Will Cherry

Report: With Mekel out due to visa issue, A.J. Price to sign with Pacers

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You’ve got to feel for Israeli born Gal Mekel, who got waived by Dallas at the end of training camp but due to injuries to George Hill and C.J. Watson was going to get his shot in Indiana. Except there ended up being work visa issues — he can’t get a new visa until Friday and the roster exemption the league granted the Pacers expires today. So he’s out.

One man’s problems can be another’s opportunity.

Enter A.J. Price, who will sign with the Pacers, reports Marc Stein of ESPN Sports.

Price was a former second round pick of the Pacers who spent three seasons with the team starting in 2009, then bounced to Washington and Minnesota the past couple seasons. Price was in camp with the Cavaliers but was waived before he played in a regular season game for them (they brought in Will Cherry to replace him).

The reason for all the bouncing around is Price is supposed to be a three-point specialist (more than half his shots came from there the past two seasons) but he shot 27.3 percent from beyond the arc last year and is a career 32.1 percent. That’s not good enough. Aside that he’s just kind of a placeholder — he’s not really bad at anything, he takes care of the ball, but he doesn’t really create anything or have a great NBA skill.

He’ll get the chance to prove that assessment wrong in Indiana, where they are thin at the point guard spot (Donald Sloan starts, and he put up 31 on John Wall and the Wizards Wednesday, but there is no real backup right now).

Report: Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova could miss 17 games

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The Cavaliers have been outscored by six points in the 126 minutes LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving have shared the court this season.

But not all hope is lost for Cleveland’s big three.

With the right complements, the trio has performed well enough. When those three play with Matthew Dellavedova, for example, the Cavaliers are +4.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Cleveland’s season if there weren’t bad news.

Chris Haynes of The Plain Dealer:

Doctors in Salt Lake City have diagnosed Cavaliers backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova with a Grade II MCL sprain in his left knee, league sources told Northeast Ohio Media Group.

We have been informed that he could miss up to six weeks. The Cavaliers will get Dellavedova checked out in Cleveland before they release any information.

If Dellavedova is out six weeks, he’d miss 17 games. That’s a significant length for someone who could play a major role.

I thought Dellavedova – not Shawn Marion, who took the job – was Cleveland’s best option to replace Dion Waiters in the starting lineup. Dellavedova can hit open shots, and his craftiness with the ball could grease a stagnant offense. His defense is nothing special, but he wouldn’t be a total liability on that end.

A key question would be who would replace Dellavedova as Irving’s primary backup at point guard – or whether Dellavedova could handle those minutes too. Recently signed Will Cherry could see more action, though he didn’t play against the Jazz last night with Dellavedova out.

Irving played 45 minutes in the loss, an unsustainable number if Dellavedova is out this long.

Either David Blatt will have to show trust in Cherry, give Waiters minutes at the one or find some other option. With Dellavedova sidelined, the Cavaliers’ challenge is even stiffer.

Cavaliers sign guard Will Cherry

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The Cleveland Cavaliers signed point guard Will Cherry on Sunday, the team announced in a press release. They had previously waived veteran guard A.J. Price, creating an open roster spot.

Cherry, who played college basketball at the University of Montana, was signed by the Toronto Raptors this summer but was cut before training camp. His rights were controlled by the Cavs’ D-League affiliate, the Canton Charge. The press release says Cherry is the fifth player called up from the Charge to the Cavs in team history.

When Price was initially waived, there was speculation that the move was to create a spot on the roster for Ray Allen, who has been linked to the Cavaliers for some time but hasn’t made clear his plans for the 2014-15 season. But the signing of Cherry makes it clear that’s not the case. If Cleveland wants to sign Allen, they will have to cut another player.

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Toronto Raptors

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Last season: The Raptors had one of the most satisfying regular seasons in the league. Their 48-34 record was a franchise best, and fans really embraced the team after it traded Rudy Gay. The deal with the Kings cleared the way for the Raptors to elevate young and likable players, assembling a starting lineup of Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas.

DeRozan became an All-Star. Lowry was even better. Valanciunas grew into a larger role, and Ross is following right behind him. Johnson was the glue that held everything together.

It really worked.

But Toronto ran into the experienced Nets in the first round of the playoffs, and Brooklyn upset the third-seeded Raptors in seven games.

Signature highlight from last season: The Raptors established an identity after the Gay trade – feisty and confident. Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri showcased that when he addressed fans before Game 1 against the Nets, shouting “F— Brooklyn:”

If you want something on the court, Lowry made an awesome buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the Raptors’ Game 5 win over the Nets. That series really was something.

Key player changes:

Keys to the Raptors season:

Kyle Lowry (and everyone) staying hungry: Lowry got into better shape last season. He stopped frequently fighting with coaches, and he became a better teammate. That led to the best season of his career.

Oh, by the way, he was in a contract year.

Has Lowry really turned a corner, or did the prospect of a big paycheck just temporarily convince Lowry to change his act?

The answer to that question will determine the Raptors’ fate, not only this season but in coming years. They gave Lowry a four-year, $48 million contract this offseason.

Based on last year’s team success, they also generously re-signed Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez for north of $6 million per season each.

Will everyone remain as motivated as they were last year? Lowry will set the tone.

The value of continuity: On the flip side of the motivational question, the Raptors return their six most-used players from a season ago – DeRozan, Lowry, Valanciunas, Johnson, Ross and Vasquez. They can really settle into Dwane Casey’s system.

Really, the Raptors were two different teams last season – the one before the Gay trade and the one after. That second team had a limited amount of time to grow together, making up for it with a noticeable excitement for playing together. A little more seasoning could really pay dividends, especially in the postseason.

An improved bench: Lou Williams adds scoring punch, and James Johnson brings quality defense with some all-around offensive skills. Plus, Patterson returns to stretch the floor, and Vasquez is back to play behind and with Lowry.

Toronto’s bench is deeper and more complete, giving Casey potential to find some intriguing lineups and rest his starters.

Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross continuing to develop: Valanciunas looked like a future All-Star, and Ross had a 51-point game. Toronto couldn’t have asked for much more from those players in their second years.

But as Valanciunas and Ross step into their third seasons, expectations get higher. Both players must show the skills they flashed last season in more consistent doses.

Lowry and DeRozan are closer to their peaks, so the for the Raptors to reach the next level, the onus is on Valanciunas and Ross.

Why you should watch: If the Raptors merely copy what they do last season, they’re a lot of fun. They play physically and energetically, really forcing opponents to play their best. This is a team on the rise.

Prediction: 48-34, No. 3 seed in the East and a playoff-series victory. Matching their record and seed from last season might seem like a failure for the Raptors, but the East is deeper. A repeat would be a success – as long as the playoff outcome changes. Toronto is more experienced and more talented this season, and I think that gets them over the hump. The Raptors might not be in the same class as the Cavaliers and Bulls, but they’re my pick – over the Wizards, Bobcats, Heat, Nets, Hawks and whomever else – to rise to the top of that crowded next tier.