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Report: Cavaliers may start Kevin Love at center, bring Thompson off bench

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We didn’t see it much (just 71 minutes over nine games), but last regular season when Cleveland went with a smaller lineup — Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Channing Frye, and Kevin Love — they outscored teams by 29.7 points per 100 possessions. They used it again in the first round of the playoffs against Andre Drummond and Detroit, and it worked there as well (but less so the rest of the playoffs).

Tyronn Lue may go to that as his starting lineup and bring Tristan Thompson off the bench this season, Dave McMenamin reports at ESPN.

Love said he has played “quite a bit” of time at the 5 with the Cavs’ first unit through the first week of training camp…

“Tristan is a very dynamic roller, guy that plays a lot as a dunker,” Love said. “Myself, I have to play inside-out, mix that up and really take what the defense gives you. But it gives us a different look. I mentioned different dynamics out there on the floor with different lineups, and we’re so deep now that [Dwyane Wade] and a lot of guys similar in size at that 4-5 spot, we’re going to see guys playing interchangeable. It’s not just going to be on the defensive end in that regard.”

With Irving gone we knew Cleveland was going to lean more on Love, particularly as a playmaker at the elbows, but this is another level from Lue. He’s willing to change the status quo on a team that’s been to three straight NBA Finals — that’s a good thing.

The challenge with Love at the five is defense, but Lue is countering that somewhat by playing Jae Crowder at the four, according to the reports. The Cavs still lack the same rim protection as when Thompson plays, but they benefit at the other end with shooting and floor spacing — with Irving in Boston, Cleveland needs to find a way to get more threes and generate some of that missing offense. This lineup may do it.

This is what preseason is for — try stuff. Then experiment more during the regular season. We’ve seen the best coaches — Gregg Popovich is example 101 — play around a lot with lineups during the season. The goal is to see what works and what doesn’t, plus get different guys used to playing with each other, then during the playoffs the coach has the flexibility to go with whatever lineup is the best matchup for the opponent.

We’ll see if it lasts, but this could be interesting.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.

Kings hire former WNBA Seattle coach Jenny Boucek as assistant

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The NBA now has a third female assistant coach.

The first was Becky Hammon, who has been part of Gregg Popovich’s Spurs staff for several years (and has coached their Summer League team). The second was Nancy Leiberman, who has been on the staff in Sacramento for a couple of seasons now.

Now the Kings have hired former Seattle Storm coach Jenny Boucek as an assistant coach on Dave Joerger’s staff. She will work as an assistant player development coach.

A former WNBA player in the league’s inaugural season, the past three years she has coached the WNBA’s Seattle Storm (she was fired midway through the last season), and prior to that had been the head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs from 2007-09.