INDEPENDENCE — The first priority for Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is getting his players prepared to play the high-paced, motion offense and aggressive defense he wants to employ.
He’ll worry about the starting lineup later.
“The intensity was high for the whole 21⁄2 hours,” Lue said Tuesday following his team’s first practice. “Guys really put the energy and effort into practice, but it’s something we’ve got to continue to keep doing. Everything we do has to be full speed, game speed.”
Added 32-year-old point guard George Hill: “We’re going to have to rely on each other a lot more this year. We don’t have that guy you can just throw the ball to and he makes a lot of things happen like we had with LeBron last year. Knowing this year is going to be a lot different, a lot of people have to have their hand in that jar.”
Despite Lue’s reluctance to name starters, it’s a virtual certainty Kevin Love will start at power forward, with Tristan Thompson almost as big of a lock at center.
Second-year man Cedi Osman would seem like the favorite at small forward, though swingman Rodney Hood could slide into that spot.
The only candidates at point guard are rookie Collin Sexton and Hill, with the latter also in the mix at a crowded shooting guard position, where incumbent but seemingly fading J.R. Smith, Jordan Clarkson and Hood also could vie for the starting spot.
When asked if he had a starting five in mind, Lue said, “I’m going to let it play out.” The coach then paused before adding, “No matter how many times you ask.”
Sexton, the No. 8 pick in the draft, will almost certainly be the starting point guard at some point. The only question is whether he takes over that position to start the season.
“He’s a smart kid and has a lot of upside,” Hill said. “We’re going to take each day and try to do the best we can to win games. That’s all that matters. No matter who’s starting or who’s coming off the bench or who’s playing or who’s not, we’re all going to be on the same page and have fun doing it and learn from each other.”
Even when he decides upon his starters, Lue will have to determine who is going to get the majority of time at shooting guard and small forward, where David Nwaba and Kyle Korver also are in the mix to get minutes.
Larry Nance Jr. likely will be the first big man off the bench behind Love and Thompson, but center Ante Zizic and combo forward Sam Dekker also could see time. In addition, veteran big man Channing Frye is available if Lue is looking for someone to stretch the floor.
Regardless, Lue wants to push the pace, his theory being the Cavs have a lot of players — Sexton, Hill, Osman and Hood foremost among them — who can rebound the ball and start the break without an outlet pass being necessary.
“I want the pace to be faster,” Lue said. “Miss or make, get the ball up the floor quick. We have a lot of guys who can handle the basketball.”
Sexton impressed in his first practice, just as the 19-year-old did throughout summer league play. Still, in an attempt to take some pressure off the rookie, there’s a chance Lue could start Hill and Sexton together, at least to begin the season, the idea being both can function as the point guard at times.
“He played like a veteran today, like he’s been here before,” Lue said of Sexton. “That’s what we need from him.”
- The Cavs announced several front office promotions and hirings. Dan Geriot was promoted to assistant coach/player development, while Mike Gerrity was elevated to director of player development/assistant coach. The Cavs added Terry Nooner as player development coach, Andrew Olson as shooting coach, Albert Padilla as assistant athletic trainer/performance science, Ed Subel as assistant strength and conditioning coach, Lauren Marvinney as director of team services and Nate Nielsen as assistant to the GM/special projects.
- Smith was limited in practice due to a sore hip.
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