“I’m no dumb guy. I understand the game.” — Sergey Karasev, July 23, 2013
He may never provide the best sound bite. He may never win a Defensive Player of the Year award. And he may never win a Crossfit competition, kettle bells and vertical push-ups be damned. But what Sergey Karasev lacks in off-court charisma and brute strength, he more than makes up for in intelligence, his ability to put the a leather ball through the cylinder hoisted 10 feet in the air, and his willingness to improve elsewhere.
Karasev1 was introduced to Cleveland on Tuesday afternoon, treating those in attendance to his still-improving English, stories of his home life and the goals he has in place for his next chapter as an swingman in the National Basketball Association. Looking every bit of 19 years old—with fauxhawked hair, a nervous smile, and slouched posture; a kid finally enjoying his summer vacation—Karasev, with his new No. 10 jersey placed on his lap, was quick to acknowledge that his game is predicated on the offensive side of the floor. Despite his perceived shortcomings, he also believes that the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team which selected him with the 19th-overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, have the right man in place to help him grow as a player.
“I know that [Mike Brown] is a defensive coach,” said Karasev. “I’m going to play aggressive defense. I know I need to work on the physical [aspects], so I’m going to work hard and hope to help the team this year.”
Karasev, like most international players before him, referred to playing in the NBA as his “dream.” When he heard his name called alongside the 19th pick, he says he had “fire” inside, saying so with a slight smile, knowing that it may have not been the best analogy. Growing up, the 6-foot-8-inch shooting guard idolized Manu Ginobili, a player of older vintage , but plays the same position and does so at a very high level for a long time. Like Tristan Thompson (and LeBron James before him), Karasev comes equipped with ambidexterity—he shoots with his left hand, but does everything else with his right2.
In the midst of playing and training with the Russian National Team, Karasev has been granted his release from Moscow’s BC Triumph Lyubertsy. David Griffin, Cavaliers vice president of player operations, stated that the two parties are finalizing the details of the rookie’s deal and a contract is expected to be in place by week’s end3. It’s difficult to imagine, but in Karasev, the Cavaliers will have yet another player who will not have the legal ability to consume alcohol4 but will be counted on to help ensure that The Diff remains largely positive in nature.
In large part to the Cavaliers’ ownership group, the Cavaliers have been able to scout Karasev throughout his ascent overseas—multiple scouts looked on as Karasev played in junior national competition, professional contests, and international All-Star events. All of those highlights that were played on loop during the pre-draft process? Odds are that someone from the Cavaliers’ organization saw those first-hand. His scoring abilities alone are enough to turn heads; the fact that Karasev is just 19 years old and is equipped with a high basketball IQ and upside was more than enough for the Cavaliers to make the investment. The son of a coach, high-end work ethic is something that Karasev has had no choice but to carry with him every step of the way.
Before Karasev’s name was called on draft night, he had dinner with members of the Cavaliers front office. He told those in attendance that he doesn’t want to be known as a shooter, but rather a “shot maker,” because anyone can be a shooter. Countless swingmen, both American and of international vestige, have seemingly donned a Cavalier uniform, flanked in high expectations, only to find their name on the list of what-could-have-beens. Along those lines, Karasev’s contributions this season are to be determined. The team expects him to be under contract well before the start of training camp where he will be tasked with the transition between international play and the NBA. He, like his entire roster of teammates, will be forced to learn the terminology and spacing and nuances of Mike Brown’s system, but there is a high level of confidence instilled that there will be just a limited amount of bumps along that path. After all, despite his linguistic shortcoming and teenage posture that could be misconstrued as a communication gap, Sergey Karasev is no dumb guy.
Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY
- Pronounced ke-RAH-sev, regardless of how various media members have pronounced his name while discussing him. [↩]
- It’s worth noting that Thompson has decided to start shooting with his right hand despite two years of left-handed shots. [↩]
- The base salary for the 19th-overall selection starts at roughly $1.23 million, but most first-round selections sign for 120 percent of the base [↩]
- Domestically, anyway. [↩]