CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – The preseason is over for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but only in name. The time normally used to help jell new teammates was not entirely helpful for the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions.
With LeBron James sidelined for all but 30 minutes of pre-season action – not that he normally bears a heavy workload in early October – the new look Cavaliers have not gotten to get things rolling with their engine. The former MVP is expected to play in the season opener on Tuesday, though the team has not confirmed he will.
It is something that will happen again in late December or early January when Isaiah Thomas makes his Cavalier debut, but the fall will be the de facto preseason for a team expected to waltz to the playoffs.
“I mean it’s going to take time, it just takes time,” Derrick Rose, one of the new faces in town, said. “We haven’t played with LeBron in I don’t know how long. It’s going to be a process for everyone to learn their roles, learn everyone’s tendencies and go out there and play their game and not think when they’re out there, react.”
Rose added that Head Coach Tyronn Lue has done a good job playing players at the correct positions, but that ‘it’s up to us to make plays.’
The task of jelling a team, especially one with former league and Finals MVPs playing complimentary roles, comes with tasks outside of floor spacing and usage rates. Handling egos has been something Lue has had to deal with since the inception of the Kyrie Irving-era Big 3.
It is not necessarily an issue he anticipates as much in 2017-18.
“We’ve had that conversation but the guys that we have here, D-Rose is a breath of fresh air, what he brings as far as being a competitor, a no-nonsense guy, gets to his work, does not do a lot of talking,” Lue said. “Same with a Crowder, same with a Jeff Green, D-Wade has been the same. These guys understand that if you want to win, you have to sacrifice. We talk about sacrifice all the time. I think these guys get it.”
Former starter JR Smith has been the first to make a sacrifice, being relegated to the bench in lieu of Dwyane Wade. Smith said Monday that he has ‘come to terms’ with the role change, citing the ability to make more plays with the second unit as well. Tristan Thompson has already made the shift to the bench as well.
Those changes will evolve more over the season, though someone like Rose already knows that he and Smith will lead the second unit when Thomas returns.
There is a chance that Thompson returns to the starting five at some point if Kevin Love’s stint at the center spot does not go according to plan. Smith could return as well for spacing’s sake, though the ripple effect would be felt by a backup unit with a shooting-deficient second unit of Rose and Wade.
Lue says he does not know how long things will take to iron out, but he will have a lot of tools to lean on.
“Obviously we’ve got a lot of talent, a lot of versatility, a lot of guys that can do multiple things,” Lue said. “We have some cerebral guys, some guys that understand the game, that know how to play the game. I don’t think it’s going to take as long as some people think or as I think.”