Status Quo Not Working For Cavs

The Cleveland Cavaliers are in need of a jolt to their senses.  After a stretch in which the wine and gold went 18-1 and looked every bit like a trip to their fourth straight NBA Finals was assured, they have looked, well, terrible.

The entire roster is responsible too, from coach Tyronn Lue, to all the players, and yes, that includes LeBron James.

We watched yesterday’s debacle against Oklahoma City and noticed several disturbing things.

The first was the terrible defensive concepts the Cavs use.  There is no help concepts being used, they don’t force offensive players into help, and they play underneath the pick and roll more often than not.

We have watched basketball for a long time and we have never seen a player without the ball score.  Yet, the Cavaliers consistently stay connected to the man they are supposed to be guarding, while the player with the ball is going to the basket.

This happens time and time again.

In the first half, Isaiah Thomas was guarding Russell Westbrook on the wing and Jae Crowder was near the paint to lend help.  Instead, Thomas allowed Westbrook to go baseline for an uncontested lay up.

That’s horrific team defense.

Lue seems to be so passive, which is fine when the team is winning, but this team needs a spark.

In the first half, Thomas went to the basket and was fouled, which wasn’t called.  That’s fine, referees miss calls.  The very next play, Thomas was called for a touch foul defending Westbrook, who missed a jump shot.

In that situation, Lue has to challenge the official verbally.  He has to defend his player, particularly when the contact was more severe against Thomas.

Later in the first half, Thomas was called for palming the ball, which we don’t believe has been called in the NBA since the 70’s, right in front of the coach.  We would have had to have been restrained at that point.

Although we used Thomas in both examples, this isn’t about him.  He pretty much says nothing when James is mugged going to the basket on a nightly basis.

When Lue took over as coach, his first move was to quicken the pace.  He wanted the team to play faster.  However, this squad is the oldest team in the NBA.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t talented, in fact, we still maintain they can win the NBA title…this year.  But they need to slow the game down, particularly against younger teams who like to run the floor.

They have issues in transition, so they need to get good shots, which may not always be a shot within five seconds of the possession, so they can guard against opponents racing back up the floor.

Another problem may be the coach’s loyalty and how it affects the roster.  Players know who should be playing, and don’t think for a minute they know how well Channing Frye played earlier this year, and wonder why he is out of the rotation.

The same thing happened a year ago to Derrick Williams, who played well in February last year, and then vanished.

The difference is Williams just joined the team.  Frye has been here for more than two seasons, and is a veteran presence.

There is no question in our head that is a factor in the disconnect.

Cavs’ management can’t keep firing coaches at the first sign of trouble, but the best coaches recognize when the status quo isn’t working and a change has to be made.

Right now, the wine and gold need a new defensive philosophy and a more aggressive stance from their coach.

Let’s hope Lue can see the same thing.

JK

 

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Not Ready To Give Up Hope That Cavs Can’t Win A Title.

Nothing incites panic around the sports city of Cleveland more than a Cavs regular season loss to the Golden State Warriors.

After Monday night’s defeat, the town was filled with talk ranging from the wine and gold having no chance to win a second title in three years to folks talking about how the Cavaliers should deal LeBron James before he can leave in free agency this summer.

Our belief from watching the two games, which were played within three weeks, is right now Cleveland is a little short, but both games were decided late.  The Christmas Day matchup was tied with a couple minutes remaining, while the Martin Luther King Day game was even into the fourth quarter.

It would be surprising if Koby Altman didn’t make a deal before the trading deadline, but everyone assumes such a transaction would involve a fourth star player to add to James, Isaiah Thomas, and Kevin Love.

That may not necessarily be the case.

We believe the team needs an upgrade on the wing, where JR Smith has declined from the title team of 2015-16.  Getting a player like Kent Bazemore from Atlanta (12.5 points, 39% from three, a very good defender) would be an upgrade.

Maybe you could swing a deal to bring Bazemore and C Dewayne Dedmon (10.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 41% from three) to the team, upgrading the team at both the wing and getting a rim protector.

Or you good get Nerlens Noel and Wesley Matthews from Dallas, a duo that would accomplish the same task.

Getting players such as these would give Cleveland a better chance against the Warriors because it would improve them, or at least should improve them defensively.

Of course, improving the team’s defensive scheme would be a step in the right direction as well.  If you don’t think the philosophy is an issue, just check the performance of Jae Crowder last year in Boston, and Kyrie Irving’s defense a year ago in Cleveland.

As for the organization’s biggest prize, the first round pick from Brooklyn, we would consider giving up that pick for a young player who is under contract for two or three more years, or at least isn’t an unrestricted free agent during that span.

After all, a player who is already good is better than one who might be good, because the latter describes most draft picks.

While we understand that Tyronn Lue likes to play with pace, we would rather see a different tact against the Warriors.

We would slow the game down on offense, and try to establish an inside power game vs. Golden State, being very physical with them.  Let James operate the offense out of the post, and whoever is being guarded by Stephen Curry needs to take him to the basket at all costs.

Why not take a page out of the 80’s Celtics playbook vs. the Showtime Lakers?

Playing fast is what Golden State does, and if you try to match them, we feel you will lose more often than not, because they are better at it than you are.

Because the games were close late, we feel some creative minor tinkering would be enough to make a possible fourth straight Finals’ matchup competitive and one the Cavaliers could win.

We refuse to think any team is unbeatable.  No doubt, the Warriors are good, in fact, they are a great team.  They aren’t perfect, though.

It’s up to Lue, James, and the wine and gold organization to put together the plan and the talent to knock them off.

JK

 

Lue Reaching The Loyalty Vs. Stubbornness Line

One of the toughest things for someone in charge of a sports team is recognizing when it is time to replace a veteran player.

Likewise, it is difficult to see when a plan of attack you have used for years needs to be changed.

The greatest coaches/manager understand that.  They see what kind of talent they have on the roster, and use it to the best advantage.

Bill Belichick famously released Bernie Kosar when he was coaching the Browns because he saw that the quarterback was not the same player as he was when he took the team to three AFC title games in four seasons.

The great coaches think totally with their head and take emotion out of the equation.

That’s what Tyronn Lue seems to be facing right now.

Since he was elevated to the head coaching position in 2015-16, the Cavaliers defensive rating has slowly decreased.  The wine and gold are currently 29th (out of 30) in defense in the NBA.

Lue was in charge of the defense during the first run to The Finals for the Cavs (2014-15), but when he got promoted, he brought Mike Longabardi in to run the defense.

Longabardi has good credentials.  He was on the Boston Celtics’ staff with Lue under Doc Rivers from 2007-13, and the Celts were one of the league’s best defensive teams.

He went to Phoenix from there, and initially the Suns improved dramatically too, but they got worse from there, although to be fair, the Suns got younger in that three year span.

With the Cavs, the defense has never been as good as it was when Lue was running the show, and it has been reported that Lue provides more input once the playoffs start.

Whatever they are doing on that end of the floor, it isn’t working very well.  Yes, the Cavs are an older team, but over the years, younger players seem to have more of an issue on the defensive end than veterans.

Cleveland struggles in transition for sure, and we have said for the past two years that no team depends more on their offense for their defense than the Cavs.

However, the defensive issues have now gone on for two years.  Look at Jae Crowder, who was considered a solid defender with Boston in Brad Stevens’ system, which by the way, has also made Kyrie Irving better than he’s been in his career.

Crowder looks lost in Cleveland.  Did he forget to play defense as soon as he put on a Cavalier jersey?  We doubt it.  It’s just that the scheme the wine and gold is using is not effective.

Lue faces the same situation with players like JR Smith and Tristan Thompson.  Both were important cogs in the championship team of 2015-16, but they don’t look like the same players now.

Smith has dropped offensively and defensively from the past two seasons, and the changing game appears to be hurting Thompson, who isn’t as effective guarding smaller players on the pick and roll, and hasn’t been able to handle bigger players near the basket.

Right now, Lue seems reluctant to make changes in his playing rotation.  Cedi Osman seems to do well in limited minutes, but there are nights he doesn’t even play.

Smith and Crowder are two of the reasons the starting lineup is struggling.

Right now, Lue is being stubborn.  This isn’t a one week slump, the Cavs fortunes seemed to have changed when Thompson came back, and that’s been almost a month.

Luckily, there are still three months for the coach to turn things around.

JK

 

 

Cavs Need An Aggressive JR Smith

When you are the Cleveland Cavaliers and your best player is the best in the sport, the scrutiny is unbearable.

The wine and gold have lost five of their last seven, and seven of their last nine, yet still have the sixth best record in the NBA.  But, if you listen to people talk about Tyronn Lue’s squad, you would think they may miss the playoffs.

When you figure in eight of the last ten contests have been on the road, with the next two also away from Quicken Loans Arena, you could almost understand the mini-slump.

Lue is working Isaiah Thomas back in the lineup, and he is bringing some added scoring to a starting lineup that really had only LeBron James and Kevin Love as scoring threats.

When Love isn’t making shots, which has happen in two of the last three games, the starters struggle to score and the Cavs fall behind early in games.

Unfortunately, Jae Crowder and more specifically, JR Smith haven’t stepped up when needed.  So, should Lue start pondering shaking up the starting lineup?

It’s trickier than you think.  First, the second unit has been so good, you have to think he doesn’t want to do anything to upset the apple cart with them.

Second, if you make a move with Smith, do you risk losing him as a contributor down the road.

Smith is second on the Cavs in minutes (29.8), trailing just James, playing about the same amount of time per game as he has since arriving in Cleveland.

His number of shots taken has dropped from 11 per game in his first two years here to just 7.1 this season.  And his defensive rating is the lowest it has been too.

Smith turned 32 last fall, and you have to remember not everyone ages like James, who is in his 15th season.  This is Smith’s 14th year in the NBA, so perhaps age is starting to take its toll.

Before making any changes in terms of who plays, we would like to see Smith start looking for his shot more often.  He seems to be looking to drive more often and his assist numbers are the highest since he arrived in Cleveland.

But that hasn’t been Smith game since he came to the NBA.  He’s a sniper, a shoot first guard with the ability to make tough long range shots, and when he gets going, he’s unstoppable.

He was the reason the Cavs took game one of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015, hitting eight threes, scoring 28 points as Cleveland stole home court advantage with a 97-89 win.

If he can’t regain that form and that style of play, perhaps Lue should try Channing Frye with the first unit, providing another three point shooter at the start of games.

After all, when the veteran big man has played ten or more minutes in a game this season, the Cavs are 16-3.

Ironically, Frye’s three point shooting is down, from 40% to 31% this season, but he is making 68% of his attempts inside the arc.  His defensive rating is behind just James, Love, and Dwyane Wade on the Cavs.

Since, Frye’s time has diminished since Tristan Thompson’s return to health, moving him into the starting five could be a big benefit.

The other player we would consider is rookie Cedi Osman, who could provide length, hustle, and his defensive rating is just behind Frye’s.

It has been reported that instead of another big man, GM Koby Altman may be looking to upgrade at the #2 guard spot, which would mean the organization would like Smith to step it up.

The trading deadline isn’t that far away, so the time for Smith to step up is now.  He needs to be more aggressive on both ends of the floor.

JK

 

 

Cavs Need A Thomas Boost

Isaiah Thomas makes his much awaited debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Cavs have lost four of their last five and appears to be in a bit of a holiday malaise following a tough loss to Golden State on Christmas Day.

The bench has struggled a bit since Tristan Thompson’s return and his replacement of Channing Frye with the second unit.  Dwyane Wade and his crew have lost the floor spacing that the latter provided with his three point shooting.

Thompson needs to be near the basket and if he’s away from the rim, he doesn’t need to be guarded.  That takes away driving lanes for Wade and allows teams to shadow Kyle Korver, making it more difficult for him to get open.

Thomas will start off coming off the bench and will play limited minutes, but the starting lineup is also in need of a shot in the arm.

Jose Calderon did a great job in the starting lineup after Derrick Rose was injured, but he is starting to show that he is, well, Jose Calderon.  He’s a guy who should be playing limited minutes, and instead he playing more than he did a year ago.

They also need to get more offense out of their starting lineup.  Currently, the only players Tyronn Lue can count on nightly are LeBron James and Kevin Love.

Unfortunately, that’s only two-fifths of the starting five.

JR Smith’s shooting continues to decline from his first two seasons with the Cavaliers, dropping from 39% and 40% in those seasons to the 35% and 36% in the past two campaigns.

Moreso, he has been more inconsistent, at times going several games where he is not a factor on the offensive end.  By now, we know James needs to play with three point shooters to open up driving lines.  In return, those shooters get wide open looks.

Those snipers have to knock down those looks more often than not.  Right now, that’s not a given.

Calderon and Smith’s issues are one reason the bench group is more productive than the starters.  There are more of them making nightly contributions.

Once Thomas shakes the rust off his game, he should help provide more scoring from the starting five, and he is a 36.7% career shooter from behind the arc, so opponents have to account for him.

He’s also an 88% lifetime free throw shooter, so if he gets fouled he makes them.  Keep in mind, the Cavs already rank second in the NBA in free throw shooting as a team.

No doubt, it will take some time for Thomas to get used to playing with a roster that outside of Jae Crowder, he hasn’t played with before.  But, his style does fit more than someone like Thompson.

To start, we can see Thomas taking Calderon’s role, but with more drives and more volume scoring.  He also provides the offense with another player who can create his own shot, something that only James and Wade can do right now with regularity.

Thomas’ return to the floor should give the Cavaliers a little boost that is needed right now.  It’s not like the team has been playing poorly, but a slight jolt shouldn’t hurt anything.

JK

 

 

 

Yesterday’s Cavs Loss Makes Us Feel Good.

There are so many ways to look at yesterday’s Christmas Day match up of what is currently the NBA’s hottest rivalry, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.

Yes, the defending champs won at home, 99-92, but this was a tie game with two minutes remaining, and the Warriors got an offensive rebound and Klay Thompson converted a three pointer to put Golden State up for good.

We understand that Stephen Curry did not play for Steve Kerr’s group, but Isaiah Thomas has yet to suit up for Tyronn Lue, and both should be ready for the rematch at Quicken Loans Arena next month.

The Cavs hung in this game despite shooting just 31.8% for the game, and made just 3 of 24 shots in the second quarter.

Yes, the Warriors are good defensively, but they aren’t making a habit of making teams shoot this poorly on a night to night basis.  There was a little bad luck for the wine and gold shooting that poorly.

Still, despite this inability to put the ball in the cylinder, the wine and gold were in the game to the end.

From a Cleveland standpoint, it was also the first time several Cavs played in a battle between these two teams, and many of those newbies didn’t do well yesterday, something we expect to change going forward.

The Cavs’ bench, normally one of the league’s best, made just 6 of 26 shots, and Dwyane Wade, a veteran of this kind of intensity, made four of those shots.  Jeff Green, who has been solid all season, had a poor game.

However, Jae Crowder responded with a 15 point, six rebound afternoon, and responded well to the physicality during the game.

And of course, no Cavs-Warriors game would be complete without the officiating coming into question.  Kevin Durant’s non-called fouls against James down the stretch reminded us of the game five no call in last year’s Finals, when he hit James in the head on a drive, which would have been his third foul (in the second quarter), but it was ignored by the officials.

One decision Lue and his staff have to ponder is the role of Tristan Thompson going forward.  Cleveland is 18-3 when Thompson plays less than six minutes in a game this season, and 6-7 when he is on the court longer.

With the emergence of Kevin Love playing center, and the effectiveness of the second unit when Channing Frye is out there, it is tough to see where Thompson fits.

By the way, didn’t Love put to rest the notion he can’t play against Golden State with yesterday’s 31 point, 18 rebound performance?

Back to Thompson, he doesn’t seem to fit with the Cavs anymore.  His main strength on defense was being able to switch on pick and rolls, but the team is doing better with that as a whole.

Offensively, with spacing being a huge deal in James and Wade being able to penetrate, Thompson doesn’t have to be guarded, because even after six years in the league, he still cannot knockdown a shot from outside of five feet.

Thompson played just 11 minutes yesterday, getting two points and six boards.  Frye did not play.  We wonder what he could have brought to the table on a day the Cavs were having problems making shots.

All that aside, yesterday’s game showed the Cavs probably are better suited to handle the Warriors next summer than they were a year ago, which is what management wanted.

Still, by the time next June rolls around, and if the two teams meet for a fourth straight year with the title on the line, it could be a different situation.

Cavs’ fans should continue to enjoy the chase, and long forward to Thomas’ debut, which will probably be this week.

JK

 

 

Wade’s Presence On Cavs Can’t Be Emphasized Enough

There is no question that Dwyane Wade is one of the all time greats of the NBA, and will be inducted in Springfield soon after he retires.

He’s a 12 time All Star, a three time champion, and you can make the argument he is the third best shooting guard in history behind Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Right now, he is showing he still can be an important player for a title contender as one of the best sixth men in the NBA with the Cavaliers.

Wade has embraced the role, which is something legends sometimes can’t accept.  For example, can anyone imagine Bryant doing for any team what Wade is doing for the Cavs?

His minutes have dropped to about 24 per game, and his scoring average is now a little better (11.9) than half of his career mark of 23.0

Right now, his shooting percentage is his highest since 2014-15, and his three point shot is better than its ever been, at 35.7% to date, compared to 28.8% for his career.

His assists are right on par with last season in Chicago, even though he’s playing six minutes less per game, and the defensive metrics show him as one of the three best defenders for the wine and gold.

While the numbers are solid, the best way to appreciate what Wade is doing for Tyronn Lue’s team is using your eyes.

Wade consistently makes the right pass, the right defensive rotation, gets key block shots, etc.  As we write this, it would seem to make total sense, because as we said earlier, he’s an all time great, but remember, fans in northeast Ohio are watching him on a night in, night out basis for the first time.

We first saw Wade in person when he led Marquette to the Final Four in New Orleans, and our first impression was he had an old school game, with a tremendous ability to hit the mid range jumper, a skill that was diminishing in the game.

Remember, through the first 12 games of this season, the Cavaliers looked like an old basketball team.  Younger teams ran up and down the floor, getting easy transition baskets.

Since then, the Cavs have reeled off 13 straight victories, and the second unit, led by Wade and Kyle Korver, both 36 years old, have been a huge key.

Cleveland’s two leading scorers are LeBron James (28.0) and Kevin Love (19.2).  Among players who have played in more than half the Cavs’ games, the next three leaders in scoring are Wade (11.9), Korver (10.3) and Jeff Green (10.2).

When James is sitting out, many times the bench has extended the lead, which is a huge difference from past years.

Heck, in last year’s NBA Finals, the Cavaliers were pretty much even with Golden State when James was on the floor, but when James was out, the Warriors owned a huge advantage.

Because of the production from the bench, the starting lineup could use Isaiah Thomas’ scoring when he returns in the next week or so.  Cleveland has struggled in games early because JR Smith and Jae Crowder have been inconsistent with their shots.

Our hope with Wade is that Lue doesn’t react to his play and start increasing his minutes.  Keep the long range goal in mind.  Leave Wade at around 24 minutes per night, and if you need to increase that slightly in the playoffs, then fine.

He can be quite a weapon if healthy when the playoffs come around.

JK

 

Cavs Starting To Turn A Corner?

There is no question the Cleveland Cavaliers have struggled starting this season.  They’ve lost games to several of the NBA’s supposed also ran, losing at home to Atlanta, New York, and Indiana.

But just maybe, things are starting to turnaround just a bit as the wine and gold took three out of four on the road, losing only to Houston in the opening game.  That game was close at the end too, as the Cavs had a chance to win.

Yes, the defense could be better, but Tyronn Lue’s team does seem to be able to play at that end of the floor in spurts, such as the fourth quarter in New York on Monday, and in the second half last night in Charlotte.

With three of the next four and four of the next six at Quicken Loans Arena, it would be a good time to start playing better at home and in turn start climbing up the Eastern Conference standings.

Want another sign the Cavs aren’t as bad off as many in the national media think?  Cleveland has won 5 road games this season, and only Boston and Houston (both 7-1) have won more.

You don’t find many bad teams having success on the road.

On the other hand, good teams win games in blowout fashion, and right now the Cavaliers are just 1-4 in games decided by 10 points or more, their win in Milwaukee in the second game of the season being the lone triumph.

They have also been outscored on the season, another sign of a mediocre team.  However, remember Cleveland has played the entire season without Isaiah Thomas, a legitimate 20 points per game scorer, and their best interior defender in Tristan Thompson for most of the schedule.

There will be a period of adjustment when those players return, obviously, but it’s tough to get a good read on this team until they do.

And we say this every year, but we wish the media and fans alike would stop comparing the Cavs to the Golden State Warriors.

First, the Warriors top four players are the same as last year.  Second, most of the games they play their opponents are mesmerized by their style of play and that creates an advantage right from the opening tip.

Also, why should anybody care?  The wine and gold play just two games in the regular season against Golden State, and after that, they won’t see them in the playoffs until the NBA Finals if both teams get to that point.

To compare the Cavs start to the Warriors’ start is an exercise in frustration.  Really, the only thing to be watching right now is how this pretty much new group of players is gelling, and what team in the East may pose a threat to Lue’s squad.

And don’t forget the Cavaliers have made deals during the season in each of the last three seasons to shore up a weakness.  Why wouldn’t you think the same thing will happen this season.

Hopefully, losing to the dregs of the NBA on a regular basis is done, and the momentum gained on this trip will continue.  At the very least, people can breathe a little easier about the Cavs.

JK

Cavs Having October Basketball Issues

The first week of the NBA season is a time for weird things to happen.

That’s why we aren’t too concerned with the performance of the Cleveland Cavaliers thus far.

Tyronn Lue’s team has struggled out of the gate, losing two of their last three, against a trio of teams expected to be also-rans this season, the Magic, Bulls, and Nets.

If we get to game 15, and the team is 8-7 and still struggling to show any consistency, then we may have some serious questions.

Remember that the Cavaliers have eight new faces on the roster, and three of those players, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, and Isaiah Thomas, have been battling injuries.

Rose might be more important to the team than originally thought.  The Cavs opened with two straight wins, but he left the latter of the two victories late with a sprained ankle and hasn’t played since.

In his absence, Lue tried Jose Calderon against Orlando, and as expected, the veteran struggled, particularly on defense.

So, the coach turned to LeBron James at the point, moving Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup.  That unit struggled on the defensive end as well, mainly because they struggle to defend the quickness of a traditional point guards.

Rose is supposed to return to the lineup Saturday night against New Orleans, and it will be interesting to see how his presence on the court affects the other players.

Lue has been highly critical of his defense, but last night, Jae Crowder played just 20 minutes, and Tristan Thompson was on the floor for just 22 minutes.

Those two are the wine and gold’s most accomplished defenders, so if Lue wants a defensive presence for his team, it should start by giving these two players more time.

Particularly Crowder, who can shoot the three and stretch the floor on offense.

On the other hand, we said a week ago that with all the new players on the roster, we knew it would take some time for Lue to develop a rotation that works, and that process was set back a week by the absences of Rose and Wade.

Having James miss most of the pre-season with a sprained ankle didn’t help the situation either.

And yes, we know the Cavs are the oldest team in the league, but that number is skewed by the presence of Channing Frye (34), Calderon (36), and Kyle Korver (36).  Out of that trio, only Korver figures to get a lot of playing time this season.

If you take Frye and Calderon out of the mix, Cleveland is very similar in age to San Antonio, Golden State, and Houston, the next three teams in this category.

Oh, by the way, those teams are all title contenders, just like the Cavs.

Our point is we don’t want to hear how the defensive problems are due to age.  The players getting the bulk of the playing time aren’t or shouldn’t be on their last legs.

We trust Lue to figure this out.

Let’s see what happens when Rose is back and Crowder gets more time on the floor.  If the Cavs win the next three games, and look good doing it, these last three games will be forgotten.

JK

 

 

 

 

Cavs’ Opener Just One Game, They Will Only Get Better.

The Cleveland Cavaliers started the defense of their Eastern Conference title by beating Boston 102-99 Tuesday night.

There is no question this is a very different team than last year, as Kyrie Irving is gone, and partially because of the deal which sent him to Boston, the roster is much deeper than a year ago.

They are also not a team that is as reliant on the three point shot as a year ago, but they still have the perimeter threats that are needed on a team where LeBron James is the best player on the roster.

Coach Tyronn Lue has Jae Crowder, JR Smith, Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, and Channing Frye on the roster, and all of them are very good from beyond the arc.

However, whereas last year, just James and Irving could create their own shots, the wine and gold have Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade too, and the other night saw Smith showing something beside standing outside waiting for the ball to find him.

Any concerns about a three point win over a team that lost their second best player five minutes into the game should be excused right now as a team still learning how to play together and a coach still searching for the right combinations.

Many of already questioned Lue’s choice as a starting lineup, but does it really matter?  The bigger question is who will play at crunch time, and while Tuesday night it was the starters, something tells us that will change as the season continues.

We would expect Smith will be out there at the end of the game because of his defense and ability to stretch the floor.

And depending on the opponent, you could see a different combination upfront, but likely two of these three (Love, Crowder, and Tristan Thompson) will be out there with James and Rose.

In the first half, the defense looked much improved with everyone keeping their men in front of them.  And we thought Rose did a solid job denying Irving the ball in the last few minutes in the opener.

If Rose’s knee is sound, he will provide better defense at the point guard position than Cleveland received a year ago.

We are anxious to see how Lue divides the minutes going forward.

We would like to see James getting about 34-35 minutes per night, with Wade getting around 24 to keep them strong and fresh heading into the playoffs.

No doubt Thompson will get more than the 19 minutes he played in the lidlifter.

And we are sure the staff will put some things in to get Kyle Korver some shots when he is on the floor.

While much was made Tuesday night about the Celtics roster turnover, the Cavaliers are facing the same issue, but apparently since they have James, it is overlooked.

Lue started only two players (James and Love) that started a year ago.  And outside of LeBron, every member of the first two units has a different role than they had a year ago.

So, there is a lot for this team get used to.

It was a win, and that is better than losing.  However, it will be interesting to see where the Cavs are after 10 or 15 games.  That will be a more accurate barometer for the progress of a pretty much new group of players.

JK