INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – When Darius Garland realized the Cavaliers sent general manager Koby Altman, new coach John Beilein and his entire staff to his private pre-draft workout in Los Angeles, the Vanderbilt guard drew up a personal game plan.
“I knew I had to kind of put on a show for them,” he said.
It was spectacular.
As the Cavs watched in near disbelief, Garland, whose college career ended after just five games because of a left knee injury, hardly missed a shot for the first several minutes of his session. Everything he hoisted at the rim from 15 feet dropped. Swish.
Same from 20 feet. Nothing but net from 25 and Garland eventually stepped even further back – way beyond the 3-point line, where only Steph Curry and a few other NBA shot takers hang out.
“I was pretty deep,” Garland said with a smile.
“He was shooting from back in Nashville and we were in California,” Beilein cracked.
The Cavs introduced Garland and Belmont forward Dylan Windler, the No. 26 overall pick, two-thirds of their 2019 draft class Friday. Only hours earlier, Cleveland took a significant step in its rebuild with an emphasis on shooters to space the floor. The team also traded into the first round and selected USC guard Kevin Porter Jr., but because of NBA rules, he can’t officially join the club until a proposed trade involving Detroit, Milwaukee and the No. 30 pick is finalized.
Porter was forced to wear a Bucks baseball cap Thursday night knowing full well he’s going to play for the Cavaliers.
So while they wait for Porter to arrive, the Cavs proudly paraded out their two other rookies, who were handed jerseys by Altman and then spent several minutes answering questions ranging from the Jedi warrior-inspired outfit Garland wore on stage at the draft in New York to Windler’s scratch golf game.
In minutes, it became easy to see why the Cavs are impressed with both players. They came across as likable and Garland, whose father Winston played in the NBA, exuded the kind of charisma usually displayed by the biggest stars.
He’s talented, he knows it and Garland is eager to show what he can do on the floor after his college career stopped abruptly during a Nov. 23 game against Kent State.
He had surgery, and then went through rehab with his eye on playing as soon as possible. The injury only made him hungrier.
“It was really challenging for me,” Garland said. “First time I had really been away from the game I love. It was really hard. Everyone faces adversity, that’s in the past now and just ready to get going in Cleveland.”
The Cavs envision Garland playing in the same backcourt with Collin Sexton, their 2018 first-round pick who found his rhythm –- and shooting touch –after a shaky start to have a solid rookie season.
Although Garland and Sexton have similar skill sets, Beilein isn’t worried about them meshing. He successfully ran two-guard sets while at Michigan and is confident Garland and Sexton will complement each other.
“The two of them are going to be beautiful together and make me a much better coach than I am,” he said.
As for labeling one of them a point guard and the other a shooting guard, Beilein said number tags don’t matter.
“It doesn’t make a difference,” Beilein said. “It really doesn’t make a difference. It’s a whole idea of position-less basketball. We will have two forwards, two guards and a big center. That will all depend on who we are playing, who is playing well, who is injured and hopefully we can just morph into whatever shape we need to take for games as time goes on.”
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