When Dwyane Wade joined the Cleveland Cavaliers in late September, the question quickly arose as to who – if anyone – would be cast aside in the starting lineup in favor of the 12-time All-Star.
Before Wade’s arrival, the Cavaliers were already down guard Isaiah Thomas to a hip injury. So Derrick Rose, who signed with the Cavaliers in late July, looked to be Thomas’ surefire replacement as he joined J.R. Smith in the backcourt.
But with the abrupt addition of Wade, the Cavaliers’ backcourt suddenly got more crowded.
And on Monday, Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue made the official decision, sending Smith to the bench and naming Wade as starting shooting guard, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
“I just wanted to do it,” Lue told McMenamin after practice.
The Cavaliers will now be starting the season with Rose at point guard, Wade as the shooting guard, four-time MVP LeBron James at small forward, Jae Crowder at the 4 and Kevin Love at the 5. Lue said Rose would also run the second-team offense.
The Cavaliers open their season on Oct. 17 against the Boston Celtics.
Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype.com reported on Sept. 24 that Wade was assured he would start if he signed with Cleveland. On Monday, that statement proved out.
Monday’s announcement doesn’t mean Rose will be playing “starter” minutes. Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon said Rose will start, but will quickly be removed to run the second unit.
Derrick Rose will start at PG but will leave Q1 early to run second unit
— Joe Vardon (@joevardon) October 9, 2017
Last month, Smith said he was willing to come off the bench in favor of Wade starting, according to WKYC’s Ben Axelrod.
— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) September 28, 2017
Smith started 112 games in the past two seasons for Cleveland. Lue told Cleveland.com on Monday that Smith was “fine” with the decision.
“It’s tough, you’ve been in position where you went to three straight Finals and you’ve been the starting 2-guard,” Lue said. “But like I said it’s about sacrifice if you want to win. J.R. was great about it. Just knows he has to have a different role right now so we’ll see how it works.”
Smith isn’t the first Cavalier in recent weeks to make the move to the bench. The arrival of Crowder displaced low-post big Tristan Thompson.
“I told him I’m one guy you don’t have to worry about,” said Thompson, according to Tom Withers of the Associated Press. “I’m a team-first guy. I understand that at the end of the day it’s about winning and if you win, we all look good – whether you come off the bench or you start. And it’s not about who starts the game, it’s about who is in the game in the fourth and who is finishing it. So, I’m not worried. The last time I came off the bench, if history repeats itself, we had a parade in June. So, I’ll take it.”
Thompson took it a step further, telling reporters that he’s “going for Sixth Man of the Year,” and will put himself in the position to do so. Thompson started all 78 of his games for Cleveland at center last season.