Coach Chuck Ellis is the coach to the likes of Cleveland Cavaliers guards Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington during their summer preparation for the NBA season. Right Down Euclid contributor Chris Manning interviewed Ellis in a RDE exclusive piece and got the coach’s take on Ellington’s future, the possibility of Ben McLemore joining the Wine and Gold and much more. Listen to the audio below and/or read the partial transcription:
Chris Manning: Before we dive into the two Cavaliers you coach, give the listeners a little background on the work you do.
Chuck Ellis: I do a lot of skills and development work in the Philadelphia area with the south college guys, the pro guys from the area. The workouts consist of different drills, conditioning, ball placement, ball handling drills, all different things that enhance your skills and improve your game for the next level.
CM: Let’s talk about Wayne before we talk about Dion. How long have you been working with him?
CE: I’ve been working with Wayne since high school. I’ve known Wayne for since he was a sophomore or junior in high school. And we’ve been doing work over the years, but we’ve been going hard for the last three years. But I’ve been working with Wayne throughout the summers since he’s been in high school.
CM: What kind of work have you done with him to help him improve his game?
CE: Wayne has been going harder than I’ve ever seen him go. It’s his contract year, so Wayne has been in the weight room three times a week. Wayne has been in the gym with me three or four times a week. Wayne is working on, you know, hitting shots, putting the ball on the floor, three or four dribbles, then attacking the lane and finishing and also with him getting inside the lane, making the people around him better by kicking out to different shooters. So we’ve been working on a variety of things, as well as his ball handling skills, in order to create his own shot and put the ball on the floor.
CM: You mentioned that this is his contract year (Note: Ellington just completed his contract and is set to be a restricted free agent). Has he given any indication on whether he’d like to go back to Cleveland or whether he’d like to test the open market and maybe move on?
CE: Wayne wants nothing other than to be in Cleveland. Wayne likes it there, he likes the young core of guys that he has. He likes the new start with Coach (Mike) Brown coming in, and you know, him, Dion and Mo Speights have a pretty good relationship. Him and Kyrie have a pretty good relationship, so he really wants to go back to Cleveland. That’s his main concern, to get back to Cleveland. He feels they have the pedigree and the talent to actually make the playoffs next year.
CM: What was new Cavaliers assistant coach Phil Handy doing when he visited?
CE: Phil is here working out the guys from Cleveland. He’s here working out Dion in different drills, different things with Dion. He’s sitting in every session, helping out and learning little things from Coach Handy. I’m learning a lot from Coach Handy’s workouts in terms of different drills, different lines, ball placement, footwork, a lot of things Coach Handy has been teaching me for these last few days that’s going to be vital with Chuck Ellis workouts.
CM: Have you been in contact with any other Cavaliers coaches?
CE: No, not at all.
CM: Let’s move on to Dion. How long have you known him and what have you guys been working on this summer?
CE: I’ve (known) Dion since he was in high school also. Me and Dion been working on a lot of different things – mainly his body, keeping his body weight down, keeping his body at the weight it’s been at all summer. Also, being able to expand his range, put the ball on the floor, create, make others around him better, but also his footwork. His footwork is very key in order to become a good defensive player, so we’ve been working on a lot of footwork as well as offensive drills so he’s able to be an all-around player and not just a defensive scorer.
CM: His rookie season was up and down. He had some really good games, he dealt with the ankle injury and there were some times were he wasn’t playing all that great. If you had to give him a grade or at least analyze his rookie season, how would you do that?
CE: I would give Dion a B-minus, only because his work ethic allows him to get the extra yard sometimes. A lot of the season, like a lot of people don’t know, Dion played injured. But instead of sitting out and resting, he continued to play. Dion is a warrior. If he can walk, he’s gonna try and go. With the inconsistency, with learning the game, he’s so young and still working, it’s all about working and picking his spots. I expect Dion to have a tremendous year this year because he knows what they expect, he has a year under this belt and this offseason might have been the hardest he’s worked since he’s been playing basketball.
CM: What do you consider the strongest part of Dion’s game and where does he need to work the most in?
CE: The strongest part of Dion’s game is creating. He comes off the screen and roll and gets into the lane because his body is so nice and strong that he can get to the hole and finish with contact. The part of the game he needs to work on the most is being more than a scorer. He needs to work on getting more rebounds, he needs to work on playing better defense, making those around him better. When he gets in the lane, kicking out and finding shooters and being albe to set other guys up.
CM: Considering his backcourt mate Kyrie Irving is a score-first point guard, how can they work together best in your opinion?
CE: That’s not an issue. For Dion, it’s about knowing that he has to be the one to stop Dwyane Wade. It’s knowing that he has to be the one to stop Kobe Bryant, getting in that defense-first mindset, as well as, when he was the ball coming off the pick and roll, creating for guys like C.J., Wayne that are on the wing waiting for the shot.
CM: If you had the No. 1 pick, who would you select to add to the Cavaliers young core?
CE: (laughs) That’s a hard question. I don’t know every draft pick personally. Nerlens Noel is the best available guy in the draft, even coming off ACL surgery. I think there is a need for the Cavs at the small forward position. Alonzo Gee has done a great job, and I know Alonzo, but I think there is a need for a guy at the three position. I don’t have a choice. I don’t know if they’ll use it or trade it for someone else…and I don’t have all the options in front of me to say this is the best option, I’ll leave it at that.
CM: The name being brought up a lot is Ben McLemore, and he obviously plays the same position as Dion. They are different skill sets, but do you think they could coexist in a three-guard rotation?
CE: If they fit the coach’s system, sure. I don’t know about Ben, but I do know that Dion will adapt to any situation. Dion will make it work. He’s very humble, he’s very hungry, so if they do draft Ben McLemore, then it’s going to be a dogfight. Dion is Dion. He’ll adapt to whatever the situation may be. He’ll go in as a professional every day, work his but off and, like I said, it’ll be a dogfight everyday.
CM: So it’s safe to say that, even if the Cavaliers draft McLemore, Dion wants to be the starting shooting guard next season for the Cavaliers?
CE: No doubt, no doubt. No doubt in my mind that that’s his goal and that he will be the starting two guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers next season.
Note: You can find Coach Chuck Ellis on Twitter and Instagram at @Chuck_Ellis. You can find his workout videos on YouTube by searching Chuck Ellis workouts.