LAS VEGAS – During his two-year stint in the NBA, Antonius Cleveland has bounced around the league a lot, but he’s never lost his fondness for the city of Dallas in general and for the Mavericks in particular.
“They were the first team to make my dream come true by signing me to the two-way (contract) my rookie year,” Cleveland said. “So I think Dallas will always have a special place inside of me no matter where I go. I just love the city as well.”
The Mavs signed Cleveland to a two-way contract on Nov. 17, 2017. But that’s not where his pro basketball career started.
After going undrafted out of Southeast Missouri State in 2017, Cleveland signed with Portland and eventually played on the Trail Blazers’ summer league squad. But after playing six games for Portland, Cleveland inked a contract with the Golden State Warriors on July 27, 2017.
However, before the season started, Golden State waived Cleveland and he subsequently went to the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA G League.
After less than a month with Santa Cruz, Cleveland joined the Mavs on the two-way deal and scored two points in six minutes during his NBA debut during a Nov. 17, 2017 loss to Minnesota.
Cleveland wound up playing 13 games for the Mavs that season, and also played some with the G League’s Texas Legends. But the Mavs waived him on Dec. 19, 2017, and he eventually signed a pair of 10-day contracts with Atlanta before the Hawks gave him a multi-year contract on Mar. 14, 2018.
However, after playing just four games for Atlanta, Cleveland was waived by the Hawks, then claimed by the Chicago Bulls. That didn’t last long, either and Cleveland spent last season playing for Santa Cruz after the Bulls waived him on Oct. 12, 2018.
Now, Cleveland is back with the Mavs and is one of the star attractions on their summer league squad. But the switching of teams and criss-crossing about the country begs the question: Where exactly does the postman deliver Cleveland’s mail?
“It is kind of hard,” he said. “I just try to keep my faith strong and just let God guide my steps and just try to go about it that way.”
A 6-6, 195-pound guard/forward, Cleveland has obviously been the gift that keeps on giving for the Mavs this summer. The Memphis native leads the Mavs in scoring this summer with 17.5 points per game, and also averages five rebounds and three assists.
In addition, Cleveland is shooting a healthy 57.1 percent from the field (12-of-21), 33 percent from 3-point range (2-of-6), and 81.8 percent from the free-throw line (9-of-11).
“He’s got some natural gifts,” Mavs summer league coach Mike Weinar said. “Obviously, we’re fine-tuning some things and we’ve had some experience with him before.
“He’s a very skilled gifted player and we’re looking to try and work with him and continue that process.”
Cleveland, of course, would like to have some stability at some point in his basketball career. Meanwhile, he has learned to play the cards that have been dealt to him in his own special way.
“I’m just glad and thankful for the opportunity,” Cleveland said. “I’m just blessed to be in a good situation this summer league.”
The Mavs, who play Sacramento on Monday at 2:30 p.m. (Dallas time) at the Thomas & Mack Center, are delighted to have Cleveland back on their roster. They know he’s a solid asset to have in their back pocket.
“Antonius has been really, really good,” proprietor Mark Cuban said. “His shot has improved, he’s always been athletic and he always works hard.”
That description of the 25-year old Cleveland is definitely echoed by his teammates.
“He just plays hard and plays with confidence, and he just plays his game,” guard Daryl Macon said. “He’s not selfish.
“He just lets the game come to him.”
And by letting the game come to him, Cleveland has proven to be a natural on the basketball court. Now if he can only find a stable spot – he said, preferably with the Mavs.
In the meantime. . .
“I just try to take a positive mindset to it and learn something from each destination,” said Cleveland, who tallied a game-high 22 points in last Friday’s 96-92 win over Brooklyn. “At the end of the day I get paid to play the game no matter how it’s going.
“So this is a blessing in itself. That’s how I try to look at it, and just keep striving.”