After four games with his new team, his new Cavs teammates are offering rave reviews of the former top-10 draft pick.
Chriss and Brandon Knight were dealt by the Houston Rockets to the Cavaliers, though neither was expected to offer much impact for the floundering Cavs.
Yet Chriss has scored double figures in three of his four games in the Wine and Gold. On Wednesday night, he delivered a 23-point, seven-rebound performance in a triple-overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
Larry Nance Jr. noted after the contest that Chriss has the potential to be an asset in the locker room. The 21-year-old Chriss was originally drafted by Sacramento as the eighth-overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, but was dealt to the Phoenix Suns that same night. Finally, he was traded to Houston last August.
Nance feels that a lack of mentors during his time with the Suns was the main problem connected to his image.
“He got a bad reputation, really quickly, and I think it’s unfair,” Nance said. “He’s 21. You know, in Phoenix, they were all so young. They didn’t have anyone to show them how to be pros.”
Nance did admit that Chriss’ emotions can be a potential problem, but indicated that the two players have similar personalities:
“Yeah, he’s a little hotheaded, like me,”
Tristan Thompson indicated that getting to know Chriss is key:
“He’s different. But if you understand him, you know what he’s about and it’s cool.”
Another young Cavaliers player who has had his own ups and downs this season is Collin Sexton, who noted that the two players share one personality trait:
“Hardheaded, like me.”
One play by Chriss during the Nets game that definitely got everyone’s attention was his dunk on the Nets’ Jarrett Allen with 2:56 left in the fourth quarter. Chriss spoke about the play after the game, as recounted by Joe Vardon of The Athletic:
“I think it was D’Angelo [Russell] coming at me, and he ran right by me,” Chriss told me, mis-identifying the first defender. It was DeMarre Carroll. “When he ran by me, I was going to get a dunk regardless. I didn’t know what [Allen] was going to do. He jumped. He jumped late.”
Chriss is aware of his reputation around the league, but insists he’s just looking for an opportunity to deliver on his potential:
“It’s not even that I wanted out of Houston. Who wouldn’t want to be in that situation (playing with James Harden, in a playoff chase)? I wanted to be somewhere where I could be the best version of me.”
The Cavaliers won’t be a playoff team for a while, which means that having patience with Chriss might help tap that potential and serve as a building block for the team’s rebuilding process.