CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – After a busy offseason the Cavs got their first glimpse of their new-look starting 5 that features 3 new faces Tuesday night in a 108-94 loss to the Chicago Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena.
LeBron James and Kevin Love are the only holdovers in the starting unit from a year ago after Kyrie Irving was traded to Boston while Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith have been moved to the second unit for this season providing head coach Tyronn Lue tremendous depth on the bench. Jae Crowder, acquired in the Irving trade has replaced Thompson, Derrick Rose takes over for Irving and Dwyane Wade is in front of Smith.
And so it was little surprise that they were a little rusty Tuesday night.
“Tonight I was off,” James said. “I could feel it. It’s just my first action since the Finals and my timing was a little off and turnovers I think just trickled down to everybody, so I made everyone’s timing off.”
The new starting 5 combined for 47 points but shot just 18 for 50 from the field with 25 rebounds, 11 assists and 15 turnovers.
“They just have to figure out how to play together, especially having four guys on the floor at the same time that need the basketball,” head coach Tyronn Lue said.
James, who missed the first 3 preseason games after spraining his ankle on Sept. 27 and appeared to tweak it on a drive to the basket in the first quarter, scored 11 points in the opening quarter but had 5 of the Cavs’ 9 turnovers in the period. The 5 starters shot 6 of 15 in the quarter that saw Rose and Wade add 2 each.
James turned it over 8 times in 29 minutes but finished with 17 points on 8 of 13 shooting.
“That’s just part of the game. But I’m not worried about Bron,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said. “He’ll be OK.”
James indicated he may sit out the preseason finale Friday night to rest his aching ankle.
“I’m pushing through it right now,” James said. “I just wanted to try and test my foot, test my ankle to see how I would come out tonight. So, obviously tonight and tomorrow morning it’s going to be a telltale sign of how I came out tonight. I’m still fresh from the game so it’s OK now but you never know when you wake up the next morning how it can flare up or if it can stiffen on you.”
After a slow start in the first half the starters opened the second half with a 13-2 run and played about 25 minutes together.
Love, who shot 1 of 12 from the floor, joked that he was happiest when the horn sounded and the game was over.
“It was ugly in a number of ways, but there were some good things out there,” Love said.
The Cavs turned it over as a team 22 times which led to 35 points for the Bulls
Love Hurts – Love departed in the third quarter with an apparent left knee injury. Love was seen twice flexing it on the floor before asking to come out.
“I went up to, I think, block [Bulls forward Bobby] Portis and kinda felt his knee, went knee to knee but I’m fine,” Love said.
He immediately received ice and treatment as soon as he sat down but indicated after the game that there was nothing to worry about and “it just felt sore.”
Deeper Bench – With Thompson and Smith pushed to the bench and Rose running the point for the second unit, the difference in energy, ball movement and production is night and day.
Smith replaced Wade and Thompson came off the bench for Crowder.
Thompson had 7 points, 11 rebounds and a block in 21 minutes while Smith went 0-6 from the field and scored 1 point but had 4 assists, tying the most he had in a game all of last season.
Jeff Green smashed home a beautiful alley-oop from Rose in the second quarter that put the Cavs up 36-27. Green finished with 8 points.
Shumpert Returns – Guard Iman Shumpert returned Tuesday night from a sprained left foot and was Derrick Rose’s substitute off the bench.
Lue said Shumpert, who scored 12 points in 11 minutes on 4 of 5 shooting from the field, practiced on Monday and had no soreness and that he plans to use Shumpert behind Rose.
As of now, the Cavs have 5 players with guaranteed contract that are currently out of the rotation: Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, Ante Zizic, Jose Calderon and Cedi Osman.