by Joe Gabriele, Cavs.com beat writer
here are more talented players taking the floor at Cleveland Clinic Courts this fall. But there is no player out there with a better attitude than forward John Holland.
That’s not to say there’s any Cavalier veteran out there with a bad attitude. It’s just that Cleveland’s recent two-way signing seems to have things pretty well figured out for a 28-year-old who’s taken a circuitous route to the pros.
Holland appeared in 37 games with the Canton Charge last season, averaging 22.9 points, 4.7 boards, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals, logging a league-high 38.8 minutes per contest. On February 2, he dropped 37 points on the Long Island Nets, and at season’s end was named the G League’s Impact Player of the Year.
The 6-5, 205-pounder from the Bronx played his college ball at Boston University – where he was named Honorable Mention All-American after his senior season. He played overseas in France and Turkey before returning to the States, returning to sign with Canton during the 2015-16 season.
This summer, the Wine & Gold inked the versatile Holland to a two-way deal – meaning he’ll split time all season between Cleveland and Canton. He’s been a solid contributor in Camp, and in Sunday afternoon’s loss to the Wizards in Washington, came off the bench to tally 14 points, going 4-of-5 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from long-range.
Cavs.com sat down with the easy-going small forward as preseason winds down and the regular season rapidly approaches …
What’s your mindset as a two-way player, having to stay ready for two entirely different levels of competition?
John Holland: I think it’s exactly that. Just stay ready — whenever they need, for whatever they need and however much time they need, I’m ready. I actually think it’s kind of fun.
You’ve played at all levels – NBA, G League and internationally. What’s the advantage of playing in the G League as opposed to going overseas?
Holland: Well, I think before this year it was the simple fact that you had the opportunity to get called up to the NBA. And being in the United States, whether it be closer to your family or to things you know, some guys prefer that.
Personally, I’ve had great experiences. I’ve had great experiences everywhere I played — not just in the G League, but also overseas. I’ve had some wonderful experiences.
I think, really before this year, it was less financial and more about that opportunity to get a call-up with the team and, you know, potentially live out your dream. And now, with the two-way, it can also be financial.
But at the end of the day I think everybody who does this just wants to play at the highest level.
This is your second year coming to Training Camp with the Cavaliers. How’s it been?
Holland: It’s been fun, man! I’m going up against, like, my favorite players from when I was in high school — D.Wade and LeBron! Now I’m seeing them every day, going up against them every day and it’s like a dream. It’s really cool.
But there’s so much talent, so much energy, so much competition in the room. I think it just forces you to always play at a high level whenever you get out there.
Will coming to Camp with a loaded team like the Cavaliers help you down the road in Canton?
Holland: It could be an advantage. But any time you step on the floor you have to take the same approach.
I don’t really think that you necessarily have to have a different approach here than you do in Canton. It’s really kind of the same thing for me — I always try to play my best.
What’s your Canton experience been like over the past couple seasons?
Holland: I mean, it’s been a blessing for me. The last two years, I’ve had fun playing in Canton. I’ve had a blast.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have some great teammates and great people along the way. So, I’ve always thought of it as a blessing — and I’ve had some success, too. So, all that combined, it’s been great.
Can it be difficult to keep a good attitude bouncing back and forth from the G League?
Holland: Guys have guys have different situations. I’ve heard different stories about G League, how it could be rougher for some people. I don’t know.
I’ve been fortunate enough where I’ve never had that experience. I’ve always had a great situation with great guys and great coaches and it’s just a great organization.
What’s the main reason for your success in the G League?
Holland: (extended pause)
I don’t know how. I hope to think it’s because I’m good at basketball. (Laughs)
Actually, I think, to be honest, that having a good attitude in the G League is incredibly important. Because you have so many ups and downs. You’re always hoping to get called up. There’s always that thought in the back of your mind: ‘Aw, man. If I have a bad game, is that gonna hurt me?’ ‘Will it help me if I have a good game?’ We kind of live day-to-day.
And it’s imperative to have a good attitude: to never get too high or too low and to just always be positive. I think that’s the main thing in the G League is just be positive – because it can get rough in the trenches down there. It’s not glamorous.
Some guys go to the G League and feel they need to drop 35 points a night to get back to the NBA. How do you stay within your game in Canton?
Holland: Honestly, anywhere I go I just play my game. G League, NBA, overseas. In my eyes, there’s really nothing else I can do.
Some guys think that’s their game. It’s a different level.
You’ve got a lot of guys coming from college, coming to a higher level and they’re trying to adjust — to see what they can do and what they can’t do. And it’s a struggle for some people, because it’s a real transition.
What are you looking forward to this season? What are your goals?
Holland: I’m actually looking forward to Canton because I get to start the season (with the team) this year. So I think it’s going to be fun.
Honestly, I just want to get better. That’s my thing. I just want to play at the highest level. Even if I’m not at the highest level, I want to PLAY at my highest level. So, it doesn’t really matter where I am.
As long as I’m playing at my best, everything’s ok.
So, if I’m in Canton the whole year and I’m playing at a high level, I’m at peace with the fact that I’m playing the highest level I can. And you know if somebody sees me and if somebody feels like I could do it at the NBA level, great.
That’s the only thing I can focus on: being the best that I can.