INDEPENDENCE — Dwyane Wade will be the starting shooting guard when the Cavaliers open the regular season Oct. 17 against the Boston Celtics at Quicken Loans Arena.
Coach Tyronn Lue made the announcement following practice Monday, and the Cavs (0-3) will use their normal starting lineup for the first time when they host the Chicago Bulls tonight at 8 o’clock in preseason action.
Four-time league MVP LeBron James missed the first three exhibition games with a sprained left ankle, while Lue sat his remaining starters — Wade, Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder and Kevin Love — for a preseason game Sunday in Washington.
“I just wanted to do it,” Lue said when asked why he chose Wade over previous starter J.R. Smith. “It’s just something we’re going to do to start the season. We’ll see how it works.”
The 35-year-old Wade, a 12-time All-Star and 15th-year pro, will give the Cavs an extremely athletic backcourt, though he and Rose aren’t nearly the 3-point threat Smith is.
Smith’s perimeter shooting, however, became less important in the starting lineup when Lue moved Love to center in place of Tristan Thompson, because that allowed Crowder to move into the lineup at forward.
“We have a lot of talent, a lot of versatile players on offense and defense,” Lue said. “With the starting lineup right now — D-Rose, LeBron, D-Wade, Kevin, Crowder — they all can push it out on the break if they rebound the basketball. They’re guys that can make plays, good cutters, good slashers, guys that can space the floor.
“We’ve just got to put them all together so they all play well together.”
Lue said he spoke to the sometimes emotional Smith about coming off the bench and said the 14th-year pro understood the decision. Smith won the league’s Sixth Man award in 2012-13 with New York, but started for the Cavs in their three straight NBA Finals appearances.
“He was fine,” the coach said. “It was tough. He was in a position where we went to three straight Finals and he was our starting shooting guard. … It’s about sacrifice. If you want to win, you’re always great about it and you know you have to have a different role right now. We’ll see how it works.”
Lue was hesitant to use Smith and fellow 3-point specialist Kyle Korver at the same time last season, but said they have played well together in practice.
“We’ve been working on some different things offensively,” Lue said. “Those guys have played together. … It’s been pretty good. We’ve just got to keep working at it.”
In addition to their starting five, plus Smith and Korver, the Cavs also will have guys like Thompson, Jose Calderon, Iman Shumpert, Jeff Green, Channing Frye, Cedi Osman and Richard Jefferson available off the bench, though Jefferson could be released if the team can’t make a trade. Shumpert is currently sidelined with a sprained foot.
“They’re professionals,” Lue said. “(Their approach is), ‘Whatever you need from me, I’ll be ready.’”
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