Tristan Thompson

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 Cleveland.com. 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 NBA.com. “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.”

Central Notes: Cavaliers, Thompson, Pistons

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.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • After seeing just two minutes of action in the first two games of the Cavaliers‘ first-round matchup, Tristan Thompson is expected to see more action, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes.
  • The Pistons don’t have financial flexibility heading into the offseason but head coach Stan Van Gundy doesn’t view that as an impediment to improving the roster. Van Gundy tells Keith Langlois of the team’s official site that there are benefits to returning so many key rotation players and that they’ll always have options in terms of trades when the time comes.
  • The Bucks haven’t made it out of the first round in 17 seasons. Down in their 2018 first-round tilt with Boston, they have plenty of work to do, but Genaro C. Armas of The Associate Press writes it would do wonders for business as the franchise prepares to move into a new arena.

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.

Central Rumors: Tolliver, Griffin, J.R. Smith, Markkanen

Power forward Anthony Tolliver would like to stay put but his future with the Pistons is uncertain at best, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports. Tolliver, 32, quickly emerged as a rotation player in his second stint with the franchise and posted career highs in field-goal percentage (46.4) and 3-point percentage (43.6), Khan notes. But Tolliver becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Pistons still have Jon Leuer, who missed most of the season with an ankle injury, and Henry Ellenson at that spot behind Blake Griffin“I’ve been here longer than anywhere else in my career and would love to keep that going,” Tolliver told Khan and other beat writers. “But at the end of the day, got to see what’s up this summer.”

In other news around the Central Division:

  • Griffin told his Pistons teammates during their postseason meeting that he wants to be the leader of the team, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com relays. Griffin arrived in a late January trade with the Clippers and feels he needs to take more responsibility. “It’s a role that he should and does embrace,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It’s not he and Chris Paul. Clearly, he’s the most accomplished guy on our team to this point. Five-time All-Star. Guys look up to him, so people are going to be looking at him and I think he wants that.”
  • Former starters J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson are candidates to return to the starting five for Game 2 against the Pacers, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue confirmed to Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and other media members. Smith scored 15 points off the bench in Game 1, while Thompson made just a cameo appearance. “We’ve been talking about it as a staff,” Lue said. “I just know those guys have been through everything with us the last four years and we won a championship, went to three finals. Tristan and J.R. played a big part of that. We understand that and trust me, we know that.”
  • Bulls rookie forward Lauri Markkanen will play for the Finnish National Team in the FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifiers scheduled for the end of June, Sportando reports. He averaged 15.2 PPG and 7.5 RPG in 29.7 MPG during his first NBA season.

Central Notes: Cavs, LeBron, Felicio, Kennard

Like many teams this season, the Cavaliers have been bit by the injury bug, with All-Star Kevin Love the most glaring omission from the line-up for most of this year’s campaign. In a recent game against Chicago, the Cavs were without six rotation players – Love, Kyle Korver, Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood, Tristan Thompson, and Cedi Osman.

Moreover, Cavaliers’ head coach Tyronn Lue remains out with health issues. Yet, things are now beginning to turn around. Osman and Korver remain out, but Love returned earlier this week and, as reported by Joe Vardon of The Plain Dealer, Nance Jr., Hood, and Thompson all returned for tonight’s game against Phoenix, albeit on minutes restrictions.

Vardon adds that there is still no word on whether Lue will join the Cavaliers on an upcoming three-game road trip, with interim coach Larry Drew stating, “I haven’t heard anything. I’m just going to proceed and take it a game at a time until I hear something different.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • In another article for The Plain Dealer, Vardon details LeBron James‘ response to Cavaliers‘ fans putting up a billboard in James’ favor in his hometown of Akron, OH. “I haven’t seen it, but, like I said before, it’s very flattering. It’s just, I don’t know, it’s very humbling. I know my hometown, so, I already know there’s no place like Akron, that’s for sure.”
  • Sam Smith of Bulls.com takes a look at how Bulls‘ big man Cristiano Felicio is looking to improve his game to show he deserves the $32MM contract Chicago gave him over the summer. “I know a lot of people talk whatever they want to. I am not focusing on them. I am just focusing on myself and trying to get better. I know I wasn’t playing well at the beginning of the season (but) now they are giving me an opportunity again, and I am trying to show, go out and show them I can play.”
  • It may have taken awhile, but Pistons‘ rookie shooting guard Luke Kennard is now firmly entrenched in the Pistons’ rotation and is an important part of Detroit’s future, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Teammate Blake Griffin likes what he’s seen out of Kennard lately, saying, “He’s been great this stretch. Not only scoring the ball but running offense with poise when he has it, playing good defense, being in passing lanes, passing the ball well. He’s done everything. He’s very capable of doing that and it’s been huge for us.”

Cavaliers Notes: Lue, Drew, Injuries, Zizic

The Cavaliers and Tyronn Lue announced on Monday morning that the head coach would be taking a leave of absence for health reasons, and that was just the start of another eventful day in the life of the 2017/18 Cavs. Later, Cleveland confirmed that Kevin Love would be making his long-awaited return from a hand injury on Monday night. The team later went out and grabbed a dramatic 124-117 win over the Bucks, with LeBron James posting a rare 40-point triple-double.

As Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post writes, the day was emblematic of the Cavaliers’ season as a whole, which has been filled with ups and downs, with one thing happening after another all year long. While the roster appears to be getting healthy as the regular season nears an end, the same can’t be said for its head coach, whose health will be the franchise’s top concern in the coming weeks. Lue hopes to return well before the playoffs get underway, according to Bontemps.

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • Before Lue’s leave of absence was announced, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com wrote in a mailbag that he doesn’t think the Cavs’ head coach is on the hot seat. As long as Lue is healthy, Vardon assumes that he’ll continue to be the coach in Cleveland next season.
  • Interim head coach Larry Drew found out at 1:30 on Monday morning that he’d be taking over for Lue for the time being, Vardon writes in another Cleveland.com article. Vardon notes that the process of having Lue step down temporarily was initiated by GM Koby Altman, adding that it’s expected to take about a week for Lue’s body to become accustomed to the new medication he’s on.
  • With so many players set to return from injuries for the Cavs, Drew plans to give Lue a call to get his input on some lineup decisions, per Vardon. “We’ll talk about it,” Drew said. “He’s got the final say-so. Whatever he wants, then that’s what we’re going to go with. But if he tells me to make a decision, then I’ll have to make a decision.” Although Love is back, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance, Tristan Thompson, and Cedi Osman are all still dealing with various injuries.
  • Speaking of Thompson, given the way Ante Zizic has been playing during the veteran’s absence, the Cavs will soon have to figure out how to balance the frontcourt minutes, says Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Zizic posted 13 points and six boards during Cleveland’s win on Monday, and has been making a case for a more regular role.

Tristan Thompson To Miss Two Weeks

MARCH 6: Speaking to reporters on Monday night, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue provided a more specific recovery timeline for Thompson, suggesting the big man will be out for two weeks (Twitter link via Marla Ridenour of The Akron Beacon Journal).

MARCH 4: Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could be out for an extended period after suffering a right ankle sprain, the team announced in a press release. Thompson will miss multiple games while undergoing a period of treatment and rehabilitation for the injury, the release adds.

Thompson was injured during the first quarter of Cleveland’s loss to the Nuggets on Saturday night when he stepped on the heel of a Denver player. He continued to play a total of 28 minutes and finished with 12 points and seven rebounds but the ankle swelled up overnight.

Thompson is averaging a career-low 6.3 PPG and 6.5 RPG in 42 games this season but had perked up since the Cavaliers remade their roster prior to the trade deadline. Thompson was averaging 7.8 PPG nd 8.2 RPG over the last 10 games.

Thompson’s season has been marred by injuries. He missed 21 games from early November through mid-December with a calf strain.

Thompson’s injuries robs the Cavaliers of their top two big men for the balance of the month. Kevin Love is not expected to return from his broken left hand until late this month. Larry Nance Jr. and Ante Zizic will see their playing time increase until one or both return.

Central Notes: Hood, Nance Jr., Hill, Muhammad

Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr. were inserted into the Cavs’ starting lineup on Monday and coach Tyronn Lue said those changes will remain for awhile, Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Nance is replacing Tristan Thompson, who will be out multiple games with an ankle sprain suffered on Saturday. Hood will replace Cedi Osman, who has started nine games since Kevin Love broke his hand. The new-look lineup will be used at least until Thompson returns, Lue added to Vardon and other media members. “Nance is starting and he’s been our boost off the bench defensively and his energy,” Lue said. “Now we need someone like Cedi to come off the bench and give us that same boost and that same energy defensive-wise.”

In other developments around the Central Division:

  • George Hill said the Cavs are still early in the process of building chemistry with all the roster changes that were made. Hill is one of those players after getting dealt by the Kings right before the trade deadline. “Once teams start scouting and figuring things out, we’ve just got to figure it out ourselves,” he told Vardon in a separate piece. “Where we’re going as a team and what’s going to be our identity? It’s all new schemes for us defensively for four guys coming into a rotation to play with a playoff team like this is totally different. It’s going to take time.”
  • Shabazz Muhammad didn’t play on Sunday after joining the Bucks but he expects to jump into the rotation soon, as he told Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Muhammad signed with Milwaukee after he was bought out by the Timberwolves last week. “I think I’ll probably get some minutes off the bench — that’s why I came here, to help out,” Muhammad told Velazquez.

Woj’s Latest: Cavaliers, Clippers, Kings, Jazz

In his latest piece for ESPN.com, Adrian Wojnarowski goes into extensive detail on the deadline deals completed last week by the Cavaliers, and offers some fascinating tidbits on how those trades got done, and one potential blockbuster that didn’t get done. Let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • Before making his series of trades, Cavaliers GM Koby Altman got an elusive face-to-face sitdown with LeBron James to let his star player know what he was working on. Altman later met with LeBron again to tell him that the trades for Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance, George Hill, and Rodney Hood were complete, and to ask for his blessing on the deal that sent Dwyane Wade to Miami, says Wojnarowski.
  • Altman had received ownership approval to trade Jae Crowder, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, and the Cavs’ own 2018 first-round pick to the Clippers for DeAndre Jordan, according to Wojnarowski. Los Angeles was on board with the deal, but wanted to find a third team to take Shumpert and to give the Clips a center, since they didn’t want another shooting guard. Altman and Clippers GM Michael Winger weren’t able to find that third team, and since L.A. was unwilling to take on Shumpert (or Tristan Thompson or J.R. Smith) and the Cavs had some reservations about extending Jordan’s contract in the offseason, the deal ultimately fell through.
  • The three-way trade between the Cavaliers, Kings, and Jazz nearly fell apart on deadline day when Sacramento insisted that Georgios Papagiannis be included in the deal. According to Woj, Cleveland and Utah were “adamant” that Papagiannis had never been discussed, but Kings assistant GM Brandon Williams insists that his notes confirm that either Papagiannis or Malachi Richardson would be included.
  • As an aside, Wojnarowski writes that Williams was handling negotiations because GM Vlade Divac “seldom gets on the phone for the trade-building parts,” even though any Kings trade requires his approval, along with the approval of owner Vivek Ranadive.
  • The Cavaliers were very much against Papagiannis’ inclusion in the trade, since taking on his $2.3MM cap hit would have cost the club significantly more than that in tax payments. Utah also had no interest in acquiring the former lottery pick, with Wojnarowski suggesting that Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey was “livid” about the insertion of Papagiannis and was ready to call off the trade. As for the Kings, they were hoping to move 2016’s 13th overall pick to avoid the embarrassment of waiving him themselves, says Woj.
  • Eventually, Altman was able to work out a solution and talked Lindsey into it, per Wojnarowski. Papagiannis’ rest-of-season salary for this year and his guaranteed salary for 2018/19 totaled $3.2MM, and the Cavaliers were willing to pay that amount to Sacramento, but Cleveland was limited to sending out $2.1MM for the rest of this league year. Altman convinced the Jazz to send the Kings the remaining $1.1MM, with Lindsey getting a little something out of the deal: the ability to swap 2024 second-round picks with the Cavs. The Kings, having been compensated for Papagiannis’ remaining salary, simply waived him rather than insisting he be a part of the trade.

Cavs, Clippers Continue To Discuss DeAndre Jordan

FEBRUARY 8, 7:48am: The Cavaliers and Clippers continue to discuss the possibility of a Jordan trade, and have had conversations with possible third teams as they explore ways to make a deal, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

FEBRUARY 7, 5:59pm: Clippers center DeAndre Jordan is the “number one target” for the Cavaliers in advance of tomorrow afternoon’s trade deadline, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. Appearing on a podcast with Chris Mannix, Charania says Cleveland’s front office continues to hold out hope of a deal.

The Cavs’ dream scenario is for L.A. to accept an offer that includes what Charania calls one of their “bad contracts” — either J.R. Smith or Tristan Thompson — along with Cleveland’s first-rounder in exchange for Jordan. The Clippers reportedly won’t consider the deal unless Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick is included.

Smith is signed for $14.72MM next season plus a non-guaranteed $15.68MM in 2019/20, while Thompson will make more than $36MM over the next two years. The Nets’ pick is No. 8 in our latest Reverse Standings, and Cleveland’s falls at 24th.

Jordan is putting up typical numbers in his 10th season with the Clippers, averaging 11.5 points, 14.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. He could be a difference maker for a porous Cavaliers team that is 28th in the league in defensive rating. Jordan can opt out of his more than $24MM salary for next season and become a free agent this summer.