Cavaliers drop preseason opener to Hawks 109-93
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
Is there such a thing as too much talent? The easy answer is: of course not! But when you can’t utilize all of that talent to its fullest potential because of time restraints, there lies a conundrum.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are the favorites to reach a fourth straight NBA Finals with possibly the deepest roster LeBron James has ever played with. Players that would get plenty of run on other teams in the league may find their minutes sparse with the Cavs this season. But the co-captain of the Cavs ship (James certainly has a hand on the ship’s wheel), head coach Tyronn Lue, is in charge of making sure those minutes are dispersed properly so the Cavs are ready to vie for their ultimate goal in the playoffs.
“It’s a tough process,” Lue said of cutting the Cavs’ roster down to 15 players. “If you can move guys or if you have to let one go, it’s going to be a tough decision. Just trying to see who plays the best for us, who stays healthy and we got to go from there.”
With so many new (and talented) players on the Cavs’ roster, changes to lineups and rotations inevitably followed. Derrick Rose will start at point guard for the injured Isaiah Thomas, who arrived in Cleveland with the departure of Kyrie Irving this summer. It’s unclear who will start at shooting guard this season, but old money is on Dwyane Wade, who signed with the Cavs a week ago.
While The King mans the small forward position, while also handling a healthy amount of point guard duties, Lue’s most notable change in the starting lineup is the removal of Tristan Thompson and the repositioning of Kevin Love to the center position. New addition Jae Crowder will start at power forward, where he started in the Cavs’ first preseason game Wednesday night. Lue laughed off any observations that the lineup changes are geared toward an eventual fourth showdown in the Finals with the Golden State Warriors.
“We haven’t even started the season yet,” Lue chuckled. “That’s funny though.”
Without James in the lineup Wednesday night, the Cavs fell to the Hawks 109-93. Despite the loss, the Cavs’ starting unit looked formidable. Wade picked up a steal on the first possession of the game that led to a Love three-pointer, and the Cavs didn’t miss a shot until 7:24 remained in the first quarter. Cleveland led 18-7 at that point and took a 50-47 lead into halftime. None of the starters played in the second half, when the Hawks pulled away.
“I think we had 15 assists on our first 17 field goals,” Lue said. “The first unit, I think they picked up the plays a little better than second and third unit, and you can tell they kind of clicked a little bit offensively.”
Love finished with 12 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Wade totaled seven points, four assists and two rebounds. Each of the starters played 15 minutes, including Rose, who finished with seven points and three assists, and Crowder, who scored eight points.
Dennis Schroder led Atlanta with 18 points and four assists, while Taurean Prince chipped-in 15 points and eight rebounds.
With the departures of leading-scorer and an All-Star each of the past four seasons, Paul Millsap, third-leading scorer Tim Hardaway Jr. and the complex Dwight Howard, the Hawks will have plenty of shots to go around this season. After averaging 17.9 points per game last season, Schroder could have a breakout season.
But the Hawks are likely NBA Lottery bound, while anything less than a championship for the Cavs this season would be a failure. Wade, Thomas, Rose, Jeff Green, Channing Frye, Jose Calderon and Kendrick Perkins are all on expiring contracts, and James and Iman Shumpert can both opt-out of their contract after this season. The jury’s still out on whether players like Perkins, Kay Felder, Edy Tavares or even Richard Jefferson will be on the roster when the season begins.
Cleveland’s lineup is absolutely loaded, but health will be the key to success this season, as is the case with most title contenders. Throughout the season, Lue will have the difficult task of finding minutes for such a deep roster.
While he’s fruitfully compensated to make those decisions, Lue doesn’t shy away from many issues, and followed that trend just prior to Wednesday’s game. When asked about the recent shooting in Las Vegas, the Cavs coach divulged that the mystifying massacre touched him like so many others.
“I knew a lot of people that were affected, a lot of people that were there,” Lue said. “It’s just not about my people, but it’s just a horrible thing to have to go through, especially when I lived there for nine years, knowing all of the people that I knew out there that worked at the Mandalay Bay and Aria and all the different casinos, having to go through that and being at that concert, it’s just a tough thing to go through.
“I feel sorry for all the loved ones of each one that lost someone or been badly hurt, it’s just not a good thing.”
Lue seemed to have a heavy heart during his remarks about Las Vegas, but he still had a team to coach less than two hours later..
POSTED 10/04/2017 22:34