Back from injury, Cavs' Billy Preston finding 'rhythm' in Vegas summer league

Former Kansas forward Billy Preston scored 12 points Monday for the Cleveland Cavaliers in his return from injury in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. |

By Gary Bedore gbedore@kcstar.com

Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach James Posey was pleased to see Billy Preston back on the court Monday, fully recovered from a quad contusion he suffered in Friday’s Las Vegas NBA Summer League opener against Washington.

“For him, he's still trying to get used to the whole setting and trying to get a rhythm for himself, and it's going to take a little bit of time,” Posey, the Cavs' summer league coach, told NBA.com after watching the 6-foot-10 former University of Kansas forward score 12 points and grab four rebounds in the Cavs’ 93-88 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Preston — he had nine points and four boards in his NBA debut Friday but didn't play in the Cavs' second game on Saturday — hit 4 of 10 shots and 4 of 5 free throws in 21 minutes Monday. He also contributed two steals and a block.

“You can see it in flashes, but he's going to get there. We are going to stay out there and keep working with him. Hopefully he’ll have a monster game because I think he’s due for one,” Posey added.

Posey noted the 20-year-old Preston needs to “just see the game a little bit, slow down a bit. He’s anxious a little bit. Sometimes he can be out of control, just not seeing the proper spacing on the floor. If he slows down a little, he’ll see the mismatches and be able to capitalize on it.”

Preston, as one Cleveland reporter stated, appears to be “shaking off the rust” after not playing much basketball since his senior season at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. (2016-17).

The McDonald’s All-American, who was ranked No. 11 in the recruiting class of 2017 by Rivals.com, represented KU in exhibition games in Italy in the summer of 2017 and during three preseason contests prior to the start of the 2017-18 campaign. However, he never participated in a regular-season game for the Jayhawks. Preston was held out of the opener against Tennessee State as penalty for missing curfew and a class, and he missed the next 18 contests as KU compliance and the NCAA looked into the financial picture surrounding a car he had been driving in Lawrence during the school year.

He traveled to Bosnia in January where he played in three games for a professional team before leaving because of an injured shoulder. Preston worked out for 10 NBA teams but was not taken in the 2018 NBA Draft.

“Larry Nance Jr. will be the starting power forward, but Preston should get quite a bit of playing time for Cleveland this season,” writes Cavsnation.com. “The possible reward far outweighs the minimal risk, as the Cavaliers aren’t going to be competing for a playoff spot this year and actually have incentive to finish with a high draft pick, as they will only have one if they are a bottom 10 team, due to Atlanta owing their selection otherwise. Preston could be one of the brightest diamonds in the rough found in years, and Cleveland should consider themselves fortunate that he fell into their laps.”

Alexander pots 12 points for Pelicans

Former KU forward Cliff Alexander scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds while playing 19 minutes in New Orleans’ 105-97 loss to Detroit on Monday in Vegas. Former KU forward Cheick Diallo, who is beginning his third year in the NBA, scored 25 points with six rebounds for the Pelicans.

Graham misses five threes

Former KU point guard Devonté Graham scored eight points on 4-of-10 shooting — he was 0 for 5 from three — with six assists and six turnovers in Charlotte’s 100-80 loss to Boston on Monday night.

Sunday’s late action

Former KU guard Svi Mykhailiuk of the Los Angeles Lakers scored 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting (2 of 6 from three) with three assists and two steals in Sunday’s 69-60 victory over Chicago. Former KU guard Malik Newman missed four shots and did not score for Los Angeles.

Former KU guard Frank Mason scored 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting (0-3 from three) in Sacramento’s 88-78 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night. He had six assists and three turnovers in 30 minutes.

“I love to see Jayhawk Nation out here or wherever I go,” Mason said after a recent game in Las Vegas as reported by kuathletics.com. “That school will always be a part of my life, my future. I love to see fans wherever I go.”

Jackson trying to lead

Former KU guard Josh Jackson, 21, is beginning his second season with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

“He’s been helping me a lot with a lot of terminology, a lot of things with the plays, especially on the defensive end,” Suns rookie DeAndre Ayton told NBA.com from the Las Vegas Summer League. “Just a lot of teaching processes he’s been telling me. He’ll just pull me over to the side.”

Jackson said he’s embracing a leadership role.

“Before I was kind of scared of taking that role because I felt I would be looking up to a lot of other guys,” Jackson said. “Whether it’s by example or just by talking, communication. I’m just trying to come out and lead my teammates.”

Nico Mannion update

Nico Mannion, a 6-foot-3 junior point guard from Pinnacle High in Phoenix, Ariz., recently wrote on Twitter that he will make a “huge announcement” on July 20 at the Elite 100 camp in California.

It has been speculated that Mannion will announce he’s reclassifying from the class of 2020 to 2019 and will be a senior this year. He’s currently ranked No. 21 nationally in the class of 2020 by Rivals.com.

On June 4, he tweeted a list of KU, Arizona, Duke, Oregon, Villanova, UCLA, USC, Utah, Marquette and Vanderbilt. Arizona is considered the heavy favorite. He’s been in Italy in recent weeks training with Italy’s men's national team with hopes of playing in the 2020 Olympics for Italy.

More on Josiah James

Josiah James, a 6-foot-6 senior point guard from Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, S.C., who recently cut his list of schools to KU, Clemson, Duke, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Florida State, Michigan State and Virginia, originally was said to be favoring Clemson and South Carolina. However, Rivals.com’s No. 11 rated player in the class of 2019 has “shiny new schools involved with his recruitment,” according to Rivals.com.

“His father played at Michigan State and Duke has gotten a lot of buzz of late as a team to really watch,” wrote Eric Bossi of Rivals.com. “We’ll see how much noise the others can make though it is interesting to note that Bill Self did get to coach James for three weeks or so on USA Basketball's 18U team so there has to be at least some strong mutual interest for Kansas to make the list.

“James doesn't play for a shoe-circuit team and because of that, some of the head coaches involved may have to go a little bit more off the beaten path than they are used to during the July evaluation periods. Which head coaches prioritize James over these next three weeks should say a lot about the direction his recruitment is headed,” Bossi added.


More from this section