Former Juneau-Douglas High School basketball star Carlos Boozer will get a first-hand chance to see if all the LeBron James hype is warranted when the Cleveland Cavaliers teammates play their first games together in two NBA summer leagues over the next two weeks.
The Cavaliers will play in the six-team Pepsi Pro Summer League today through July 12 in Orlando, Fla. Then they travel to Boston for the 10-team Reebok Pro Summer League from July 14-20.
The summer leagues are for younger NBA players who are in the first three years of their careers, recent draft picks and rookie free agents trying to earn an invitation to team training camps in October.
The Cavs will feature four veteran NBA players on their summer league roster - Boozer, Dajuan Wagner, Darius Miles and DeSagana Diop - all younger than 22 years old. They will be joined by James - the Akron, Ohio, high school player who was the first overall pick of June's NBA Draft - and second-round pick Jason Kapono of UCLA.
They will be joined by nine free agents - Hollis Price (Oklahoma), Robert Jackson (Marquette), Dan Miller (Notre Dame), Wesley Wilson (Georgetown), Roberto Bergeron (Boise State), Robert Conley (Clayton State College of Georgia), Geoff Owens (Pennsylvania), Jerod Ward (Michigan) and Latvian player Kristaps Valters.
"I'm very pleased with the fact that we have such good participation in this summer league, especially with guys like Darius Miles and Carlos Boozer coming in," new Cavs coach Paul Silas told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "I think it definitely will give us an advantage once training camp starts. But we have a lot of teaching to do and our players have a lot to learn.
"They still have to learn how to play with LeBron. But having him here with Miles, Boozer, Diop, Wagner and Jason Kapono, you're talking about six guys who will all be playing in this league this year. So that makes us a little different from some of the other summer league teams."
The Cavs will play the host Orlando Magic at 3 p.m. ADT today in the feature game of the triple-header that opens the Pepsi Pro Summer League. The opening day of the summer league is expected to draw crowds of more than 10,000 fans to see James make his debut with Cleveland.
After today's opening triple-header, the rest of the Orlando summer league's games will be closed to the general public, as the action shifts to the Magic's practice gym. Only team officials, scouts and media will be allowed to attend. Cleveland will play the Miami Heat on Wednesday, the Detroit Pistons on Thursday, the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday and the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.
The Cavaliers will tip off against the host Boston Celtics to open play in the Reebok Pro Summer League on July 14, with all games taking place at the University of Massachusetts. Cleveland will play the New Jersey Nets on July 16, the Dallas Mavericks on July 17, the Atlanta Hawks on July 18, the Milwaukee Bucks on July 19 and the Washington Wizards on July 20.
Silas told the Cleveland media that the four veteran players and James might be held out of some of the summer league games, but they are all expected to play in the two league openers. Silas, who coached the New Orleans Hornets last year, has already seen the veterans play. He said he might hold James out of a couple of games to give him a brief respite from the endless media whirlwind he's been in the last year or two.
When Boozer joined the Cavs for the Rocky Mountain Pro Summer League in Salt Lake City last summer, he was an unsigned second-round draft pick hoping to clinch a spot with the team. Boozer used a strong summer league performance to earn a two-year guaranteed contract (with an option for a third year), a rare occurance for a second-round pick.
Boozer won't have the same pressure to make the team this summer, as he proved to be one of the steals of the 2002 NBA Draft. Boozer earned second-team All-Rookie Team honors after finishing third in the NBA in field-goal percentage. He averaged 10.0 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.