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Behind the Trade That Sent Cavs Hometown Fan Favorite Larry Nance Jr. to Portland

Photo of Larry Nance Jr.
Erik Drost
/
Wikimedia Commons
Akron native Larry Nance Jr. was traded to the Cavs in 2018. Last Friday, he was dealt to Portland.

The Cleveland Cavaliers made a trade this past week that hit close to home for fans. The team dealt Larry Nance Jr. to Portland. Nance is an Akron native who played for Revere High School.

Commentator Terry Pluto says Nance's deep roots in Northeast Ohio made this a tough trade for the fan base.

Local roots
"[Nance is] basically the Cavs' royal family," Pluto said.

Nance Sr. was a star with the Cavs from 1988-1994.

"It wasn't like the LeBron era, but it was the second-best era in Cavs history. They consistently made the playoffs," Pluto said.

Most of the Nance family still lives in Northeast Ohio.

Pluto calls Nance Jr., who is 6'7", a "classic underdog." He played at Revere High School in Akron and didn't get many college offers.

"In fact, I called the coaches I knew at Cleveland State and Akron and said, 'This guy is good enough to play for you guys. What is going on?'"

Nance ended up going to college at Wyoming. He played all four years for the Cowboys. During his senior season in 2015, he led the team to a Mountain West tournament title and its first NCAA tournament since 2001-02.

Nance also had to overcome some adversity. He suffered early in his life from the effects of Crohn's disease, which was finally diagnosed when he was 16. He also suffered an ACL injury while he was in college. He's also suffered a number of injuries during his pro career.

"For the Cavaliers, they get another young player they really like. Larry gets a chance to play for a better team. But if you're a fan of the Cavaliers, and you're sad, I understand because I feel the same way."
Terry Pluto

Lakers to the Cavs
In 2015, Nance was drafted 27th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. Pluto said he became a "really good role player."

Then the Cavs called. It was 2017, and the team was bringing in some veteran players to help LeBron James and the Cavs win another title.

"Larry becomes probably the first player in NBA history to be happy to be traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to Cleveland," Pluto said.

The Cavs ended up losing the title that season, and LeBron James signed with the Lakers. And for the Cavs, that's meant a long and painful rebuild.

"Larry's been here for 3 1/2 years, and he's on his fourth coach. He also is a very physical player prone to injuries," Pluto said.

Looking to the future
So, Pluto said the Nance family had a meeting during the offseason. "They're looking at Larry's career. He's about to be 29. One part of him wants to stay here. The other part is like, 'I'd really like to play on a better team.'"

Pluto said he talked with Nance's agent, who said that if the offer was right, Nance would consider taking it.

The Cavs traded him to Portland in a three-team trade. The Cavs got 7-footer Lauri Markkanen from the Chicago Bulls.

Pluto says it's been a tough deal to swallow.

"I covered this kid in high school — Larry Nance, Jr. plays the game the way I think it should be played. But I also get when you've gone through four coaching changes in four years and you look around, and they're not going to make the playoffs this year. If they do, they sneak in the back door," Pluto said.

Pluto says Nance is also wondering how many good years he has left in the NBA. He has missed 70 games in the last three seasons.

A fan favorite who gave back
Nance has become a fan favorite. Not only because of his Northeast Ohio roots, but he was champion for small businesses during the pandemic.

On social media last December, he called on local businesses hard-hit by the pandemic to send him apparel. He'd wear a shirt or hat on game day and post a photo to his social media accounts to promote the business. He also auctioned off that day’s jersey, matched the winning bid and donated the proceeds directly to the businesses.

"Around the NBA, not just in Cleveland, Larry Nance Jr. is just respected. And there's been a lot of things that he's done charity-wise that we don't even know about," Pluto said.

When his trade was announced, he wrote a farewell letter published in The Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com.

"For the Cavaliers, they get another young player they really like. Larry gets a chance to play for a better team. But if you're a fan of the Cavaliers, and you're sad, I understand because I feel the same way," Pluto said.