LeBron makes pre-season debut as Cavaliers fall to Bulls 108-94
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
How important is preseason basketball for NBA teams? Does winning matter, or is the exhibition season simply about building chemistry and crafting rosters? Whatever the level of importance the preseason holds, one fact can be agreed upon — the most important thing for NBA teams to do in the preseason is escape healthy.
The Cleveland Cavaliers entered their fourth preseason game against the Chicago Bulls Tuesday night, but the atmosphere harbored a little more excitement than a normal preseason contest. After sitting out Cleveland’s first three preseason games this season with a sore ankle, LeBron James took the floor Tuesday night for the first time this season.
With James in action, Tuesday’s game also marked the first time James and close friend Dwyane Wade shared the same NBA court as teammates (outside of All-Star appearances) since their days in Miami with the Heat.
Against Wade’s other former team, however, the Cavs fell to 0-4 in the preseason after a 108-94 loss to the Bulls.
“We’re going to get better as the season goes along, of course, but we’ll be better than we were tonight, for sure,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said.
It wasn’t necessarily pretty for the Cavs’ starters in their first time as a whole. In the first quarter, James had five turnovers, Kevin Love went 0-for-7 form the field, while Wade and Jae Crowder didn’t attempt a shot. Despite their inexperience together, Cleveland only trailed 24-20 when the first quarter ended.
“I think in our early offense and stuff, we have enough stuff that they have to learn how to play together, especially having four guys on the floor at the same time that need the basketball,” Lue said.
James led Cleveland with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Wade added four points (1-of-7 from the field) and four rebounds. Derrick Rose chipped-in 13 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Wade entered Tuesday leading the Cavs in scoring this preseason, averaging 13.5 points per game. When he joined the Cavs late last month, it was unclear (to some) whether he would automatically be inserted into the starting lineup because the team had recently won a title with J.R. Smith manning that position. But Lue revealed Monday that Wade would be the Cavs’ fifth starter.
“I think it gives us multiple ball-handlers in that first unit, a guy who can make plays,” Lue said. “He’s a great passer. He’s still a good player.
“I think when you add him to our team, which we have some very good players, then it makes it even easier for him. So, that’s why I decided to go that way.”
The only questions that remains is whether Rose will remain in the starting lineup when a healthy Isaiah Thomas returns. Rose has been extremely efficient during his first preseason run with the Cavaliers, averaging 11.0 points on 63.6 percent from the field entering Tuesday. Although he’s a former NBA point guard himself, Lue said he wouldn’t try to micromanage Rose.
“I want him to be comfortable,” Lue said. “I want him to play free. I want him to be aggressive.
“I don’t want to hold him back and have him thinking on the floor. I want him to be who he is, and we talked about that from day one. And he told me, ‘whatever you need from me, I’m going to do it’.”
POSTED 10/10/2017 23:12