James Rests, Crowder Starts and Shump Goes to War
When the Hawks roll into Cleveland on Wednesday night, Training Camp comes to a close and the preseason begins – with a two-week, five-game stretch that concludes with an October 13 matchup in Orlando. Following that exhibition contest, it’s a date with Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics four nights later at The Q.
At this time last year, the Cavs were searching high and low for the aforementioned Irving’s backup at the point. Twelve months later, the team is trying to figure out how to portion quality veteran minutes for that (and just about every other) position.
The Cavaliers also had Tristan Thompson slated as their starter at this point last year. But after a roster upheaval this summer, Tristan is talking Sixth Man Award and Kevin Love has moved to the starting center spot.
One of the biggest – if not the main – reasons that Tyronn Lue has been able to tinker with the starting five is the presence of Jae Crowder, who’s quietly been the squad’s starting small forward through the first week of Camp.
Lue likes the fact that Crowder can take some of the pressure off LeBron defensively – a role not unfamiliar to the sixth-year forward from Marquette.
”Before I got on this team, I defended pretty much the best perimeter player from the opposite team,” said Crowder after Tuesday’s workout. “I take the challenge head on. That’s part of what I bring to a team – being able to take on that challenge and have the mindset of giving that player the best defensive look possible.
”But it’s a team effort, there’s not one guy who can shut down the top scorers in this league. But I just want to give us different looks and help our team win at the end of the night.”
The Cavaliers aren’t the only new-look team in the East. In fact, the team considered their closest competitor – the Celtics – got quite an offseason facelift themselves. But how will that facelift affect Boston’s identity as a deep, scrappy, tough squad – especially with two of their most rugged leaders – Avery Bradley and Crowder – playing elsewhere?
The Wine & Gold were in need of a tough, versatile guy like Crowder. The fact that he can step into the starting lineup and take some mileage off LeBron James is icing on the cake.
”You always want to get toughness,” added Coach Lue. “A lot of times you get toughness, but a guy can’t play. When you add toughness and all the guys can play, it’s really big, it’s very valuable. Guys who aren’t gonna back down, guys that are gonna know their role, guys that are gonna be physical. So, adding these guys has really been important for us.”
Crowder is one of those “tough guys who can play” that Lue described. The 6-6, 235-pounder averaged 13.9 points on a career-best 46 percent shooting in 72 starts last year with Boston.
We’ll see how the blockbuster deal transformed both teams in little more than a fortnight, when Brad Stevens brings his shiny new Big Three to Cleveland for the start of the 2017-18 campaign.
Iman Shumpert looks on during Tuesday’s Day 8 Training Camp session at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
Photo by Lucy Matz / Cavs.com
1 After rolling his left ankle in last Wednesday’s practice, LeBron James missed Monday night’s Wine & Gold Scrimmage and was in civvies again for Tuesday’s workout at CCC. (Not actually “civvies” – donning camo sweats, a pair of black Chuck Taylors and a black t-shirt reading “LOVE WINS.”)
When James isn’t able to practice, he wanders in an out of drills and scrimmaging, giving tips, talking with coaches and busting teammates’ chops. When the best basketball player in the world can’t play basketball, he gets understandably restless.
As a precaution, Numeral 23 won’t be in action again for Wednesday’s preseason meeting with Atlanta at The Q.
2 For those Cavs fans who’ve been unable to sleep over the past few days, the Cedi Osman uniform number saga is coming to its completion. After starting Camp with No. 9 – which was then transferred to Dwyane Wade – the rookie had been practicing in No. 33.
On Tuesday, with ice wrapped around his sore lower back, Osman donned No. 16 – which will now be his official digit for the 2017-18 campaign.
3 With the influx of talent this offseason, it’s easy to overlook some of the Cavaliers’ incumbents.
Two years ago, Iman Shumpert, was Cleveland’s starting 2-guard in the 2015 Finals. Last year, although he came off the bench for most of the season – starting 31 games while J.R. Smith rehabbed an injured thumb – Shump put up some of the best shooting numbers of his six-year career.
Through the first week of Training Camp, Shump has often been the most aggressive player on the floor. And with the addition of Dwyane Wade to an already-crowded backcourt, the former Georgia Tech standout knows he’ll have to battle for minutes all season long.
”As far as having a lot of guys, I’m ready to go to war; I don’t mind the competition. They’ll tell you: Every day I come in here, I’m asking when we’re gonna play 5-on-5, when we’re gonna get up and down, when’s the whistle gonna start blowing so we can get out there and go. I like war. So if I feel like I can be part of the war and I can spill some blood, I’m all for it.”
4 There’s no basketball point to this other than it was an interesting visual.
At one point – in that lull between practice wrapping up and guys splitting up for free throws or individual drills – one basket stanchion featured Kay Felder and Isaiah Thomas (combined 11 feet, six inches) doing layups while the basket opposite the court featured Edy Tavares and Ante Zizic (combined 14 feet, three inches) working out with Vitaly Potapenko.