Griffin said the addition of Dahntay Jones, even though he’d been “on the ground for about 45 minutes,” changed the dynamic in the photographs and in the locker room.
“Team pictures were the most vocal we’d been in a long time today,” Griffin said before the Cavs closed out the regular season against the Toronto Raptors at Quicken Loans Arena.
Just as they did a year ago, the Cavs signed Jones on the final day of the regular season. They also released Larry Sanders and signed Walter “Edy” Tavares, a 7-foot-3 center from the Raptors’ D-League 905 team.
Tavares, 25, a second-round draft pick of the Atlanta Hawks in 2014, may be more valuable as a practice player in the postseason, although Griffin said Tavares has two more years on his new contract after this one.
But Jones brings something the Cavs locker room lacked.
Jones, 36, signed with the Cavs before the final regular-season game in 2016 and appeared in 15 playoff games, totaling 17 points and seven rebounds, including five crucial points with one blocked shot in a span of 4:37 in Game 6 of The Finals. He was waived July 30, re-signed on Sept. 26, but released again on Oct. 24 and has been out of the league since.
“Dahntay keeps himself in elite condition, which is one thing that’s really meaningful, he’s always in good shape. He’s certainly not in basketball game-shape,” Griffin said. “I think what Dahntay is is the voice we needed in the locker room. Again, my fault. I think we underestimated the amount that that really mattered.
“He was a big part of what we did in the playoffs because there was never any slippage. No matter who you are, Dahntay is going to make it clear that you’re not holding up your end of the bargain. We missed that. I’m really excited he was available to us and still wanted to be part of what we were doing.”
Jones also brings an element of toughness, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.
“Yeah, he brings some toughness and a physicality and a little nasty, which we need at times,” Lue said. “So it’s just great to have him back.”
Sanders, signed by the Cavs on March 13 after two years out of the league battling personal problems, played 13 minutes in five games for the Cavs and scored four points and pulled down four rebounds. He also played in four games with the Cavs’ D-League affiliate, the Canton Charge. The Charge were eliminated from the playoffs Saturday by Tavares’ Raptors 905 team. Tavares blocked 11 shots in two games against the Charge.
With center Tristan Thompson returning against the Raptors after missing the past four games with a sprained right thumb, Griffin said the Cavs realized Sanders was further away from contributing than they thought.
“We didn’t have enough time here for him to get enough time to get comfortable,” Griffin said of Sanders. “If I know that, if I know he’s not going to play, even when Tristan’s not in games, then at that point we have to act on it. It’s not fair to the coaches to keep somebody around that won’t play.
“Larry did everything we asked him to do. He worked incredibly hard. And if we knew that we weren’t going to play him at all, it’s difficult to feel good about holding on to him heading into a year where he’s non-guaranteed, it’s not fair to him, either.”
Griffin said the Cavs had been watching Tavares with Raptors 905. He averaged 10.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.7 blocked shots and 1.4 assists in 48 games.
“Walter is one of the very few people I believe can dunk flat-footed … but that’s not what he’s here to do. Walter is really, really special as a shot blocker. I think he averaged 2.7 blocks in like 24 minutes, which is highly usual, so we’re excited about having that on the back line potentially,” Griffin said. “Whether he actually appears in a playoff game, I don’t know, but it will make practices a whole [heck] of a lot more competitive and that’s really important. These playoff practices are meaningful.”
Jones took the roster spot of DeAndre Liggins, who was waived Sunday. The Dallas Mavericks claimed Liggins off waivers Tuesday, which will save the Cavs $2 million in luxury tax, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.
Griffin said Thompson had “a really significant sprain,” and would wear a brace on the thumb going forward.
As for Thompson’s participation in the playoffs, Griffin said, “We don’t have any concern that he won’t play, in part because it’s Tristan and he’s got a high pain tolerance. We’ve got a great medical staff that is going to do everything it can to put him in the right position to succeed and I certainly expect him to.”
|The Cavaliers waived Larry Sanders after he played in just five games with the club. Ron Hoskins/Getty Images|
Report: Cavaliers to waive Larry Sanders, sign Edy Tavares from D-League
About a month ago, Larry Sanders made his return to the NBA, ending a two-plus year absence by signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers . At the time, Sanders, who walked away from the game during the middle of the 2015 season, and has dealt with anxiety and depression said:
“I’ve been personally working on my mind and my spirit, so now I feel like I can bring myself back to you all and put myself out there again, be on the court, affect the game and hopefully help a team win a championship.”
Unfortunately, it was not to be for Sanders, who, understandably, was not able to shake off the rust in time for the postseason. According to The Vertical’s Shams Charania, the Cavs will be waiving Sanders with the intention of signing Edy Tavares from the D-League.
In Sanders, the Cavs were taking a long shot on adding a rim protector who could potentially give them a few minutes in the postseason, and that’s what they’ll be hoping for from Tavares, as well.
There aren’t many players bigger than the 7-foot-3 Tavares, who sports an 8-foot wingspan. From Cape Verde, Tavares, who was drafted in 2014 by the Atlanta Hawks, has been playing basketball for only about eight years.
Playing in the D-League with Raptors 905 this season, Tavares has been impressive, putting up 10.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, and -- most important from the Cavs’ perspective -- 2.7 blocks per night. It’s hard to imagine Tavares getting many minutes in the postseason, but, given Sanders’ struggle to readjust after two years off, he figures to be better insurance.
Cavaliers waive Larry Sanders, sign C Tavares, G Dahntay Jones
The Cleveland Cavaliers have moved on from the comeback of Larry Sanders and have waived him ahead of their final game of the season, it was announced Wednesday.
Sanders played sparingly in five games over the last month after returning to the NBA following a two-year-plus absence. It was a surprising move as the Cavs signed Sanders to a two-year, non-guaranteed deal in March with the goal of preparing him for next season. He had spent most of his time with the Cavs' D-League team.
In his place, the Cavs signed guard Dahntay Jones and 7-foot-3 center Edy Tavares.
Tavares blocked 11 shots in two playoff games against the Cavs' D-League team over the weekend. He has spent the entire season playing for the Toronto Raptors' D-League team after being waived by the Atlanta Hawks last fall.
It is the second consecutive year the Cavs have signed free agent Jones on the final day of the season.
In a related move, the Dallas Mavericks claimed DeAndre Liggins off waivers from the Cavs on Tuesday. The transaction will save the Cavs more than $2 million in luxury taxes as the Mavericks will be assigned Liggins' full season salary for tax purposes on their books.
Once the signings are complete, the Cavs will have had 22 different players on their roster this season.