After going through several trying and testing cases in preseason, the Cavs have another headache to deal with and the latest hiccup could ruin everything. Following the rapid fire instances in the offseason regarding the Isaiah Thomas –Kyrie Irving swap, Coach Tyronne Lue dropped Tristan Thompson to the bench to play Kevin Love as the starting Center to fall in line the break neck pace of the modern game.
The change is necessary if Lue wants to tap into the full potential of James in a Power Forward role while giving the team’s second unit a reliable threat on the boards in Thompson.
Despite the need for change, benching Thompson proved difficult as the Canadian boyfriend of TV reality star Khloe Kardashian is a favorite of Lue as a player well known for his competitiveness. The system alterations didn’t go any easier with moving Channing Frye to the end of the bench after the veteran played a key role in Cleveland’s sole NBA title in 2016.
The presence of Jae Crowder and Jeff Green on the roster pushes the former New York Knicks Center down the perking order. Grumblings were heard after these moves but they grew louder following the addition of Dwyane Wade recently. After agreeing to a buyout with Chicago Bulls, Wade joined old friend LeBron James after their four year stint together at Miami Heat.
However, Wade’s presence has not gone down well with the other veterans on the roster namely JR Smith and Richard Jefferson. Anything King James wants, he gets and if getting his buddy Wade on board spells bad news for other, then so be it.
With his addition, Smith and Jefferson have been affected the most since Smith has been replaced in the starting lineup by Wade while Jefferson got traded from the team to Atlanta Hawks. He has since been signed by Denver Nuggets to steady the ship of a very talented but young team trying to make the postseason in the Western Conference deep waters.
Playing Smith in the second unit is a not too wise move despite Smith’s disappearing acts in last season’s finals against Golden State Warriors since his three point shooting threat and defensive tenacity put Cleveland’s starting unit in the best shape to maximize LeBron’s talent. A potential lineup of James at Power Forward, Love at Center, Crowder at Small Forward and Derrick Rose gives James three deep finishers with the potential to have four three point shooters should Thomas make a successful return from hip injury. Wade’s addition on the bench is useful for a unit that is defensively sound but needs a slasher and driver of Wade’s repute.
With signs pointing to Smith starting ahead of the 2003 Draftee, Lue pulled the plug on the move by announcing Wade will start at Shooting Guard in the season opener against Boston Celtics. Smith confessed about being unhappy following the decision on Frye and Jefferson’s Radio Show “Road Trippin’”. Dealing with grievances like these is tough for any coach in the league where players have huge egos and need to be treated as such particularly when it has to do with an eclectic figure like Smith.
The Cavs are built to breeze through the Eastern Conference and make it to another finals against Golden State for the fourth straight year in a row. While the personnel are in position to claim another ring from the Warriors, its synergy might just hamper that from happening. Unlike Cleveland, the Warriors have built that unmatched chemistry by having superstar players with a team first mind which made it easy for Kevin Durant to fit in easily last season. Bound to trot out the same lineup, Golden State is poised to win games in default mode for most parts of the season.
Cleveland on the other hand must work to get its cohesion straight after adding seven players in the offseason and has to deal with internal bickering. One big lesson from Wade’s at Chicago was the gap between him and the team’s youngsters who disliked his attitude of failing to act on his word especially on defense. Up against potential Western Conference finalist well embedded in systems like San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets aside the Warriors, Cleveland’s underlying tensions could mean a weakened stance against the very best from West.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter