CLEVELAND — Not bad, for the starters.
Cavaliers small forward LeBron James did not play in the exhibition opener due to a sprained left ankle, but Cleveland showed a lot of first-half talent before the bottom of its training camp roster took over in a 109-93 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
“The first unit picked up the plays better than the second unit and third unit,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “You could tell they clicked offensively. That’s a good sign.”
As for James, he took part in the team’s shootaround earlier in the day and worked out before the game, with Lue saying the four-time league MVP was feeling much better. Lue did not know if James would practice today or play Friday when the Cavs host Indiana.
On this night, Cleveland starters Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, J.R. Smith, Jae Crowder and Kevin Love didn’t play much more than James — all were on the floor for 14:44 — and none saw action in the second half.
Several weren’t even on the bench after intermission, though Smith did eventually show up with a cup of coffee, and all were long gone before the locker room was opened to the media.
But when the first unit was on the floor — the shooting guard spot is still up for grabs between Wade and Smith when James is in the lineup — it looked pretty darn good, as Cleveland never trailed in the first half and led by as many as 14 in the opening quarter.
“We’re more versatile offensively and defensively,” Lue said. “For the most part, we’ve got guys that can make plays with good basketball IQs.”
The Cavs made five 3-pointers — new starting center Love had three — in jumping to a 28-20 lead at the end of the first period, but they finished the night a subpar 12-for-43 (.279).
Ball movement was also surprisingly crisp with top-of-the-rotation players on the floor, as the Cavs recorded assists on 16 of their 18 first-half field goals.
“That’s without LeBron and (point guard) Isaiah (Thomas) on the floor,” Lue said. “I think guys are getting it. Now we have to start adding more.”
Wade began the game by getting a steal, which was followed by back-to-back threes by Love.
Later in the opening quarter, Love grabbed a defensive rebound and threw a 55-foot outlet pass to Wade, who immediately hit a sprinting Crowder for a layup.
The second half, won 62-43 by the Hawks, wasn’t nearly as pretty.
Cleveland’s Channing Frye went 3-for-12 from the field and 1-for-5 on 3-pointers, while Kyle Korver was 1-for-8 and 1-for-7. Rookie Cedi Osman, who got some early minutes when Iman Shumpert suffered an injury, did nothing until the closing moments, while veteran point guard Jose Calderon took four shots, all 3-pointers, and missed them all.
Kay Felder ended up leading the Cavs with 13 points — Love had 12 and no one else had more than eight — but he had just one assist and three turnovers.
The Hawks (1-1) got 18 points from point guard Dennis Schroeder, 15 points and eight rebounds from small forward Taurean Prince and 13 points from center Dewayne Dedmon.
King to get crowned?
In NBA.com’s annual survey of league general managers, 50 percent of the respondents predicted James would win his fifth MVP award. It was the sixth straight year he led the general managers’ preseason voting, but he last earned MVP in 2013 with Miami.
James also was named best small forward (61 percent), best leader (43), most versatile player (55), best basketball IQ (64), best passer (36) and the player who forces the most coaching adjustments (48).
Golden State received 93 percent of the vote for NBA champion, with the Warriors (97 percent) and Cavs (86) projected to win conference titles and meet in The Finals for a fourth straight season.
The Celtics-Cavs trade (45 percent) was named the most surprising offseason move, while Boston acquiring Kyrie Irving (7 percent) was voted the fourth-most impactful acquisition, behind Oklahoma City getting Paul George (59), Minnesota landing Jimmy Butler (17) and Houston adding Chris Paul (10).
Las Vegas, where more than 50 people died in a mass shooting at an outdoor concert Sunday night, has been Lue’s offseason home for nine years. He knew three people who were shot. All survived.
“It’s just not a good thing,” he said.
Asked what could be done to prevent another occurrence, Lue said he wasn’t an overly political person.
“I can’t speak to laws or changes,” he said. “Whatever we can do to try to eliminate these types of situations, I’m all for.”
- Shumpert suffered a left foot injury while going up for a first-quarter dunk attempt and left for good after playing just 2:17. He will undergo further tests today.
- A number of Cavs players plan to go as a group to Game 1 of the Indians-Yankees playoff series this evening at Progressive Field.
- Wade is occupying the locker previously used by Irving.
- Point guard Quinn Cook, who played for the Cavs’ G League affiliate in Canton last season, is in camp with the Hawks. He has a partially guaranteed contract and will likely make the team.