CLEVELAND -- Cavaliers training camp invitee Jared Cunningham has only played 40 games in the NBA during spot appearances with Dallas, Atlanta, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Clippers over the course of the last three seasons.
But should he make the Cavs’ roster, he already has enough footwear in his collection to last him the rest of this season -- and the next 10 years, if he finds a way to stick in the league.
“I have a bunch of shoes,” Cunningham said after Cleveland’s 110-101 preseason loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday. “Probably over like 1,600 [pairs]. I’m really into shoes.”
Cunningham wore a pair of LeBron James’ signature sneakers that were originally released back in 2005, the Nike Zoom LeBron 20-5-5, in the Bucks game. This was a night after wearing a pair of Nike Zoom LeBron IIIs against the Memphis Grizzlies, shoes that were released in 2006.
“I have a bunch of LeBrons that I plan on pulling out this year,” Cunningham said Tuesday after already having slipped on a royal blue pair of low-top Air Jordan XIV retro kicks for his walk out of the arena.
His statement about already making plans to be on the Cavs' final roster was as loud as his footwear.
James has noticed Cunningham, and not just because the combo guard is the Cavs’ leading scorer at 15.0 points per game through Cleveland’s first four games of the preseason.
“He says something every time he sees one of his old shoes on me,” Cunningham said. “So I’m definitely trying to influence him to put on a pair of the old LeBrons.”
It’s certainly one way to get the best player on the team to pay attention to you.
James, whose signature sneaker line just released its 13th edition, has been known to dust off an old pair of his shoes from time to time. The sneakers Cunningham has been wearing are just that, old shoes, as Nike has yet to re-release a retro version of any of James’ sneakers since his line launched in 2003.
“My thing is really about the comfort of the shoe, and most of the old shoes are really comfortable,” Cunningham said.
“They’re really sturdy, and I like that.”
Outside of his foot fashion, Cunningham has given Cavs coach David Blatt plenty to like in training camp.
“Honestly, coming in I did not have direct experience with Jared,” Blatt said. “I hadn't really seen him play in the league. I didn't see him play in college. I know his history and looked into what he had done in the NBA and in the D-League. But this is the first time I've had a chance to work directly with him and see him on the floor, and he'd done nothing but acquit himself well in every way.
"He's playing good basketball. He's playing two-way basketball, and he's making a serious run to try and make this team. He's doing a good job.”
Even though Cunningham shot just 1-for-12 from the field against the Bucks, he once again showed his ability to get to the free throw line with six attempts. Through four preseason games, he has taken 37 free throws.
“He was averaging 10 free throws a game, and that's in about 26 or 27 minutes; that's not a small number,” Blatt said. “He has been attacking the basket. He's been playing in the open court and creating situations. The fact that he has gotten the opportunity to play a lot has a lot to do with it. But he is being aggressive, and he is being in attack mode and that's what we have asked him to do, and certainly he is coming through in that respect.”
Cunningham offered his take.
“I pretty much can get to the basket at will," he said. "It’s just making the right plays when I get there.”
While his confidence surely isn’t lacking, Cunningham knows he still has two weeks to prove himself to the Cavs’ coaching staff before he’ll have a chance to make the opening night roster in Chicago on Oct. 27.
“Just go in every day and just play your heart out,” Cunningham said. “Really just take advantage of the opportunity and just play hard and be aggressive.”