Coach Lue to stagger minutes LeBron, Isaiah play together

NBA.com Global on Jan 30, 2018 08:00 AM
Coach Lue to stagger minutes LeBron, Isaiah play together
Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, right, talks with Isaiah Thomas in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 121-104. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

NBA.com staff report

Last week, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue made a lineup change, pulling Jae Crowder out of the starting five in favor of big man Tristan Thompson. That may not be the only change happening to the Cavs' lineup as Lue is tinkering with the notion of when and how often two of his stars play together.

Save for his debut game on Jan. 2 (Jan. 3, PHL time), point guard Isaiah Thomas has been a starter ever since his return to the lineup. That means he is playing alongside All-Star forward LeBron James, which in and of itself is not a bad thing. But both players are ball-dominant scorers and finding a way for both to thrive on the court together has been a challenge.

In their 121-104 win against the Detroit Pistons, James (27.3 percent) and Thomas (25.3) had nearly the same usage percentage. Late in the third quarter, Lue pulled James and Kevin Love and left Thomas, a move that helped the Cavs begin to take control of the game.

While Thomas did not play in the fourth quarter, his play shaped a win for the Cavs and, perhaps, may lead to more times where Thomas plays without James (and vice versa). Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com has more:

Lue has been open to the idea of splitting up James and Thomas, keeping all of their minutes from intersecting. This could help some of the growing pains both have experienced in January, trying to blend two ball-dominant players.

...

On Sunday, Lue gave both James and Thomas an opportunity to run the offense in different stretches. Thomas closed the third period. James ran point during a dominant fourth quarter.

It's a new rotation wrinkle that will allow Lue to stagger those minutes, similar to what he did with James and Irving the last few years.

"We talked about it so I think that needs to happen," Thomas said. "My minutes just can't be with LeBron at all times. We got to play to our strengths. Just like Chris Paul and James Harden, they don't play together at all times. We got to play to our strengths. Kyrie last year, they didn't play together at all times.

"So he's figuring it out and we're figuring it out as a unit, how to use our strengths and at the same time we know for the most part we start games together, finish games together and we go from there. So it's a learning process and we're still learning each other. I'm still learning this team and Ty Lue is still learning how to use me and use me to the best of my ability."

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