David Blatt has been leaning hard on Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love as the Cleveland Cavaliers try and make their new roster work. Some nights, as against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, it's great. Other nights, as against the Denver Nuggets on Monday, it isn't. Regardless, James thinks they are playing a few too many minutes.
From Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
James topped the 40-minute plateau in seven of the Cleveland Cavaliers' first nine games, with his 39.1 minutes per game average ranking third in the NBA behind Oklahoma City's Reggie Jackson (41.4) and Chicago's Jimmy Butler (40.3).
He said after practice Tuesday that it might be time for him to cut down on that playing time.
"I wouldn't mind it," James said. "I think we have to give our guys on the bench more of an opportunity. I looked at a stat and myself, Kyrie (Irving) and Kevin (Love) are three of the top five guys in the league in minutes per game and that has to come down."
Indeed, Irving (38.4 minutes per game) and Love (37.0) rank fourth and fifth behind James.
"For me, I don't want to do that all year," James said. "Obviously right now it's difficult because we're trying to find a groove, we're trying to find a rhythm and we're trying to implement something that you don't want to shortcut it, but at the same time you want to be smart about it. So, I don't mind giving a few of my minutes up just to help the team, to help my minutes go down. I think it would be for the best."
This cuts both ways. Blatt is trying to win games now, and get the Cavaliers premier players to come together and excel. At the same time, it's good for the team long term if more guys get minutes. It's interesting how far removed this is from one of my concerns with Blatt when the Cavaliers hired him. He used a very deep bench last year in Maccabi Tel Aviv, and didn't rely on any one player. So far in Cleveland, it's been short rotations.
Blatt is clearly searching for lineups and players he can trust. It isn't clear he has settled into schemes he wants the the Cavaliers to focus on either. There is plenty of time, of course. I wrote before the year that I hoped James would see his minutes reduced because I want to extend the prime of his career. As the Cavaliers hopefully improve, that will be more and more possible.
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