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Quick Notes From Cavaliers Media Day

Darius Garland and Tristan Thompson
(John Kuntz/

Attending the Cleveland Cavaliers was a fun experience. Getting to see the players in a slightly less formal setting and having a good time during media day was a novel experience. There was a lot more joking around than in a normal press conference setting. Most of the answers given to questions were rote press conference fare, “It was a tough loss to the New York Knicks,” “We learned a lot,” “We worked hard in the offseason,” and so on and so forth, but it was nice to see everyone all at once. 

Despite that, it’s incredible how players’ personalities can still come out. Evan Mobley is a bit awkward and quiet. Darius Garland has swagger and confidence in spades. Mitchell is effortlessly charming. Jarrett Allen is contemplative and calm. Max Strus is no-nonsense and serious, while Tristan Thompson is just plain fun. Caris LeVert is kind of an everyman. Having a team full of distinct personalities makes them much easier to root for. 

While personality observations were fun, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything of worth in the actual discussion. Here are some quick-hitting highlights. 


Koby Altman and J.B. Bickerstaff

Cavaliers Media Day

Cleveland Cavaliers Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff and General Manager Koby Altman answer questions during media day in Cleveland, OH, on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (Patrick Yen/ Back Sports Page)

Ricky Rubio is an excused absence until further notice. Retirement is not on the cards, and the Cavaliers do expect him back at some point.

Max Strus and Georges Niang were brought in for shooting, of course, but also for their grit and attitude, which they thought the Cavs lacked in some measure. Bickerstaff went on to say it wasn’t physical or mental toughness they thought they lacked but physical strength, essentially refuting the above statement. 

The team being too quiet was brought up a few times, which is another reason Tristan Thompson was brought in.

They want to increase Evan Mobley’s usage and time with the ball in his hands. Whether that leads directly to scoring or just making the right pass when he needs to remains to be seen, but Mobley initiating the offense after a rebound seems to be on the cards. Bickerstaff said, “We believe he [Mobley] can flirt with triple-doubles this year.” We heard them say all last year they wanted Mobley to take charge more but never saw a large usage increase, but another offseason might be the key. 

Neither of them was eager to confirm Strus as the starter, although we’ll see later that might not be true. 

Strength development was a popular topic. Even though Mobley’s name wasn’t directly mentioned, it was pretty clear that’s who everyone wanted to hear about. Bickerstaff said everyone has been putting in work but also made a qualifying statement that some people can get stronger without looking at it (probably talking about Mobley). Altman then directly said Mobley is just 22, and it’s about doing the process over time. Mobley’s personal gym and nutritionist were brought up a lot. That’s fine, but it also asks the question of why wasn’t this invested in or emphasized before this season. Has it not been clear that Mobley has been skinny since day one? 


Evan Mobley

Evan Mobley Media Day

Evan Mobley sits at the podium during media day in Cleveland, OH, on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (Patrick Yen/ Back Sports Page)

Again, much of the discussion was centered around the new weight room and nutrition plan. Of note, Mobley said he gained seven pounds of muscle. It wasn’t a Giannis-level transformation, but he does look somewhat bigger anecdotally.

As for skill improvements, he did reiterate pushing the ball up the floor, with playmaking, especially after a rebound, seemingly a big emphasis this offseason. For the nutrition side of things, there does seem to be a concentrated effort to gain weight. He’s apparently eating a lot of steak and pasta to that end.

One interesting thing he noted is that he views the third year as key. He said in high school, you truly get comfortable in the third year. It’s a reasonable take, and hopefully, he will take off. Given the comments, though, I’m not sure Mobley will be scoring more but facilitating more.


Caris LeVert

While he was happy with his spot-up shooting, he thought he “left points on the board” with his struggles at the rim and is working on that most. LeVert played the most games in his career this year, and it was such a departure that he called it a second rookie year. With the additional games played, though, he really needed the offseason to recuperate in ways he hadn’t before.


Donovan Mitchell

Most notably, Mitchell was apparently very active in recruiting both Georges Niang and Max Strus. He said he called Niang every day and called Strus constantly to get them both to Cleveland. That does show a level of dedication to the Cleveland cause; it’s a hard sell to recruit players if they think you won’t be around for very long.

The biggest piece of news, though, was that pretty much under no circumstances was Mitchell going to discuss an extension. He reiterated multiple times that he’s still under contract next year, and that will be the time he commits to a decision. 


Tristan Thompson 

Donovan Mitchell and Tristan Thompson

Tristan Thompson and Donovan Mitchell answer questions together during media day in Cleveland, OH, on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (Patrick Yen/ Back Sports Page)

An unexpected guest who was not on the initial list, Thompson was just so beloved and fun that they just had him come up anyway. Austin Carr decided to show up in support, and as far as I could tell, Thompson’s was the only one he sat down specifically for. Thompson was realistic and knew his job was mostly to provide leadership and experience. He stressed keeping guys accountable. He said like Kendrick Perkins mentored him, he wants to mentor Mobley.


Darius Garland

Garland said since he and Mitchell feel like they can get their shot anytime, they want to focus on getting their teammates more this year. He mentioned the whole team had a couple of different get-togethers in the offseason to get to know one another and that they talked extensively about the loss to the New York Knicks and what they could have done better.


Max Strus

He said Kevin Love was a major part of getting him here. He asked Love, and Love said it was a no-brainer to go to the Cavaliers, talking up not only Strus’ fit on the team but also how great an organization and city it was. 

Strus importantly said with no uncertainty that he expects to be the starter. While Bickerstaff refused to name one and said there were no promises, Strus implied a different story. He could just be talking himself up, but it is worth noting that Okoro was the only starter last year to not appear at the main podium. LeVert also seemed to imply he was pretty clearly coming off the bench.


Jarrett Allen

Jarrett Allen

Cavaliers Center Jarret Allen smiles at the podium during media day in Cleveland, OH, on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (Patrick Yen/ Back Sports Page)

Allen deleted his social media after the playoffs but doesn’t begrudge anyone, saying, “I’d probably do it too.”

He mentioned that while none of them have the personality of an enforcer, it’s the team’s job to do it together. Like Mobley, he also said he focused heavily on getting stronger and also facilitating. As for the physicality narrative, he understands it and also understands it won’t go away until “we do something drastic.” That could mean a lot of things, but the proof is in the pudding, as they say. 


Parting Thoughts From Media Day

Overall, it was a fine media day. Like any press conference, there were a certain amount of canned answers to get through, but there were some interesting insights to be gleaned. The players also seemed to have a good time, and camaraderie is a strength of this squad. It’s clear that for the faults J.B. Bickerstaff may have, he has his players ready to die for him and each other. The East is tougher now after the recent moves, but belief is high right now. With the talent on the roster, if a few guys can step up, they can make some real noise.


Patrick Yen is a contributor on Back Sports Page.  He has written for NBC, SB Nation, and a few more websites in his four-year sports journalism career. He has been the Back Sports Page beat writer for the Philadelphia 76ers and now the Cleveland Cavaliers. Patrick, a graduate of Ohio State University, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but moved to Columbus, Ohio, early in his life and has lived there ever since. You can find more of Patrick on Twitter @pyen117.

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