Report: Cavs Organization Told Veterans That It Was Going to Prioritize Younger Players

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The Cleveland Cavaliers entered this season with an aim to feature more young players in the rotation, but after an 0-3 start to the season, head coach Tyronn Lue has other plans in mind.

According to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, Lue is going back to his veteran players, namely Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith.

Prior to the Cavs’ home opener against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, Lue spoke with the team’s three oldest players — Korver (age 37), Channing Frye (age 35), and Smith (age 33) — and told them that they would not be in his rotation for the foreseeable future.

After the Cavs’ embarrassing 133-111 loss to the Hawks, however, Lue changed his mind. During practice on Tuesday, Lue put Korver and Smith on the floor among the team’s top 10 players. The coach intends to play both on Wednesday, when the Cavs host the Brooklyn Nets at home.

George Hill, Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, Rodney Hood

All-Star forward Kevin Love agreed with Lue’s decision and expressed his approval towards the head coach’s rotation change.

“In our commitment to helping guys grow, the guys who know how to win have to play,” Love said. “I think having Kyle and Channing and JR, those guys know how to win in this league, and having them will help bring the others along. So they need to play.”

It’s certainly nice that Lue has the backing of one of the NBA’s premier players in Love. But the Cavs front office is still committed to winning this year and reportedly views the rotation changes as not reflecting the identity that the Cavs want to establish this season.

After all, Cavs general manager Koby Altman assured Love over the summer that the team would not tank despite losing LeBron James, which was the main thing Love needed to hear before signing his four-year, $120 million extension with the organization.

Playing and trusting his veterans has brought Lue many benefits in the past. For example, early in the playoffs last season, the Cavs experienced struggles against the Indiana Pacers, after which Lue committed to playing Smith and Tristan Thompson more, which righted the ship.

J.R. Smith and Tyronn Lue Cavs

Against the Hawks on Sunday, the Cavaliers actually started off strong and led by as many as 15 points in the first quarter. However, they gave up 22 3-pointers and only made 10, and had several defensive collapses that provided Atlanta with a direct entry to get back into the game. As a result of their defensive woes, the Cavaliers were outscored by the Hawks, 40-26, in the second quarter, and 41-25 in the fourth.

Love apparently did not know that Korver and Smith wouldn’t be playing in the game until the fourth quarter, once the it got out of hand. After the game, he went on to emphasize the importance of playing alongside vets in games and harkened back to his days with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“In my first few years in Minnesota I didn’t necessarily have the savvy vet or the superstar player ahead of me,” Love said. “Al Jefferson was on that path, but he got hurt. 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.

Furthermore, Love added that most of the growth that the young players will experience will be outside of the actual games.

“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,” said Love.

The Cavs front office has been invested in the team’s youth thus far. The organization acquired 21-year-old Ante Zizic via trade last season, drafted 19-year-old Collin Sexton in this year’s NBA draft, are heavily committed to 23-year-old forward Cedi Osman, and traded for three 25-year-olds in Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Rodney Hood at last season’s trade deadline.

Additionally, the Cavs signed 25-year-old David Nwaba during the offseason and traded for 24-year-old Sam Dekker.

It remains to be seen whether or not Lue’s rotation changes will result in more wins for the team and more development of young talent. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see which young players will be beneficiaries from these changes, and which ones will not.

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Abhinav Seetharaman has been a passionate NBA follower for the last 13 years. He is an ardent Cavs fan who has supported the team since he first fell in love with basketball. While his favorite player is LeBron James, he still reps the Land all day and is incredibly excited to write for Cavaliers Nation. Abhinav received his undergraduate degree from Columbia University in May 2018, and will be returning to Columbia this fall to pursue his Masters. You can follow him at @AbhiSeeTheRamen.