When Byron Scott's first practice as Cavaliers coach ended after three sweaty hours Tuesday, players were lining up to get into the large cold tub at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
From the outset, Scott has promised that his team would not lose a game this season because they weren't properly conditioned, an offshoot of his plan to play an up-tempo style. In meetings and phone calls with players after he was hired in June, Scott gave fair warning that players should arrive to camp ready to run. So far, he's backed it all up.
Unlike most other teams, Scott is not employing two-a-day practices during training camp. NBA rules limit teams to three hours of court time per day, though more time is allowed for stretching, meetings and watching film. Most coaches break that up into two sessions of 90 minutes each, but Scott prefers one practice a day for three hard hours.
And they were hard.
"Guys came to camp in a lot better shape than I expected," Scott said. "So our first running thing we did I kind of cut it short because they were in pretty good shape."
"Did he? As far as cutting something short, we didn't feel it as players," Daniel Gibson said. "Thank you, Byron, if that what happened."
Scott does heavy running at the start and finish of each practice in camp and then runs a crisp schedule so players are doing drills while fatigued to help build up stamina.
But the finish seemed to make the biggest impression. The players run three series of shuttle sprints (foul line, half court, opposite foul line, full court) in a row in groups and everyone must complete them within two minutes. Scott and his assistants watch closely to make sure the players touch each line. Cheating means they have to start over.
Then they run three more.
"I saw a couple guys throw up, I'm not going to point them out, but it is good for us," Jawad Williams said. "It wasn't nothing fun, my feet are on fire."
Breakfast wasn't the only thing that didn't make it for some. Rookie Samardo Samuels cramped up and missed about the last half-hour. But otherwise, every player made it through the first day's challenge.
"Whoa, it was very tough. But I know it is going to bring us closer together, it's got to," Gibson said. "Everybody made it through and we pushed each other the whole way. We're going to start to love him for it, but right now it's tough on us."
Varejao on leave: Anderson Varejao was excused from practice so he could return to Brazil following the death of his grandfather. It was especially bad news because it came on Varejao's 28th birthday, which was Tuesday. The team wasn't immediately sure how long he'd be away.
The Jamison option: It seems there's a three-man race for the starting small forward spot between Jawad Williams, Joey Graham and Jamario Moon. But Scott said that he's planning to take a look at Antawn Jamison during the preseason as well.
The team wants to give J.J. Hickson playing time at power forward, but he and Jamison both play the position. If Jamison could play small forward, which he's done at times in his career, it may solve some issues. In the past, however, Jamison has had trouble defending quicker small forwards.
"I think he is a guy who can play both those positions," Scott said. "I know that I'm going to experiment with it in preseason and see how that works."
Powe update: While most of the Cavs were running to the point of exhaustion, the team keep a close eye on forward Leon Powe. Now about 18 months off his major knee surgery, Powe is closer to 100 percent, but the team is still being cautious. The hope is that Powe can be a regular contributor this season.
"With Leon we have to take it slow," Scott said. "I've told him he has to be honest with him and I left it up to him to let me know how he was feeling. We don't want to push him too far. It is a gradual progression with him to get him going."