CLEVELAND — Coach Tyronn Lue not only returned JR Smith to the Cleveland starting lineup in place of Dwyane Wade, but he also started LeBron James at point guard and Tristan Thompson at center — with Jae Crowder and Kevin Love filling out the frontcourt — when the Cavaliers hosted the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night.
Tyronn Lue handles Dwyane Wade lineup change with deft touch
What could’ve been an awkward benching turned into a smooth transition thanks to the Cavs coach, who got plenty of experience dealing with superstars during his career as a role player.
Cavaliers shuffling D-Wade into bench role
At Dwyane Wade’s request, the Cavaliers will return J.R. Smith to the starting lineup and use the 12-time All-Star with the second unit.
James posted a game-high 34 points and 13 assists to lead the Cavs to a 119-112 victory.
The dramatic lineup change was motivated by injuries to the Cavs’ Isaiah Thomas, who continues to rehab his right hip, and Derrick Rose, who missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle, not to mention the Bulls’ lineup featuring 7-footer Robin Lopez.
“Just Big Lopez and not having Kevin to bang around and take on that big task tonight, just to start the game,” Lue said. “He’s going to play some 5, but not have to play the whole game against Big Lopez.”
Lue previously said he would start Jose Calderon in Rose’s place — as he did in the Cavs’ loss to the Orlando Magic on Saturday — but changed his mind. Calderon, who played just five minutes in the Magic game before Lue pulled him until garbage time, did not play Tuesday against the Bulls.
“Just trying to figure it out and see what happens with both of our point guards being down,” Lue said.
Tuesday’s game marked James’ first official start at point guard since Feb. 3, 2005, during his first stint with the Cavs, according to ESPN Stats Information. Cleveland took on the Miami Heat, with Wade at point guard, and lost 100-88 in that game.
Since then, including the regular season and playoffs, James has started 1,115 games at small forward, 40 at power forward and three at shooting guard. He has come off the bench once.
Smith did not participate in the Cavs’ shootaround Tuesday because of a sore back, but Lue said he felt well enough to play.