CHARLOTTE – Despite rain in the forecast all day, Cedi Osman remains intrigued with the idea of exploring the city on All-Star Saturday. Rather than go brewery hopping, eating barbecue, or playing video games at Abari in NoDa, Osman is researching ghost tours. Coming off a busy Friday evening that saw him participate in the Rising Stars game for Team World, the then-23-year-old relishes the quiet of the Players Lounge in the Uptown Le Méridien.
Osman briefly pauses to accept a gift bag from a party he missed the prior evening and takes a minute to record an Instagram video, but he doesn’t appear jaded at all. Not yet, anyway. He’s taking opportunities as they come, still a bit in awe of being around the game’s best, but ready to take them on when asked. Osman isn’t shy, so much as he’s cautious, and there are times when the switch flips on the court and his aggressiveness showcases a varied and eclectic skillset that mirrors a Create-A-Player in NBA2K.
Much had been made of Osman being included in LeBron’s offseason workouts heading into the 2018 season. James began his new chapter in Los Angeles with a practice at UCLA over the summer, which included himself, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and a Turkish second-year player who could easily be carded when seeing the second It movie.
“That’s the best three in the world and I had the chance to work out with them,” Osman says. “I was really thankful for that opportunity.”
It was exciting and a bit surprising for Osman. It was also a testament to the rapport Osman developed with James during their one season as teammates on the Cavaliers, and the trust James instilled in him on and off the court that gave fans something to be excited about even after the King was gone.
“I never felt like [LeBron was a tough teammate],” Osman says. “It is a lot of people watching you, you’re playing with the best player in the world. It’s normal. That’s going to happen. If you’re making shots when they’re asking you, he gonna make you look good. He puts you in the right position, he finds you whenever you’re wide open. You just have to be ready to shoot because you never know when he’s going to pass to you because he sees everything. I was always ready for him to pass to me. I don’t think that he was caring about me making shots, though, I think he cared only about me playing hard. That’s what he liked about me. That’s how I earned that shot.”
His prove-it mindset was evident whenever he took the floor last season. Osman often tasked himself with matching up on an opponent’s best player, and as a small forward, that sometimes meant going toe-to-toe with guys like Leonard and Durant. It’s a lot to ask from a player who averaged 11 minutes a game during his rookie season and didn’t see the floor often down the stretch of a fourth-straight NBA Finals appearance.
But it’s in Osman’s DNA to believe, in himself, in his teammates, or elsewhere. Even when he’s faced with checking the best players in the world, Osman relishes the opportunity.
“I was never afraid,” Osman says, “and I think this paid off.”
Osman’s road to the Cavs was as unconventional as wanting to take in a ghost tour on a rainy day during All-Star Weekend. He started playing basketball at age six and joined the Anadolu Efes youth team six years later, and outside of going out on loan to Pertevniyal for a brief time, worked to move through the club’s ranks.