The Cavaliers remain committed to winning this season rather than tearing down the team and rebuilding, Joe Vardon of the Athletic reports. The front office doesn’t view Sunday’s blowout loss to the Hawks as a reflection of what to expect going forward with this squad.
Before the 22-point loss, the team owned a record of 0-2 and Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, and Channing Frye, the team’s three oldest players, were told that they were not going to be in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Coach Tyronn Lue and GM Koby Altman sat with the trio on Saturday—a day before the loss—and explained that Cleveland was going to give its young players the opportunity to showcase their skills. Lue’s rotation was teetering between 11 and 12 players and it needed to be shortened. Frye was already not in the rotation, but Korver and Smith were both set to receive a demotion.
Today, after the 22-point loss, Lue began practice with both Korver and Smith among the team’s top 10 players. Both vets are expected to play on Wednesday against the Nets. Vardon notes that it’s possible Lue made this decision against the front office’s wishes.
The front office is committed to the team’s youth but also pledged to Kevin Love that the organization would not tank, something Love wanted to know before he signed his four-year extension. Love understands the need to develop players for the future, but sees a reason for playing the vets now.
“In our commitment to helping guys grow, the guys who know how to win have to play,” Love told Vardon, in supporting Lue’s latest decision. “I think having Kyle and Channing and J.R., those guys know how to win in this league, and having them will help bring the others along. So they need to play.”
Love feels that younger players may pick up bad habits as a result of not playing alongside veterans. He spoke about how he did just that playing on a young team in Minnesota.
“I had to step into playing so many minutes every single night, and my bad habits had accumulated. I got here and I had to shake a lot of those, learn what it is to sacrifice,” Love said. “In practice time and teaching points and film, all that stuff that goes on away from the games, that’s where I think those guys are gonna grow.”
Lue sees Cleveland’s defensive woes as a communication issue and he said the team’s players either have to “talk or they’ve got to come and sit down [on the bench],” as Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com relays.
“I think the biggest thing is communication,” Lue said. “When you’re switching you have to call the switches out so the man can’t get behind and get dunks and layups and easy shots.”
This is a situation that could fluctuate over the next several weeks. The team can only dress 13 players and on Sunday, David Nwaba was in street clothes while the team’s three oldest players sat on the bench in uniform. A front office executive tells Vardon that Nwaba is unlikely to be out of uniform going forward, so it’s unclear who will be in street clothes when the team plays on Wednesday.
Korver is considered a strong candidate to be moved at some point during the season, though the team has not explored trade opportunities for him since training camp. Vardon adds that if a market developed for Tristan Thompson, the Cavs would likely listen to offers. Cleveland’s payroll sits at approximately $115.7MM, roughly $14MM over the salary cap.