PHILLADELPHIA — Third-year guard David Nwaba earned his second start for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday because of his willingness to do the little things, according to coach Larry Drew.
“He’s a blue-collar guy, he plays hard,” Drew said before Friday’s game at Wells Fargo Center. “I just don’t think there are enough players like him in our league as far as having that blue-collar mentality.”
In a league that is moving further and further away from grind-it-out games and defense-first role players, Nwaba stands out to Drew because of his selflessness and enthusiasm to do what is necessary on the defensive end.
Nwaba made 12 appearances for the Cavs entering Friday’s game averaging 8.2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1.4 blocks per 100 possessions. He scored a season-high 18 points against Charlotte on Nov. 13 to go along with five rebounds and a steal.
In Friday’s loss to the Lakers, he scored seven points and grabbed three rebounds while accepting the challenge of guarding LeBron James for most of the contest.
“Everything is not predicated on having the ball and being offensive-minded,” Drew said. “He’s kind of a throwback the way he plays. And I really like that about him.”
Consistency for Cedi: Drew said the key for Cedi Osman finding consistency is not necessarily just a matter of the 6-foot-8 swingman making more shots.
Osman scored 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting in 42 minutes on Wednesday, including 5-for-7 from 3-point range.
Drew says he wants Osman and all of the young Cavaliers players to realize that consistency doesn’t always come from simply making shots. It’s their play on both ends of the floor that needs to be consistent.
“Their defensive effort, what they do as far as our coverages are concerned, rebounding, loose balls,” Drew said. “We like to sprinkle in some shots as well, but the consistency doesn’t necessarily have to just come from the offensive end.”
Eliminating the guesswork: Rookie point guard Collin Sexton is still in “learning mode” according to Drew, and he should be there all year, but getting minutes against elite point guards such as Washington’s John Wall, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker and Houston’s Chris Paul should give him an opportunity to gage his growth.
Sexton played his third turnover-free game of the season on Wednesday against L.A. and led all scorers with 8 in the first quarter against Los Angeles as the Cavaliers built a 28-24 lead. But he faded in the second half, scoring just 2 points and missing a few open looks.
“He is showing signs of developing,” Drew said. “He’s a rookie and he’s going to make mistakes and he has to learn from his mistakes, but it looks like he’s starting to get into some type of a rhythm, some type of a groove. He’s trying to just allow his natural basketball instincts to take over.”
Drew said he has tried to eliminate some of the thinking that Sexton has to do on the floor, noting that it’s tough enough being a rookie in the league.
“When you’re out there and just constantly thinking about what you have to do, it makes it tough,” Drew said. “I’ve just kind of tried to take away some of that guessing that he has to do.”
With Sexton gaining more and more confidence with each start, Drew realizes that turnover-free games like Wednesday’s effort won’t be the norm.
“That’s something that I’m willing to live with, just as long as they’re aggressive mistakes,” Drew said. “I can live with those.”
The architect: Drew was asked whether the Cavaliers can learn anything from the 76ers, who have rebuilt the franchise from a perennial basement-dweller in the Eastern Conference to a contender in the last two seasons.
Drew pointed out that his focus is on developing Cleveland’s young players, while the team’s executives are in charge of putting the roster together.
“They have a game plan and a game strategy as far as what they want to do, but that will not be my job,” Drew said. “My job is to try to get these young men prepared as much as I can every single night we step out on the floor. And allow our young guys to develop as we go through this process.”