The Cleveland Cavaliers rested LeBron James and nearly half the roster in Sunday’s preseason game against the Washington Wizards.
Nine of the Cavs’ 20 men on the training camp roster did not suit up. James missed his third straight game after spraining his left ankle on the second day of training camp. Iman Shumpert was held out after spraining his left foot in Wednesday’s preseason game against Atlanta. Isaiah Thomas continued to miss time as he rehabilitates a torn labrum in his right hip. Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder, JR Smith and Tristan Thompson were all held out for rest.
“LeBron will be able to play the last two games and none of the guys have played with LeBron yet, so that will try to give the guys a chance to try and find a rhythm going into the season,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “Kind of a different way than I wanted to do it, but didn’t expect LeBron to get hurt in training camp. This way they can miss this game and come back and play the last two and try to get in a little rhythm with Bron.”
Cleveland closes out the preseason with a home game against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday followed by a road game against the Orlando Magic on Friday. Lue said he plans to play James and his starters in the 25- to 30-minute range in those two games.
James, known for his nearly indestructible body and aversion to injury, has been held out just for precautionary reasons, Lue said.
“If it was the season or the playoffs, he would have definitely been back by now, but it’s just being cautious,” Lue said. “To start the season, you don’t want something like this to linger throughout the whole course of the season. So it was just smart for him to take some time off, get healthy and now he feels pretty good and we’ll try to give it a go on Tuesday.”
The NBA tweaked its rules in the offseason in order to combat teams from resting players en masse. Commissioner Adam Silver can fine teams $100,000 this season if he determines they’re resting healthy players for either a nationally televised game or a marquee matchup on the road.
Lue — who was one of the coaches who chose to rest his stars all at the same time on several occasions last season, prompting the league to take issue with the practice — said the new rules don’t apply to Sunday, considering it’s an exhibition.
“Not for preseason,” Lue said. “I don’t think it’s a must that guys play. Throughout the course of the regular season, of course we’ve got to abide by the rules.”
Cleveland started Kay Felder, Cedi Osman, Kyle Korver, Jeff Green and Ante Zizic against the Wizards.