Cavs Make Point, Acquire Guard Mateen Cleaves

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Needing another point guard after trading Andre Miller earlier this summer, the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Mateen Cleaves on Tuesday from the Sacramento Kings for forward Jumaine Jones.

After dealing Miller to the Los Angeles Clippers in July for forward Darius Miles, the Cavs were left with Bimbo Coles as the only true point guard on their roster.

The Cavs are hoping the 25-year-old Cleaves, who was buried on Sacramento's bench behind Mike Bibby and Bobby Jackson, can solve some of their backcourt issues -- and jumpstart his pro career in Cleveland.

Cleaves can't wait to try.

"I think it's a perfect spot for me because Cleveland has an energetic, young, up-and-coming team with Miles, Ricky Davis and DaJuan Wagner and I'm hungry to show people what I can do," Cleaves said. "I haven't felt this good since college."

Cleaves began his pro career in Detroit -- about 70 miles from his hometown of Flint, Mich. -- after leading Michigan State to an NCAA title in 2000.

He averaged 5.4 points and 2.7 assists in 78 games as a rookie, but was traded to Sacramento before last season for guard Jon Barry and a future first-round draft pick.

Cleaves got little time sitting behind Bibby and Jackson, and averaged just 2.2 points in 32 games for the Kings.

"I'm so excited because I really feel like I'm getting a chance to play and that's all I've ever wanted," Cleaves said. "I enjoyed the winning and all of the great people in Sacramento, but I want to be in the mix on the court."

He'll get his chance with the Cavs.

"He's got something to prove," Cavs general manager Jim Paxson said. "There's an opportunity for him to earn minutes here. He's excited. He wants to play."

Cleveland is looking to add another guard, and Paxson said the team has been talking with 36-year-old free agent Rod Strickland.

"We're having discussions, but nothing is imminent," said Paxson, who indicated the club might use its trade exception to acquire another ballhandler.

For now, Cleaves gives the Cavs an insurance policy at the point.

Coles, a 12-year veteran, played in just 33 games last season before having knee surgery. Rookie Wagner played some point guard in college, but he's better suited as a shooting guard and the Cavs don't want to use him at the point unless they have to.

The 23-year-old Jones averaged 8.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in his first season with the Cavs, who got the small forward along with forward Tyrone Hill in the trade that sent Matt Harpring, Cedric Henderson and Robert Traylor to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 6-foot-8 Jones will give the Kings some much needed depth up front.

"He's a good athlete, which is where we wanted to get better," said Kings coach Rick Adelman. "We felt like we didn't need three point guards. This is going to add to our depth and flexibility."

Jones became expendable after the Cavs acquired Miles and re-signed restricted free agent Ricky Davis. Cleveland also has Lamond Murray at small forward, although he could be the next player dealt.

Murray recently released a statement voicing his displeasure with the Cavs' latest rebuilding effort. He closed by saying, "Play me or trade me."

Paxson said he spoke with Murray's agent last week.

"I told him we expect Lamond to come in ready to play and compete," Paxson said. "If something can be worked out with a trade, then the best thing Lamond can do is be ready to play."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)