As trade rumors swirled before Thursday’s deadline, the Cavaliers took a more practical approach to improving their roster.
With an open roster spot and needing frontcourt help, the Cavs met Wednesday with Larry Sanders, the free-agent forward who stepped away from the game following the 2014-15 season.
The 6-foot-11 Sanders took a physical and met with Cavs coach Tyronn Lue and other team officials. Following the NBA champions’ first practice after the All-Star break – LeBron James was given the day off – Lue said he enjoyed his time with Sanders.
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”It was good,” Lue said. ”He’s a good dude. I know he has some negative things said about him, but just meeting him for the first time, just talking to him one on one, I mean, he’s a great guy. You never know, you never understand until you’re around that person and you’re able to talk to that person. With me, everybody I meet always has a clean slate. You have a clean slate until you do something wrong, so he was a great dude just talking to him.”
The 28-year-old Sanders, who was the No. 15 overall pick in 2010, averaged 7.3 points and 6.1 rebounds in 27 games for Milwaukee in 2014-15 before the Bucks bought out his contract. Sanders announced his comeback last month.
With All-Star forward Kevin Love recovering from knee surgery, The Cavs could use another frontline player and Sanders would be a nice fit. He’s athletic, can protect the rim and he has some background with Cavs assistant coaches Jim Boylan and Larry Drew. Lue only said ”we’ll see” when asked if the Cavs will sign him.
Sanders had his best season in 2012-13, when he averaged 9.8 points and 9.5 rebounds in 71 games. He played in just 23 games in 2013-14, when he also twice suspended for marijuana use.
As expected, the Cavs, who host the New York Knicks on Thursday hours after the deadline, signed forward Derrick Williams to a second 10-day contract, keeping around the 28-year-old who has been impressive since signing with Cleveland on Feb. 9. There’s a strong chance Williams be signed to a longer deal when his second 10-day expires as Lue, James and others have talked about his value.
It’s possible the Cavs could make a trade before Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline, but Lue brushed aside rumors involving starting guard Iman Shumpert, who has been linked to a possible deal with the Houston Rockets for guard Patrick Beverly.
”I didn’t even hear about that, but I’m not going to talk about trades,” Lue said. ”That’s (General manager David Griffin’s) area. I like our team. I love our team. I love what Shump’s done for us these last three years. For me, that’s not going to happen, but we’re just not going to talk about trades and all this stuff. That’s not my expertise.”
Shumpert’s been mentioned in trade speculation before, but it would seem unlikely the Cavs would trade him this late in the season after he’s played such a vital role while J.R. Smith has been sidelined following surgery to repair a badly broken thumb. Shumpert is Cleveland’s best perimeter defender and he’s improved as an outside shooter.
The Cavs have wanted to add a backup point guard since letting Matthew Dellavedova leave as a free agent last summer.
There’s still time to add one, but as Lue has learned, at this time of year everyone player seems to be going somewhere else.
”There’s rumors all the time,” he said. ”You wish you could trade and get all the people you say you can get, but it never happens. So, it’s just part of the talk. … Nothing ever happens, really, so if you hear about 200 trades, there’s probably two that happens.”