.
Now, clearly, Grant is all about the big picture. When you start two rookies and two second-year players, as the Cavs do, that’s the sensible approach. The GM wants to see progress from the young guys, and fill in around them while maintaining financial flexibility.
So far, Grant has done an admirable job. Without a doubt, Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson are coming along nicely. After his strong showing at All-Star weekend in Houston, some are even calling Irving a top-two NBA point guard.
With his play of late, he’s certainly in the conversation.
What the Cavs must concern themselves with now, however, are their many assets and several expiring contracts.
Speights is the biggest of those conundrums. He’s been a 6-foot-10 godsend since arriving in last month’s trade with Memphis — averaging about 13 points and 6.5 rebounds in his 11 games with the Cavs.
But he has the ability to opt out of his contract at season’s end and become an unrestricted free agent. That distinct possibility would clearly mess with the Cavs’ wiggle room.
Either that, or they could let him sign elsewhere and receive nothing beyond salary-cap relief in return.
Speights is the type of reserve who’s hard to find. He’s big, physical, plays with an edge, and at 25 years old, offers experience and attitude. He also appears to really like it here, especially after spending the early years of his career backing up All-Star-caliber forwards in Elton Brand (Philadelphia) and Zach Randolph (Memphis).
Grant has done his due diligence leading into the deadline, making calls and likely dangling Speights as a valuable asset. As is typically the case, it appears Grant is on the lookout for more draft picks.
There have been no takers, or at least nothing offered that’s been close to the type of robbery Grant has pulled lately. That may change, as these things tend to take place at the last minute.
The expiring contracts of Daniel Gibson, Omri Casspi and Luke Walton are also major chips, and one or all three could be elsewhere come Friday.
While Speights, Miles and Ellington departed for food, Casspi left the locker room alone in silence, failing to emerge from his chair for the fifth consecutive game. He wore the look of a man who would welcome change.
But with the deadline quickly approaching, everything involving the Cavs is nothing more than pure speculation. If there’s one thing Grant won’t do, it’s make a trade for the sake of it.
Trades, after all, don’t always make things better. Just different.
“I’m not expecting anything,” coach Byron Scott said of the Cavs’ trade plans.
Scott is flying to Los Angeles for the funeral of former Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss on Thursday. He’ll arrive in LA about 2 p.m. ET, or an hour before the deadline, then check in with Grant.
Like many within the organization, Scott likes more of what he’s seeing these days. He’d be just fine with it if the Cavs stayed the course and kept their pieces in place.
Same goes for the teammates who are becoming so close, and in the words of Waiters after Wednesday’s win, learning to trust one another on the floor.
Then again, sometimes business surpasses all of that, and by Thursday afternoon, Grant will have to decide if so, by how much, and what he can do about it.