INDEPENDENCE — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue has a plan for how he’s going to use shooting guard Dwyane Wade, but he’s not ready to reveal whether the 35-year-old will start or come off the bench.
“I’m not going to tell you who’s going to start as of right now,” Lue said Thursday following practice. “We have a plan in place. We’ll see how it works and we’ll go from there.”
Wade signed with the Cavs early Wednesday evening and practiced with the team, but he was attending to personal matters Thursday and was not on hand. He will rejoin the team for practice today, but good friend LeBron James, who turned his left ankle Wednesday night and didn’t practice Thursday, is listed as “day-to-day.” X-rays were negative.
Meanwhile, incumbent starting shooting guard J.R. Smith, who would go to the bench if Wade moves into the lineup, took the politically correct approach, sort of, following practice.
“As far as I know, I’m still in the starting lineup,” he said. “It’s going to be what it’s going to be. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. It’s who’s in there in the crunch.
“I’m not going to sit here and get into a blank-measuring contest with Dwyane Wade. I’m not going to win that. I’m going to continue to work hard for my team. However they do it, that’s how it’s going to be.”
There’s no doubt Wade, a 12-time All-Star, is a more talented and better all-around player than Smith. The more important question is what Lue deems the best fit for the Cavs as a whole.
Due to injury, Smith played in only 41 regular-season games last season, but still shot a respectable .351 on 3-pointers (95-for-271). He’s a .374 shooter from deep for his 13-year career. Wade shot .310 on 3-pointers last season (45-for-145) and is at .287 for his 14-year career.
Compounding matters, Derrick Rose, who will start at point guard while Isaiah Thomas recovers from a hip injury, is a .298 3-point shooter for his career. Last season, he was 13-for-60 (.217).
Lue, though, doesn’t seem overly concerned with that.
“How we decide to go, we always have a chance to substitute,” the coach said. “We can get different guys in the game.”
That could mean the Cavs will go with a starting lineup of Rose, Wade, James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson to open the regular season. Of those five, only Love (.373 last season, .364 career) and James (.363, .342) would be legitimate 3-point threats.
Last season, the Cavs led the league by shooting .390 on 3-pointers and were second in makes per game with a franchise-record 13.2. Cleveland’s starting lineup with Wade in it made 5.1 a game last season.
“It’s the coach’s decision, however it works out,” Smith said. “If anything, it makes us stronger, whether I come off the bench or he comes off the bench, however it works. I really don’t focus on it, honestly. This is my 14th year coming up. I have a lot of BS in my past. I don’t plan to bring that.
“(Wade’s) IQ for the game is going to help tremendously, especially for myself. Even though this is my 14th year and this is his 15th, there’s so much basketball that he’s seen that I haven’t.”
Smith won’t be the only Cleveland player who will have to adjust to a lesser role minutes-wise, as only James and perhaps Love are likely to come close to matching their court time from a season ago.
“We all know who the big dog is,” Smith said of James. “Everybody else has got to get it where they fit it. If you was going to come in here with an ego, you shouldn’t have signed here. This is the wrong place to go.”
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