Report: Cavaliers told benched veterans team was going young, but now might reverse course

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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The Cavaliers offseason in a nutshell: They signed a 30-year-old to a four-year contract extension worth more than $120 million, and then their coach declared the year would be about “wins and lessons.”

Cleveland is in a bad place after losing LeBron James. The Cavs are 0-3, including a 22-point loss to the Hawks on Sunday. Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and Channing Frye didn’t play against Atlanta.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

One day​ before the Cavaliers suffered​ a demoralizing blowout loss​ to the​ Atlanta Hawks in​ the​ home​​ opener, coach Tyronn Lue and general manager Koby Altman sat with the team’s three oldest players and told them the organization was going young.

Each player was told he was not going to be in Lue’s rotation for the foreseeable future.

And now Lue is apparently going back to his vets.

The coach showed up at practice Tuesday and put both Korver and Smith on the floor among the team’s top 10 players, potentially against the front office’s preference. Lue’s intention is to play both in Wednesday’s home game against the Brooklyn Nets.

The front office is still committed to winning this year rather than tearing down, a source said, and views what happened Sunday as not representative of who the Cavs will be this season.

Is playing the veterans with or against the front office’s wishes? There seems to be conflicting information here. Perhaps, there’s internal division on the plan. The Cavaliers’ offseason would support that theory.

If Korver, Smith and Frye give Cleveland the best chance of winning, they should play. Manipulating the lineup otherwise sows discord. See the end of the Eric Bledsoe-era Suns. If the Cavs don’t want a qualified player in the lineup, they should trade him.

The Cavaliers must be careful, as they owe the Hawks a top-10-protected first-round pick. Missing the playoffs, landing a pick in the 11-14 range and conveying it to Atlanta would be the worst-case scenario for Cleveland.

Fortunately for the Cavs, they’ll probably be bad enough regardless to keep their pick and avoid that fate. But they better figure out how to manage the roster as they await next year’s draft.