INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Wearing new threads, that of his former NBA Finals rival, new Cleveland Cavaliers swingman Patrick McCaw spoke with excitement about the next chapter of his career.
But before officially turning the page, McCaw had a few questions to answer first.
Like, why would a 23-year-old former second-round pick want to leave the Golden State Warriors, the league’s premier organization that took a chance on him and turned him into a two-time NBA champion?
“That’s a tough question,” McCaw said following his first practice with the Cavaliers Monday afternoon. “I loved playing in Golden State. My teammates, the coaches, it was nothing…really nothing stands out to me to say I didn’t want to go back. Think it was just a personal thing where I was just like, I think it was time for me to move on for a new opportunity within myself.
“Nothing against Golden State, front office, coaches, players, the environment, it had nothing to do with any of that. It’s just a personal thing and I wanted a new opportunity to move on. I can’t say anything other than it was all me. Nothing against Golden State. I just wanted to move on.”
The Warriors wanted McCaw back. They reportedly offered him a two-year, $5.2 million deal this off-season.
Their plan, according to those around the team, was to make McCaw part of the organization’s youth movement, giving him a permanent spot in the rotation. As The Athletic’s Anthony Slater pointed out Sunday, the Warriors even kept McCaw’s name placard above his old locker.
Golden State never expected things to turn out this way, with McCaw — a restricted free agent — essentially holding out, being away from the team and inking an offer sheet with someone else. But that’s how it all ended, with the Cavs signing him to an offer sheet on Friday and the Warriors letting the clock tick away, giving him the opportunity he wanted to officially join the Cavaliers.
So what was McCaw looking for that the champs couldn’t provide?
“That’s a good question. I couldn’t even give you an answer,” McCaw said. “I think, for myself, I took a different approach to this whole situation. I was uncertain if I would get an offer sheet or anything. But being positive in myself and knowing something would come. I can’t really look back on the last two months and how I handled the whole situation, I can only continue to focus on now and the future. That’s all I’m waiting for.”
McCaw will get that chance for the injury-riddled Cavs that are desperate for healthy bodies. Cleveland has used 16 different starting lineups this season and is still without Rodney Hood (Achilles), Kevin Love (foot), David Nwaba (knee), Ante Zizic (knee) and Tristan Thompson (foot).
Both Thompson and Hood were able to practice on Monday, a promising sign as they both inch closer to a return. Still, depth isn’t a bad thing and the Cavs are thrilled to add McCaw to the mix, someone who brings energy, defensive tenacity and versatility.
“I’m just a basketball player,” he said when asked about his natural position. “I feel I can guard multiple positions and handle the ball. I can defend. I can shoot. I don’t really look at myself as a 1, 2, or 3, just consider myself a basketball player.”
During his time away, while waiting for an offer and keeping hope when his immediate future looked cloudy, McCaw worked with his dad back at home. They focused on conditioning, strength and shooting, getting numerous shots up daily. McCaw also stayed connected to the game by studying.
In his first practice Monday, Cavs head coach Larry Drew was surprised at how easily McCaw was able to get up and down the floor. The Cavs are going to try to work in him slowly, not cram too much information in such a short period, but Drew expects McCaw in the lineup on Wednesday.
McCaw didn’t hesitate when asked if that’s realistic.
“Yeah, I’m ready,” he said. “If I don’t play, whenever the coaches feel like I can play, I will be ready whenever.
“Excited for a new opportunity. Excited to meet my teammates, new coaches, get a feel for everything that Cleveland has to offer. A little nervous, but it’s basketball at the end of the day.”
Representing this new beginning, and because his old No. 0 is taken by All-Star Kevin Love, McCaw will wear the No. 3 in Cleveland.
After a bumpy few months and an incredibly unique way of handling restricted free agency, McCaw finally has clarity.
The end result: McCaw goes from a team with title aspirations to one with the worst record in the league. He goes from getting guaranteed money from the Warriors to a non-guaranteed two-year deal worth $6 million in Cleveland.
Even with that being his new reality, McCaw wouldn’t change anything about how he handled this process.
“I feel great. I bet on myself and stayed positive,” McCaw said. “A lot of guys in my position, being 22 or 23 years old, probably would never take that chance because they don’t know what the outcome could possibly be. I know I had injuries and things like that last season and I’ve just been continuing to work to get better and constantly make strides within myself.
“That’s how I’ve always been. Just focusing on myself, getting better within myself and telling myself I can be great at this game.”