Channing Frye

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J.R. Smith owns up to it, “I was hurt” when Dwyane Wade given starters’ role

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You don’t get to be an NBA player without some level of ego — there has to be a little “me first” in there push players to drive players to excel at their craft and excel at their craft on the level needed in the NBA.

So when you’re a starter on a team that goes to the NBA Finals, and that job is taken away from you, yes you should be a little ticked.

That’s what happened to J.R. Smith in Cleveland, but up until Friday he had only said he was “frustrated” but understood the decision. Friday on a new episode of the Road Trippin’ podcast with Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson (RIP) Smith admitted it was more than just frustration, via Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

“Honestly, I was hurt, man,” Smith said on the podcast, which posted Friday. “I was really emotionally drained at that point. I got wind of it that it was going to go down, but I didn’t know. I was told he’s going to be great for the second unit. … It would be a great fit for the team, whatever, whatever. I’m like, ‘Awesome, let’s do it. One hundred percent. Out of all people, another person we’re going to just grab for damn-near nothing? For sure. Let’s do it.'”

Don’t be shocked if Smith ends back up in the starting lineup again. Wade is too big a name, and there is too much pressure for him to instantly accept a bench role (especially since his best buddy is LeBron James). In theory, Kevin Love and Jae Crowder starting at the four and five provide the spacing needed for LeBron to make magic on offense. But what about the other end of the court? Starting Derrick Rose, Wade, and Love does not seem like something bound to get stops.

Smith as a starter provides more defense, floor-spacing shooting, and is someone LeBron is comfortable with. Wade with the second unit makes sense, he can be the shot creator and have the ball in his hands. But the Cavaliers need to find the mentally to make that happen. Maybe it evolves over the course of the season, but for now nothing changes. Wade starts.

Smith will be the good soldier. No matter what he’s really thinking

Report: Cavaliers near deal to send Richard Jefferson, Kay Felder to Hawks

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The Cleveland Cavaliers have a loaded roster with more guaranteed contracts than available roster spots, and a healthy tax bill coming. Looks like they have found a trade to help with those problems.

Veteran Richard Jefferson and young point guard Kay Felder are close to being traded to Atlanta with some second round picks in a salary dump that only brings back European draft rights players, something first reported by Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports and since confirmed by multiple sources, with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN filling in key details.

The Cavaliers get out of having to pay a guaranteed player not to play (Jefferson was owed $2.5 million), which saves them both money and tax. I wonder how LeBron James takes this, he and Jefferson are tight.

The Hawks will eat the salaries and plan to waive both Jefferson (owed $2.5 million) and Felder ($455,000 guaranteed). They both become free agents. The real key here for the Hawks is they get a couple of second round picks for the trouble of taking on the salaries. The cash doesn’t hurt either.

Basically, this is end of the roster bit of player shuffling.

However, there is one important impact — this may be the end of the brilliant Road Trippin’ podcast. Jefferson and Channing Frye‘s podcast has been insightful, funny, and a must-listen. Not sure how it continues now, but I hope they find a way.

Cavaliers drop Channing Frye from rotation

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Dwyane Wade supplanting J.R. Smith and Kevin Love moving to center to send Tristan Thompson to the bench having gotten the most attention, but the Cavaliers are making another interesting change to their rotation.

Channing Frye is out.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue told Channing Frye that, barring injury, he’s not going to play much this season.

“I was like man I’m sorry,” Lue said, recounting his conversation with Frye to reporters after the Cavaliers lost 102-94 to the Wizards in a preseason game Sunday. “(Frye) said, ‘listen, I’m very excited about our team, not too many opportunities to get to play on a team like this.'”

Frye was a mainstay last regular season and through the first and second rounds, but he lost his rotation spot in the conference finals against the Celtics and in the NBA Finals against the Warriors. Deep in the playoffs, his defense becomes too much of a liability.

Now, when the Cavs need a stretch five, they have Love. Frye isn’t a change of pace anymore. He’s just a lesser alternative.

Lue still spoke of Frye needing to be ready, and said the veteran would eventually get opportunities. Injuries happen. Experiments fizzle.

But if the Cavaliers don’t have a clear use for Frye, they ought to consider trading him. They need to drop one player with a guaranteed salary, and although Richard Jefferson has been the top name mentioned, Frye’s $7,420,912 salary makes him a logical candidate.

Cleveland is set to pay the repeater-rate luxury tax. Dumping Frye in a trade without taking back any salary would put the Cavs in line to save $35,469,861 more than waiving Jefferson would. (Of course, Jefferson could also be dealt in a salary dump, though dropping his $2.5 million salary would save less money.)

It’s unclear what the market would be for the 34-year-old Frye, who’s in the final year of his contract. He’s still a knockdown 3-point shooter, and he’ll at least rebound defensively. He’s also known as a positive presence in the locker room. The Cavaliers might need to include a sweetener to dump him – a draft pick and/or cash, which would cut into their savings. But Frye could help some teams on the court.

Or Cleveland could just keep him for his positive effect on chemistry and the chance his number will eventually be called.

Another report Kevin Love to start, Tristan Thompson to come off bench for Cavaliers

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are going small… at least to start games.

We heard this before, but now comes another report — this time from the very reliable Jason Lloyd at the Athletic — that this move is happening — Kevin Love will start games at the five, with Jae Crowder at the four and Tristan Thompson coming off the bench.

Tristan Thompson is expected to come off the bench this year, and Jae Crowder will start at power forward, one source with knowledge of the team’s plans told The Athletic. Kevin Love will slide to center in the new-look lineup. Love’s range will pose matchup problems for a number of centers across the league, while moving Crowder into a starting role will improve the defense and allow the Cavs to switch most pick-and-rolls defensively.

This is a move that puts the Cavs more in line with where the NBA is trending. A variation of it worked last regular season in limited minutes (just 71 minutes over nine games): When Cleveland went with a smaller lineup of 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 to some success.

The Cavs now will have Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade (or J.R. Smith), LeBron James, Crowder, and Love to start. The bench would be more formidable with Thompson and Smith (or Wade), and improve when Isaiah Thomas returns and pushes Rose to the second unit.

With Irving’s playmaking gone the Cavaliers are going to lean more on Love, especially as a playmaker at the elbows. Plus he can draw bigs away from the basket and create driving lanes (teams can’t switch their rim-protecting bigs on to Crowder because he can shoot the three as well).

The question is how this works defensively. The Cavs lack some rim protection (although LeBron is strong there) and size, but they do become a more switchable team that should handle the pick-and-roll decently. If the defense is good the boost in offense should make up for it.

Good on Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers for trying this in the preseason (and into the early season) — it’s a bold move for a team facing serious roster changes. The worst thing that happens is it doesn’t work, and the Cavs go back to the more traditional lineup they are used to.

Report: Suns willing to trade Eric Bledsoe, Dragan Bender, first-round pick for Kyrie Irving

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We keep hearing whom the Suns won’t trade for Kyrie Irving.

Not Josh Jackson. Not Devin Booker.

What would Phoenix trade for the Cavaliers point guard?

Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN:

The Phoenix Suns are the team to watch on Kyrie Irving. Now, they won’t offer Josh Jackson plus that Miami 2018 first and Eric Bledsoe. I’m told they’ll do Bledsoe. They’ll do the pick. Plus, Dragan Bender.

That’s not a bad offer value-wise.

Bledsoe, though a downgrade from Irving, is a good starting point guard when healthy. Bender, the No. 4 pick last year, is still just a teenager who was expected to be somewhat of a project. And that Heat first-round pick – top-seven protected in 2018 then unprotected in 2019 – could prove quite valuable.

But there are reasons Cleveland hasn’t pulled the trigger.

Bender looked out of place in the NBA last season. The Cavs’ title window is open right now, and they don’t have a clear way to develop him. Tristan Thompson, Channing Frye, Kevin Love, LeBron James and Jeff Green should leave very little playing time available at center and power forward. Even if Bender comes along more quickly than anticipated, his strengths – passing and shooting – matter less on a team that would never need to put the ball in his hands in key moments.

Jackson, on the other hand, could help the Cavaliers on the wing, where they need more depth. Though just a rookie, Jackson is actually older – and projects to be more ready – than Bender. Jackson’s defense would help a team with major deficiencies on that end.

But there are also reasons the Suns are offering Bender instead of Jackson.

Irving is locked up for just two more years, didn’t include Phoenix among his preferred destinations and won’t commit to anything beyond his current contract. The Suns might not win enough in the next two seasons with Irving to justify trading Jackson (under team control for five more seasons, though likely far longer if he pans out).

These teams sound close enough that a deal sounds plausible.

Maybe Phoenix relents and includes Jackson. After all, acquiring Irving is a special opportunity.

Perhaps, the Cavs loop in a third team and flip Bender for someone who fits better in Cleveland. But three-team trades are always difficult to pull off.

Still, it sounds as if the Cavaliers and Suns are at least in the ballpark of each other – something that can’t be said of other teams in the Irving sweepstakes.