Cavs kick off their new era with a statement win in Boston

Cavs kick off their new era with a statement win in Boston
Why Cedi Osman starting makes LeBron James more dangerous
nBOSTON — When the Cleveland Cavaliers completely revamped their roster last week by sending out six old players and bringing in four new ones in their place, the prevailing thought was that George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. would be largely responsible for giving the Cavs a face-lift.

It turns out that a byproduct of the roster shake-up was a role being freed up for rookie Cedi Osman, who is already making a big impact. The small forward from Turkey will receive his third straight start Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Cleveland’s last game before the All-Star break, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue announced after Monday’s practice at Emerson College.

The source of James’ dynamicism at the position comes from his physical dominance (no matter who guards him at the position), feathery touch around the rim and his passing ability. It’s simply a difficult task to stop him one-on-one in the post, especially with him mastering go-to post moves like a drop-step or post fadeaway. That causes defenders to want to cheat off their man to provide help for their teammate but the result of such a decision often leaves enough passing space for the omniscient James to find a teammate with a fancy pass.

Editor’s PicksClarkson: LBJ told us, ‘That’s the way to hoop'”It’s almost like the new guys have been here,” LeBron James said of the revamped Cavaliers following a rousing win over the Celtics on Sunday. “It was a good start for the new guys, a good start for all of us.”

Osman, selected with the first pick of the second round of the 2015 NBA draft after Cleveland traded point guard and 2015 first-round pick Tyus Jones to the Minnesota Timberwolves, has filled in the starting spot vacated by Jae Crowder the past two games. He has averaged 14 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in those starts.

Lue originally said he only planned to start Osman against Atlanta while the Cavs waited for their four new players to complete the onboarding process. But after the way Osman played against the Hawks, he earned a start against the Boston Celtics. And after the way he played against the Celtics — helping Cleveland to its second straight win with him as a starter — he earned a start against the Thunder.

After getting a steal, the 22-year old Osman drove down the floor and went up for a two-handed dunk. However, he threw it off the side of the rim and it ricocheted out of bounds. That one play got him plenty of attention on Twitter, as it was immortalized by the “Shaqtin’ a Fool” account, which is the social-media presence for a weekly NBA on TNT segment hosted by Shaquille O’Neal.

“I mean, I like what he brings,” Lue said, adding that Osman’s presence moves LeBron James to the power forward spot, which is an added bonus. “It’s a big disadvantage [for the opponent] having [James] at the 4, because now you’ve got four guys that push it out on the break. I think that’s big. I think having Hood come off the bench and being a scoring power, a scoring threat, being able to run things through him, I think is big also. I like where we’re at right now, and we’ll just kind of go from there and see how it plays out.”

“I think he’s the best point guard in the world right now, and with those handles, it was really tough for me. It was a great challenge, so if I start again, it’s going to be a great challenge guarding Paul George or Russell Westbrook. Russ is very good, a lot of energy, so it’s going to be another big challenge for me.”

Cavaliers will continue to start rookie Cedi Osman at small forward

Osman, who was born in Macedonia and played professional basketball in Turkey since he was 14, says his success with the Cavs is causing quite the stir back in his former home.

Why Cedi Osman starting makes LeBron James more dangerous
Why Cedi Osman starting makes LeBron James more dangerous

“The last two nights I was a trending topic [on Twitter] in Turkey,” Osman said Monday. “I mean, it is a big deal. But for me, seriously, I’m just having a lot of fun.”

GIF Sunday’s big Cavs-Celtics tilt in Boston is not shaping up how you might’ve reasonably imagined: The Cavs, with four brand new guys making their first ever appearances in Cavs jerseys, are mostly giving the business to the Celtics. That business featured this highlight, when J.R. Smith smushed the bejeezus out of Aron Baynes with a monster driving dunk in the first quarter:

However, there was one Twitter notification from an American account that stood out above the rest, according to Osman.

For all the positive attention he has received, the wide-open fast-break dunk the 6-foot-8 Osman missed in the second quarter of Sunday’s win over the Celtics earned him notoriety of another kind.

“Welcome to Shaqtin’ a Fool, my man!” @cediosman 😂 #shaqtin pic.twitter.com/Tss4Xo94rt

“They were saying, ‘Welcome to Shaqtin’ a Fool’ and that was the only one that I cared about and I was laughing a lot,” Osman said. “But, it’s all good. I made it. So, it’s all good.”

But, one under-the-radar player has recently emerged as a legitimate producer for coach Tyronn Lue’s squad: rookie Cedi Osman. Lue put Osman in the starting lineup on Friday (when their newcomers weren’t able to suit up) and put up 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting along with six rebounds, five assists and three steals in 39 minutes of a 123-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

Osman’s slip-up on the slam — which was preceded by him attacking the passing lane and nabbing a steal off a Kyrie Irving dish, keep in mind — was quickly forgiven by the Cavs.

Cedi Osman embraces Twitter reaction to missed dunk, focuses on improvement with Cleveland Cavaliers
Cedi Osman embraces Twitter reaction to missed dunk, focuses on improvement with Cleveland Cavaliers

“He missed a dunk,” James said after the game Sunday. “It happens. It happens, and we move on to the next play. He made back-to-back 3s in the fourth. … He had an and-1, he’s a great player, he’s going to continue to get better and better. So, we’re not going to say much about that missed dunk.”

“I saw everybody stand up and when I missed the dunk, I saw like, Jeff (Green) was so happy and then he was like, ‘ohhhhh,’” Osman said. “But, it’s all good. … When I missed that dunk, I keep playing and coaches and my teammates keep supporting me and I keep playing. For me, it was really important to keep playing and that’s what I did, and the mental preparation was really good for me.”
Cavaliers rookie Cedi Osman enjoys trending on Twitter in Turkey, being a 'Shaqtin' Fool'
Cavaliers rookie Cedi Osman enjoys trending on Twitter in Turkey, being a ‘Shaqtin’ Fool’

“I don’t know what happened, seriously,” Osman said. “Probably I get too excited. I don’t know. But I saw everybody stand up, and when I missed the dunk, I saw like — Jeff [Green] was so happy and then he was like, ‘Ohhhhh.’ But, it’s all good.”

Missing wide-open layups and dunks happens to even the best NBA players. It was bound to happen to Osman sooner or later, and it’s better that it happened in this rookie year on national television. It’s the best environment to learn from.

Osman was proud that the missed dunk didn’t derail his whole game. He moved on and continued to perform, just like he’ll move on from guarding Irving and Jayson Tatum to Russell Westbrook and Paul George on Tuesday.

Osman played it off immediately, however, which was a veteran move. After the game, he provided an explanation for why he may have missed such an easy look, per Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com.

“That was an important challenge for me,” Osman said. “When I missed that dunk, I keep playing and coaches and my teammates keep supporting me and I keep playing. For me, it was really important to keep playing, and that’s what I did and the mental preparation was really good for me.”

After being buried in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ rotation behind LeBron James, Jae Crowder, and Jeff Green for the first half of the season, Cedi Osman finally got the chance he deserved. Osman started his first career game last Friday as the Cavs were short on bodies after trading away six players — including two starters — and the four they acquired were not able to play yet. Osman played 38 minutes, by far a career-high, and contributed with 16 points, six rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Even with the new acquisitions ready to play, head coach Tyronn Lue decided to keep Osman in the starting lineup for Sunday’s marquee matchup against the Boston Celtics. Once again, the rookie did not disappoint as he scored 12 points and added five rebounds and one assist.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Cedi Osman, for now at least, has changed Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue’s thinking about his starting lineup.

In the first two starts of the small forward’s career in the wake of Cleveland’s set of roster-morphing moves at the trade deadline, Osman has averaged 14 points, 5.5 rebounds and three assists.

After initially saying that Osman’s time in the starting lineup would be short-lived, Lue is now riding the hot hand, as Osman is expected to make a third consecutive start Tuesday when the Cavaliers play at the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I mean I like what he brings,” Lue told reporters at Monday’s practice, according to Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon. “I think having Bron at the four…it’s a big disadvantage having him at the four, because now you’ve got four guys that push it out on the break. I think that’s big.”

“I like where we’re at right now, and we’ll just kind of go from there and see how it plays out,” Lue told reporters Monday.

Even before the trades, Cleveland’s bench often outperformed their starters but after two games in which the Cavs started pretty well, Lue doesn’t want to mess with it. Lue will have some more decisions to make when Kevin Love returns but until then, Lue finally has the luxury not to tinker with anything for once this season.

That shift keeps LeBron James in a bit of a different position, as he’s forced to move to power forward with Osman in the starting lineup instead of, say, Rodney Hood, who was expected to move into a starters role after coming over in one of three deadline deals last week.

“I like what he brings,” Lue said. “I think having Bron at the four … it’s a big disadvantage having him at the four, because now you’ve got four guys that push it out on the break. I think that’s big.”

Osman also did a solid job defensively Sunday guarding Boston’s Kyrie Irving in Cleveland’s 121-99 beatdown of the Celtics.

Against the Thunder, he figures to spend some time on reigning NBA most valuable player Russell Westbrook, who is expected back after missing two consecutive games with a sprained ankle.

“Russ is just very good, a lot of energy,” Osman said. “So it’s going to be another big challenge for me.”

Cleveland has won three consecutive games, scoring 121 or more points in each. Prior to that streak, the Cavaliers had a 6-13 stretch that sent management rushing to overhaul the roster before the deadline.

While Lue is letting his starting lineup be for right now, Thunder coach Billy Donovan continues to tinker.

In the eight games following Andre Roberson’s season-ending injury, the Thunder have started three different players in Roberson’s shooting forward role. Terrance Ferguson started the first five games and went 1-4 before giving way to Josh Huestis, who started in two games including the win at Golden State last week. Sunday, Alex Abrines earned a starting nod.

“I think that spot, it could be different,” Donovan said. “I don’t want to say it’s going to be different night to night, but yeah, it could change in certain situations based on what’s best for our team.”

What the Thunder do expect to have back, though, for Tuesday’s game are Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. Like Westbrook, Anthony suffered an ankle injury in the win over the Warriors last Tuesday. Both have missed the two games since.

Donovan said Monday he would have to check with the team’s medical personnel before making a determination but both were full participants in Monday’s practice.

The Thunder have won two of their last three after dropping four consecutive games in the immediate aftermath of the Roberson injury.

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