INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says his team is becoming “anxious” as it waits through the longest layoff between playoff rounds in LeBron James’ history with the franchise. However, Lue remains steadfast in his decision not to scrimmage his team during its preparation for the Eastern Conference finals.
The Washington Wizards forcing a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics with a win Friday assured the Cavs will have a full nine days off in between the end of their sweep of Toronto in the second round and Game 1 of the conference finals Wednesday. The longest playoff gap James endured in Cleveland before was eight days between rounds on several occasions, including last season after the Cavs swept Atlanta in the conference semifinals.
The break is testing some players’ patience as Lue has limited the team’s activities to walkthroughs on the court rather than full-fledged 5-on-5, in attempt to save their bodies and prevent injuries.
“I know our team is anxious to play,” Lue said. “(Kyle) Korver and LeBron, those guys are talking about it. So our guys are just anxious to play and ready to go out there.”
The Cavaliers will finally learn Monday night if they’ll be flying to Boston on Tuesday to start the conference finals or staying at home to host Washington for Game 1. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Reinforcing Lue’s choice to do away with scrimmages during the rest period was an injury that occurred to Cavs center Edy Tavares during an organized pickup game between Cleveland’s reserves prior to practice Thursday.
Tavares suffered a fractured right hand, which was confirmed through X-rays and a CT scan Friday and will be out indefinitely. While Tavares did not receive any playing time in the Cavs’ 8-0 start to the playoffs and wasn’t even on the active roster, his injury creates a hole at the backup center position the Cavs tried to address all season to no avail. Three previous candidates to fill the spot, Chris “Birdman” Andersen, Andrew Bogut and Larry Sanders, were all unsuccessful with Andersen and Bogut suffering season-ending injuries and Sanders unable to get up to speed after nearly two full seasons away from the NBA.
Tavares, signed on the final day of the regular season, put up 10 points, 6 rebounds and 6 blocks in his lone game with the Cavs. He was added as insurance behind big men Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye.
Kyrie Irving said the Tavares injury served as notice to any of the Cavs’ rotation players that wanted to get on the court to play before the next round begins.
“I understand how important it is,” Irving said. “I was about to come out and play 5-on-5 and the incident (when Tavares hurt his hand) happened three seconds later … Naw, I’m not for scrimmaging right now until the game.”
During last year’s run to the championship, when the Cavs also started off 8-0, Lue would scrimmage his players occasionally, but would make them wear kneepads and elbow pads while doing so, something he learned from Stan Van Gundy when he played for him in Orlando.
Without the release of energy that comes from playing, the Cavs have had to become creative with how they pass the time, from group yoga workouts, to conditioning competitions on the VersaClimber machine, to calculated strategy sessions.
“You got to keep them engaged and, you know, show them new things,” Lue said. “I’ve got to trick them at times, but they’ve been pretty locked in and we’ve just got to continue to do what we do. It is what it is, and we just got to continue to work on what we need to get better at and then whoever we play we just got to be ready.”
The Cavs will finally learn Monday night if they’ll be flying to Boston on Tuesday to start the conference finals on the road or if they’re staying at home to host Washington for Game 1 at Quicken Loans Arena. Until then, they wait.
“We’re itching to play, literally every time we go through somewhat of a walkthrough we’re ready to compete,” Irving said. “You know it’s fun, at the same time, but still we want to get out there and play. You just got to try some new things these next few days in order for us to stay as sharp as we can going into Game 1.”