Cavaliers not apologetic about sitting big three Saturday vs. Clippers

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LOS ANGELES — Sunday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, fans got to see LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love play (and score 101 points between them in a win).

Saturday night all three of them were out against the Clippers in a nationally televised game.

That rekindled a debate that has flared up all season and took on extra heat just a week before when Steve Kerr rested his four best Warriors players in a nationally televised game on Saturday night. Fans were pissed, you can be sure some suits at ABC/Disney were upset, and the league office called up the Cavaliers to complain.

Sunday, the Cavaliers to a man said that the rest mattered and they made the right call.

“It’s stupid,” coach Tyronn Lue said of the controversy, emphasizing he wasn’t going to play two guys coming off injuries in a back-to-back. “Because Kyrie didn’t come back the game before because of knee soreness, Kevin just had his first game back and he needed two games between these games. But whatever. It’s stupid.”

Elite teams resting key players, particularly on road games, is a growing pattern in the NBA — and with good reason. Studies have shown that players perform much better on the court when rested, and also they are 3.5 times more likely to be injured in the second game of a back-to-back (when muscle fatigue sets in). Coaches like Lue are paid to put their teams in position to win a title, and rest helps that cause.

But it does create problems for an entertainment product when the best players are not performing. Fans pay a lot of money to see LeBron or Curry the one time they come to town. Also, broadcast partners just signed a new deal that backs up the Brinks truck to the NBA, and then they are handed an inferior product to show.

“It sucks,” LeBron admitted Sunday, noting he can see that dilemma. “There are some times guys have to rest, and some guys need rest. It’s a long, strenuous season, and the NBA does the best it can putting the schedule together but you’re going to have back-to-backs, and you’re going to have certain games where certain things fall on certain nights.

“But coach’s job is to figure out a way to get a team to compete for a championship, and not compete for a game. And it sucks at certain times because you only play in certain cities once, or you only play certain teams once on their home floor. Me personally, I want to play in every game, I wanted to play last night but my coach said he felt it was best I didn’t play last night so I didn’t and I’m going to go with my coach.”

As for the concerns of broadcast partners, they make a lot of their value back come the playoffs, when guys are not rested.

“I’ve been part of six straight Finals, and every season the Finals is bigger and bigger and better and better, and more people are tuning in. So I don’t see a problem with people watching,” LeBron said.

While players often take the brunt of the criticisms — as with Karl Malone’s comments over the weekend — they rarely ask out. This is almost always a decision by management (the GM, team trainers, and the coach) and the players are informed they are sitting.

The NBA is going to start a week earlier next year, in hopes of stretching out the schedule and getting players a little more rest and have fewer back-to-backs.

“I can’t stress enough how important rest is, man,” Irving said. “You’ve got guys who have come before us and played 82 games and they have their opinions. We’re just in a different time now, a different way of taking care of your body and understanding what the goal is at the end of the season. It’s in the forefront of our minds — we’re playing for a championship run, a playoff run. We all want to play, I want to be a part of that as much as possible, but when our coaching staff and medical staff rests us I’m not opposed to it. I know fans all across the league want to see us at our best and they got to see a show tonight (against the Lakers). I would have loved go against the Clippers and go against a veteran team like that, but I have to respect the coach’s wishes.”

That said, Irving gets why fans are ticked. Like most around the league he’d like to reduce the games he is rested, but the answers are not easy to come by. That said, it all starts with the schedule — if the NBA wants to promote Saturday games like they are playoff games, then they need to schedule them like they’re playoff games with rest on either side for teams.

“I’m 100 percent with (fans concerns),” Irving said. “Hopefully we can spread (the schedule) out a little bit more and get guys a little bit more rest. When you go from West Coast to East Coast, and this is our sixth game in eight days — I don’t think anyone realized that — and we’re not hear to complain about it, but honestly playing basketball for six games in eight days is a lot.”

PBT Podcast: All things Sixers with Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia

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The Sixers have started the season 0-3, Joel Embiid is frustrated about his lack of post touches, and Markelle Fultz‘s shot has gone funky…

Relax. The Sixers are going to be fine, and they still very well could be a playoff team in the East this season. It’s just three games (against teams expected to finish above the Sixers in the standings anyway).

Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia joins Kurt Helin on the Podcast today to talk all things Sixers. They discuss the things that have gone wrong, but also the culture Brett Brown has built, why the Sixers still have to be thought of as a playoff team, and why the future is bright. Also, there is a little discussion of the mess with the Phoenix Suns, their lack of a process, and how Eric Bledsoe could tilt things in the East.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Stephen Curry fined $50,000 for throwing mouthpiece

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Stephen Curry knew a fine was coming, the only question was how much? The NBA had established this precedent before: When Curry (or any player) threw his mouthpiece he got fined. That he’s done it before and threw it in the direction of an official this time meant the price could go up.

It did — Curry was slapped with a $50,000 fine for throwing his mouthpiece during the ejection from Saturday night’s Warriors loss to the Grizzlies. Curry felt he was fouled on a drive and didn’t get the call, and he lost his cool.

Andre Iguodala was also fined $15,000 for “verbally abusing a game official” during the same incident.

Some fans wanted a suspension for Curry, mostly because it’s trendy to hate on Curry and the Warriors in some circles. Reality is there is a precedent here, and the league office stuck with that. Now, if the mouthpiece had struck the official, Curry would have gotten a suspension. If you want to argue the intent was the same, call up the league. They make the distinction.

Reports: Knicks, Bucks, Nuggets among teams calling about Eric Bledsoe

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Eric Bledsoe is done with the Suns. His excuse that his “I Dont wanna be here” Tweet was about a hair salon is as believable as myself, Bruce Willis, and Andre Agassi Tweeting about our time in hair salons. The Suns have told him to go home, and they will work to trade him. Most likely, the Suns are going to get crushed in this deal — they have no leverage, Bledsoe is a free agent in less than two years (2019), plus most teams are not looking for another point guard. But he is being shopped, and he’d like to go to a winning team.

Where will Bledsoe get traded?

A few names have come up — the Knicks, Bucks, and Nuggets are the ones out in public now. There are more, but let’s take a look at those three.

The Knicks have one of the two worst backcourts in the NBA (the Bulls are in that mix, too) so they certainly could use Bledsoe short term. However, long term he doesn’t fit on the Kristaps Porzingis timeline so how much would New York give up to get him.

That price is too high, according to Ian Begley of ESPN.

The Suns have asked about young Knicks such as Frank Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez in trade talks about guard Eric Bledsoe, sources confirm. But New York have been opposed to trading either young player, sources told ESPN. Hernangomez has not been in head coach Jeff Hornacek’s regular rotation in the first two games of the season, which has left the second-year center frustrated. But Hernangomez’s lack of playing time isn’t a sign that the club is looking to move him. Ntilikina has dealt with several injuries early in his career but the point guard remains part of the young core New York wants to build around and management, as of Monday afternoon, did not want to move him in a Bledsoe deal.

Then there is Milwaukee.

On the court, this makes some sense. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the point forward who has the ball in his hands, but Bledsoe is adept off the ball and can hit the three. The move would send Malcolm Brogdon back to the bench, which he may not like but is a good thing for a team looking to bolster its depth.

The trade likely would involve Jabari Parker going West, along with salary filler such as Matthew Dellavedova. Parker is coming off multiple injuries, but he still knows how to score inside and in the right system has value. Whether that system is in Phoenix depends on what kind of system they want to run and roster they want to build.

Then there is Denver.

Denver likes Jamal Murray at the point guard spot and is ready to move on from Emmanuel Mudiay, so there could be a point guard swap but with some more salary coming back to Phoenix (Denver likely would want to dump Kenneth Faried but the Suns will want something that helps them out more than that). This makes some sense as it gives the Suns a young point guard with some skills to try out, while the Nuggets get deeper at a spot of need.

Other deals are lurking (yes LeBron James and Bledsoe are tight, but that deal is a long shot), and the Suns rightfully are going to take the best deal they can find, regardless of whether Bledsoe wants to be there or not. The only questions are how fast do they get it done, and what are teams offering?

J.R. Smith replacing Dwyane Wade as Cavaliers’ starting shooting guard

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The Cavaliers are 2-1, but their starting lineups have been outscored by 19 points in 32 minutes. Dwyane Wade has been so bad as the starting shooting guard, his struggles have overshadowed J.R. Smith‘s miserable play as the backup.

But at least Wade volunteered a solution to this predictable problem.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Dwyane Wade is headed for the Cavaliers’ bench at his own request and J.R. Smith is returning to the starting lineup.

Wade, 35, a 12-time All-Star who struggled in his first three games with Cleveland, asked coach Tyronn Lue to make the change, Lue said. But this wasn’t exactly Wade’s idea, either.

Lue told him when he signed with the Cavs Sept. 27 that the second unit may be the best fit for him.

“I just decided, earlier than later, just to get to the unit where I’d be more comfortable in and can probably better with this team in that lineup,” Wade said. “Why wait? Three games in, why wait? Wanted to get in there with those guys.”

Cleveland’s starting lineup needs more shooting and defense around LeBron James – especially with Derrick Rose starting over an injured Isaiah Thomas (though Rose is out a couple games with his own ankle injury). Smith provides that.

Bench-heavy units need more playmaking. Wade provides that.

This was a tricky situation given Wade’s status as a future Hall of Famer and friendship with LeBron. Whether Wade simply suggested the change or Lue is trying to give Wade public credit after coaxing it behind the scenes, the result is the same.

The Cavs can now use their most logical rotation, and they should be better for it.