Central Notes: Thompson, Wade, Mirotic, LaVine

Along with Derrick Rose‘s reported desire to rejoin the Cavaliers, coach Tyronn Lue will have another lineup decision to make when Tristan Thompson becomes healthy enough to return, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Thompson, who moved into the starting lineup after beginning the season as a reserve, has been sidelined since early November with a strained left calf. He hopes to start playing sometime this week, though probably not in the Cavs’ next game, which is tomorrow.

Cleveland was just 1-4 with Thompson as a starter and has been more successful with a smaller lineup featuring Kevin Love at center. With Jae Crowder joining Love, LeBron James, J.R. Smith and Jose Calderon in the starting five, the Cavaliers, who have won 11 in a row, can put five shooters on the floor together. Lue noted Saturday that the team is 15-3 with Love as the starting center, so Thompson may have to adapt to a reserve role.

There’s more this morning from the Central Division:

  • He may be biased, but James is endorsing teammate Dwyane Wade for Sixth Man of the Year, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Wade signed with the Cavaliers after agreeing to a buyout with the Bulls shortly before training camp. He was a starter for the first three games, but asked to come off the bench and has excelled as the leader of the second unit, averaging 12.3 points and 4.0 assists in 23.5 minutes in the new role. “Team success is always up there with winning an award, that’s just my personal opinion,” James said. “Then the impact you make on that second lineup, or whatever lineup that you’re in.” 
  • The Bulls will get some much-needed help with the impending return of Nikola Mirotic and Zach LaVine, writes K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Mirotic is expected back this week after healing from facial fractures he suffered during a preseason skirmish with teammate Bobby Portis. Mirotic will likely join Portis as part of the second unit. The team is being more cautious with LaVine, who is recovering from a torn ACL. He is expected to start playing in late December or early January. “You can get excited watching him,” said executive VP John Paxson. “He has moments where his athleticism makes you go, ‘Wow, this would really help us on the court.’ But we have to make sure as he comes back that he’s really good to go. And even then we’re going to be cautious with his minutes.”
  • Bulls guard David Nwaba returned Friday, even though he says his sprained right ankle hasn’t fully healed, Johnson relays in a separate story. Nwaba had earned a starting spot before the injury, which sidelined him for nearly all of November. He’ll probably return to a reserve role, especially with LaVine expected back.
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