BOSTON — When the Cleveland Cavaliers completely revamped their roster last week by sending out six old players and bringing in four new ones in their place, the prevailing thought was that George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. would be largely responsible for giving the Cavs a face-lift.
It turns out that a byproduct of the roster shake-up was a role being freed up for rookie Cedi Osman, who is already making a big impact. The small forward from Turkey will receive his third straight start Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Cleveland’s last game before the All-Star break, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue announced after Monday’s practice at Emerson College.
Osman, selected with the first pick of the second round of the 2015 NBA draft after Cleveland traded point guard and 2015 first-round pick Tyus Jones to the Minnesota Timberwolves, has filled in the starting spot vacated by Jae Crowder the past two games. He has averaged 14 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in those starts.
Lue originally said he only planned to start Osman against Atlanta while the Cavs waited for their four new players to complete the onboarding process. But after the way Osman played against the Hawks, he earned a start against the Boston Celtics. And after the way he played against the Celtics — helping Cleveland to its second straight win with him as a starter — he earned a start against the Thunder.
“I mean, I like what he brings,” Lue said, adding that Osman’s presence moves LeBron James to the power forward spot, which is an added bonus. “It’s a big disadvantage [for the opponent] having [James] at the 4, because now you’ve got four guys that push it out on the break. I think that’s big. I think having Hood come off the bench and being a scoring power, a scoring threat, being able to run things through him I think is big also. I like where we’re at right now, and we’ll just kind of go from there and see how it plays out.”
Osman, who was born in Macedonia and played professional basketball in Turkey since he was 14, says his success with the Cavs is causing quite the stir back in his former home.
“The last two nights I was a trending topic (on Twitter) in Turkey,” Osman said Monday. “I mean, it is a big deal. But for me, seriously, I’m just having a lot of fun.”
However, there was one Twitter notification from an American account that stood out above the rest, according to Osman.
For all the positive attention he’s received, the wide-open fast break dunk the 6-foot-8 Osman missed in the second quarter of Sunday’s win over the Celtics earned him notoriety of another kind.
— Shaqtin’ a Fool (@shaqtin) February 11, 2018
“They were saying, ‘Welcome to Shaqtin’ a Fool’ and that was the only one that I cared about and I was laughing a lot,” Osman said. “But, it’s all good. I made it. So, it’s all good.”
Osman’s slip-up on the slam — which was preceded by him attacking the passing lane and nabbing a steal off of a Kyrie Irving dish, keep in mind — was quickly forgiven by the Cavs.
“He missed a dunk,” James said after the game Sunday. “It happens. It happens, and we move onto the next play. He made back-to-back 3s in the fourth. Cedi is a, he had an and-1, he’s a great player, he’s going to continue to get better and better. So, we’re not going to say much about that missed dunk.”
The 22-year-old Osman remained light-hearted about the blunder.
“I don’t know what happened, seriously,” Osman said. “Probably I get too excited. I don’t know. But I saw everybody stand up and when I missed the dunk, I saw like, Jeff (Green) was so happy and then he was like, ‘Ohhhhh.’ But, it’s all good.”
Osman was proud that the missed dunk didn’t derail his whole game. He moved on and continued to perform, just like he’ll move on from guarding Irving and Jayson Tatum to Russell Westbrook and Paul George on Tuesday.
“That was an important challenge for me,” Osman said. “When I missed that dunk, I keep playing and coaches and my teammates keep supporting me and I keep playing. For me, it was really important to keep playing and that’s what I did and the mental preparation was really good for me.”