Cavaliers Rumors

Cavaliers Notes: Hill, Love, Hood, Korver

The Cavaliers still aren’t sure if George Hill will be available for tonight’s Game 5, according to Colton Jones of AmicoHoops. Hill sat out Sunday’s game with severe back spasms, even though he had four injections in an attempt to play.

Coach Tyronn Lue said Hill was able to do “some shooting” during Tuesday’s practice and will be reinserted into the starting lineup if he is able to go tonight. If not, veteran point guard Jose Calderon will get another start.

There’s more news today out of Cleveland:

  • Kevin Love won’t blame an injured thumb for his shooting problems against the Pacers, Jones relays in a separate story. Love suffered a partially torn ligament in his left thumb while breaking up a pass in Game 2. It’s the same hand that he broke late in the regular season, an injury that sidelined him for six weeks. “I’ve been able to get up a lot of shots,” said Love, who is shooting .362 during the series. “I think initially it was painful in the few days that followed, but now it’s kind of subsided, and just getting the feeling back in my left thumb.”
  • Rodney Hood is still trying to adjust to a less-structured offense in Cleveland, writes Terry Pluto of Hood, who was acquired in a flurry of deals at the February deadline, saw his scoring average drop by six points per game after leaving Utah and his shooting percentage from 3-point range dipped from .389 to .352. He’s down to 7.0 points per game in the playoffs.
  • For all the roster changes the Cavs made this season, Lue relied on a group with experience playing together when he desperately needed a win in Game 4, notes Chris Fedor of LeBron James teamed with Love, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver and Jeff Green to pull out the victory. “That’s not a knock on anything or anybody,” Korver said. “When you’ve been through something at a high level, there’s experience there and there’s something to draw from. When you’ve been through experiences in life, you’ve been through tough games, whatever it is, it gives you a comfort level to go with people you’ve kind of done it with before.”

Poll: Will Eastern Favorites Survive Round One?

On Monday night, the Rockets and Jazz took commanding leads in their respective first-round series, joining the Warriors among the Western teams holding a 3-1 edge. In the fourth Western Conference series, the Pelicans have already advanced, so barring an unlikely comeback by the Timberwolves, Thunder, or Spurs, it looks like we may not get much more drama out west in round one.

The same can’t be said for the Eastern Conference though. Heading into Tuesday night, three of four series are tied at two games apiece, and the Sixers/Heat matchup – where Philadelphia holds a 3-1 lead – has also been entertaining and competitive.

While the Raptors, Cavaliers, and Celtics are still the favorites to advance to the second round, there are areas of concern for all three clubs heading into Game 5. The Raps fell back on same old playoff habits in Game 4 when they failed to move the ball as effectively as they have for much of the season; the Cavs’ supporting cast around LeBron James has been inconsistent; and the C’s have just been hit hard by injuries, though Marcus Smart‘s return appears imminent.

Meanwhile, the opponents in those three series are flawed, but dangerous. The Wizards are led by a pair of All-Stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal, and that backcourt can be hard to stop when it gets going; the Bucks have one of the NBA’s best players in Giannis Antetokounmpo; and the Pacers are a deep and well-coached squad headed by a potential All-NBA guard in Victor Oladipo.

We’ve essentially got a trio of best-of-three series on our hands in the East, and while it’s still possible that we won’t get any upsets, the underdogs have proven that they’ll make things difficult for the conference’s top seeds.

What do you think? Will the Raptors, Celtics, and Cavaliers all survive their first-round scares or will one or more of those teams get bounced in the first round? Vote below in our poll, then jump into the comment section to share your thoughts!

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Lue Shows Lack Of Faith In Newcomers

  • Pacers power forward Thaddeus Young has been quietly efficient in the series against the Cavs, as Mark Monteith of notes. He’s shooting 56% from the field and leads them in rebounding, blocked shots, steals and deflections through the first four games. Young has a $13.76MM option on the final year of his contract next season.
  • Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue showed a lack of trust in the newcomers acquired by GM Koby Altman at the trade deadline during Game 4 against the Pacers, Ken Berger of Bleacher Report points out.  During the final six minutes, Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr. were mostly spectators as Lue went with holdovers from previous playoff runs. “It was a close game down the stretch,” he told the media afterward. “So I wanted my veterans, the guys that I know.”

Cavaliers Notes: LeBron, Calderon, Hill, Thompson

Only LeBron James can save the Cavaliers from an embarrassing first-round loss, writes Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. James’ teammates haven’t been providing much help during the first three games with Indiana, hitting just 41% of their open shots, one of the worst percentages among playoff teams. Lloyd notes that youngsters Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood and veterans Jeff Green and Kyle Korver are all struggling with their shots, and even coach Tyronn Lue admits that James’ supporting cast isn’t doing enough.

The dangers of an early exit are obvious, giving James more than two months to ponder whether he wants to return to a team that couldn’t get past the first round. Lloyd adds that several Cavs veterans told him in January that the team wasn’t good enough to compete for a title and they didn’t expect it to be by June. If they turn out to be right, it could make James’ next decision a lot easier.

There’s more this morning out of Cleveland:

  • The Cavaliers will start Jose Calderon at point guard if George Hill is unable to go tonight, relays Terry Pluto of Hill is listed as questionable with back spasms, tweets ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, and will receive treatment prior to the game. Hill, who had an MRI Saturday, first hurt his back in Game 1, then aggravated it chasing a loose ball Friday night. Lue chose not to put Calderon into a “tough spot” in the fourth quarter after not playing all game, Pluto adds, which meant James never got a break in the second half. He is averaging more minutes than anyone through the first three games of the playoffs.
  • Lue plans to give backup center Tristan Thompson a greater role in tonight’s game, Lloyd tweets. Thompson played just two minutes at the end of Game 1 and hasn’t gotten off the bench since. However, Lue made similar comments before the past two games, then elected not to use Thompson at all.
  • Larry Nance Jr. is chronicling his first playoff experience in a postseason blog for “I haven’t been surprised by anything so far,” he wrote. “I knew it was going to be a bunch of guys flying around, playing hard – and it’s been exactly that. It’s just, a couple of shots here and a couple there fall differently and it’s a completely different series. But that’s Playoff basketball.”

George Hill Has MRI After Experiencing Back Spasms

  • Cavaliers guard George Hill is questionable for Game 4 after experiencing back spasms Friday night, according to Joe Vardon of Hill had an MRI today after playing just 30 seconds in the fourth quarter because of back soreness. Coach Tyronn Lue said veteran Jose Calderon will probably start Sunday if Hill can’t play.

LeBron James' Supporting Cast; Tristan Thompson To See Bigger Role

The Cavaliers didn’t get much out of their supporting cast through the first two games of their first-round playoff matchup. That couldn’t come at a worse time, Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes, given that LeBron James could leave for greener pastures via free agency this summer.

In those first two contests, which the Cavaliers split, James accounted for 62% of the team’s baskets either directly of via assist. That’s the highest total of his playoff career by a considerable margin. Notably, the next highest on that list came back in the 2009 postseason months prior to his infamous Decision to leave Cleveland.

Another concern that could linger for the Cavaliers if not rectified in Game 3 (underway as of publishing) is on the defensive end of the ball. While James carrying the offense could be justifiable if the team was a vaunted defensive force as they were back during his first stint with the franchise, this rendition ranked 29th in the NBA in defensive efficiency.

Kevin Love To Play Through Partial Ligament Tear In Thumb

  • Cavaliers forward Kevin Love suffered a partial tear of a ligament in his left thumb during the team’s Game 2 win over the Pacers, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. While head coach Tyronn Lue elected to rest Love after the injury, Love said that he will play through it going forward. “It’s not going to feel great tomorrow, but throw some ice on it, tape it up and be ready to go,” Love said.

Cavaliers Notes: Thompson, LeBron, Leonard, Oladipo

Most of Tristan Thompson‘s recent headlines have been for his off-court behavior, but that isn’t why he has fallen out of the Cavaliers’ playoff rotation, writes Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report. Thompson, who played just two minutes at the end of the Game 1 loss to Indiana, is coming off his worst statistical season since he was a rookie and may still be hampered by a torn calf muscle he suffered in November.

According to Swartz, Thompson’s playing time has declined because of his inability to handle the two priorities of a modern center: protecting the rim and shooting from long distance. He averaged just 0.3 blocks per game this season and hasn’t made a 3-pointer in his seven-year NBA career.

Kevin Love has taken over as the starting center, with Jeff Green at power forward. The back-up minutes in Game 1 went to Larry Nance Jr., who was acquired from the Lakers in a February trade. Thompson is a huge expense to keep on the roster if he doesn’t play, with two seasons and more than $36MM left on his contract.

There’s more today out of Cleveland:

  • LeBron James believes the Cavaliers’ roster uncertainty throughout the season may have impacted them in the playoff opener, relays Dave McMenamin on ESPN Now. “I think we spent so much time trying to figure out who we were in the regular season and getting the right lineups and guys in and out and things of that nature, we could never build for the playoffs,” James said. “It was kind of like, build for the next game. So the postseason finally hit us and it hit us very well. And I think that can be the best teacher for us to know exactly what we should be ready for tonight.”
  • If the Spurs decide to trade Kawhi Leonard, that could affect James’ strategy in free agency, suggests Brian Windhorst of ESPN. In a video posted on Twitter, Windhorst says if the Cavaliers fail to reach the NBA Finals, James and Leonard will have about six weeks to discuss their future and plot a way to end up on the same team. Windhorst names the Sixers and Lakers as teams with the assets to acquire both.
  • With Victor Oladipo shredding the Cavs for 32 points in Game 1, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets that Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert wanted Oladipo instead of Anthony Bennett with the top pick in the 2013 draft, but decided to listen to the front office. Bennett, who is now out of the NBA, played just one season for the Cavaliers before being traded to Minnesota.

Latest On Kawhi Leonard

The Spurs continue to insist they won’t consider trading Kawhi Leonard this summer, but it’s getting harder to believe, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Stein suggested last month that coach Gregg Popovich should have a one-on-one discussion with Leonard after the season to repair the relationship. Now he writes that it may be too late for that to make a difference.

Rumors of strained feelings between Leonard and the Spurs have escalated in the playoffs as he chose to remain with his doctors in New York rather fly to California to support his teammates. Popovich, who has taken veiled shots at Leonard before, raised them to a new level in responding to a question about LaMarcus Aldridge after Monday’s game.

“He plays through everything,” Popovich said of Aldridge. “I can’t imagine being more proud of a player as far as playing through adversity and being there for his teammates night after night after night. He’s been fantastic.”

While Aldridge is deserving of the kind words, the double meaning was clearly aimed at Leonard, who hasn’t been with the Spurs despite receiving medical clearance from team doctors in February. He remains in New York after traveling there last month to consult with his personal physicians about treatment for a lingering quad injury that limited him to nine games this season.

San Antonio will face a major decision in July when Leonard becomes eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension that would pay him more than $200MM. If Leonard doesn’t agree to an extension and the Spurs refuse to trade him, the clock will being ticking toward next summer when he can opt out of a $21.33MM salary and become an unrestricted free agent.

There’s more news today regarding Leonard:

  • The Spurs have expected for weeks that Leonard wouldn’t return for the playoffs, relays Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. Bontemps expresses similar doubts about Leonard’s future in San Antonio, although the relationship with Popovich remains solid. Nearly every team will be interested if Leonard becomes available in trade, but Bontemps expects the Lakers and Clippers to be among the most active, along with the Sixers, who could offer Markelle Fultz and two first-round picks in this year’s draft. He also mentions the Celtics, who are stocked with young talent, and the Cavaliers, who might be willing to part with the unprotected Nets’ pick in an effort to convince LeBron James to stay.
  • Popovich denied his comments on Aldridge were directed at Leonard, relays Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Told that a lot of people were interpreting his words that way, Popovich responded, “Who are these lots of people? Who are they? Did you count them? I think you just made that up.”
  • Aldridge serves as a reminder that broken relationships between teams and players can be repaired, notes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Aldridge issued a trade request last summer, but Popovich smoothed things over in an offseason meeting that led to Aldridge signing a three-year extension and turning in his best season since coming to San Antonio.
  • Don’t forget to vote in our poll on what the Spurs should do about the Leonard situation this summer.

Kyle Korver Ready To Go After Rough Stretch

“You could say it added fuel to the fire, I guess you could say,” Oladipo said after the Pacers win in Game 1. “But that was so long ago. It came up recently, obviously, because we were playing the Cavs in the series, but I’m aware of what he said. Can’t control his opinion. All I’m focused on is myself and becoming the best Victor Oladipo possible.”

  • It’s been a tough last couple of months for Cavaliers sharpshooter Kyle Korver, writes Joe Vardon of The Plain Dealer. Korver tragically lost his younger brother Kirk due to complications from a sudden illness in March, then missed additional games with a right foot injury upon his return to the team. The 37-year-old veteran is ready for Game 2 though, saying “I feel like it’s been a very complicated month in my mind, but I feel like I’m in a good spot right now and I’m ready to play.”