Two months ago, they were starring for teams in the NBA Development League playoffs; now they’re part of what has already been an epic NBA Finals.
The Warriors’ Ognjen Kuzmic and James Michael McAdoo and the Cavaliers’ Joe Harris will in all likelihood remain spectators in this series, but just reaching basketball’s biggest stage has given them an unforgettable cap to a whirlwind season.
“To experience all this my first year, I count my blessings,” McAdoo told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
After leading the NBA D-League’s Santa Cruz Warriors to a title in late April, McAdoo and Kuzmic are looking to be a part of the first-ever major- and minor-league championship sweep. They celebrated the first victory at Santa Cruz’s mini Oracle, complete with “Waaaaarrioooorrrs” chants, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in the stands and a parade through the town 70 miles south of Oakland.
(Teammates Festus Ezeli and Justin Holiday also made appearances for Santa Cruz this season.)
“Obviously, it’d be awesome to win two rings,” McAdoo told the Sentinel. “It’d be something I’d never forget.”
Harris, meanwhile, has taken a step back after briefly cracking the Cleveland rotation before the All-Star break. The former Virginia Cavalier played 15 games for the affiliate Canton Charge, sometimes practicing with the Cavs in the morning and suiting up for the Charge at night.
Harris went into his rookie season open to playing in Canton. The Cavaliers first discussed the possibility of the D-League with Harris shortly after drafting him and outlined the Charge’s schedule at the start of the season. The Cavaliers also gave Harris a day or two notice to let him know which team he’d be playing for in upcoming games. The assignments would vary depending on injuries and other factors affecting the roster, but they all had the same objective.
“The Cavs organization, they have good ties with the D-League team and use it pretty well as a developmental team,” said Harris. “They try to take advantage of it with the younger guys. They talk to you like, ‘We’ve invested in you and want you to be developing and working.’ You can’t simulate playing 35 minutes in an actual game in an individual workout with your coaches.”