Hungry Cavaliers ready for opening night

Oct. 24—Finally, after waiting for more than six months to play a game that counts, the Cavaliers are back on the basketball court.

The Cavaliers open their 2023-24 season Oct. 25 against the Nets in Brooklyn and then begin their home season on Oct. 27 against Oklahoma City. The game with the Thunder starts a three-game set at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The Indiana Pacers are next on Oct. 28, and then the waiting and pacing begins, because on Halloween night the Knicks visit the FieldHouse. The last time the Knicks were in town, they eliminated the Cavs from the playoffs.

But first things first. The Cavaliers are prepared to face the Nets without starting center Jarrett Allen, who has been sidelined since Oct. 7 after suffering a bone bruise in his left ankle. Damion Jones is expected to start at center if Allen doesn't play. It would be the first test of the Cavaliers' improved depth.

The game with the Nets will be the first opportunity for Evan Mobley to show he is a more complete player in his third year with the Cavs,

"I've worked to improve my physicality and also my shot making and ball handling," Mobley said. "I feel like I have my defense down pretty well."

This is also the first time for Cavs fans to get a good look at Max Strus in a Cleveland uniform. The Cavs acquired Strus from the Miami Heat in March in a sign-and trade deal. The Cavaliers made Strus feel wanted, which is why he was happy to sign a four-year contract.

"When I heard they were interested, I was interested as well," Strus said. "When I knew Miami wasn't going to work out, this was probably the best situation for me. The ability to come here and space the floor for the stars we have here in Darius (Garland) and Donovan (Mitchell), I think is going to be very helpful and productive for our team."

The Heat was the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference last season, yet they made it all the way to the NBA Finals before being eliminated by the Denver Nuggets.

Cavs president of basketball operations Koby Altman acquired Strus not only for the way he should improve the offense by helping to create more open shots for others on the floor, but also because Altman believes the playoff experience Strus possesses will be a valuable intangible when the postseason begins in mid-April.

The Cavs must go through a grueling 82-game season first, but when the difference in seeding could be determined by one or two games, that experience could come in handy starting when they hit the floor in Brooklyn.

"To be able to join a great playoff team like we (the Cavs) had last year and to be able to share my experiences and knowledge of what I gained in Miami, to bring that here and help this young team, I'm very excited for the opportunity for sure," Strus said.

Strus averaged 11.5 points a game with the Heat last year. He started every one of Miami's 23 playoff games in 2023 after playing in 80 games and making 33 starts in the regular season.

Cavaliers at Nets

What: Season opener

When: 7:30 p.m., Oct. 25

Where: Barclays Center

TV: Bally Sports Ohio