CLEVELAND — When he signed with the Cavaliers, Dwyane Wade promised his ego wouldn’t get in the way. It wasn’t just talk. Struggling through three games in his first season with Cleveland.
Wade approached Cavs coach Tyronn Lue and asked to be taken out of the starting lineup because he thought it would help the team. “I just decided, earlier than later, just to get to the unit where I’d be more comfortable in and can probably be better with this team in that lineup,”
Wade said after Monday’s practice. “Why wait? Three games in, why wait? Wanted to get in there with those guys.”
With Wade headed to the bench and Cleveland’s second unit, J.R. Smith will return to the starting lineup after being bumped to a backup role.
Wade, who signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract with Cleveland in September, is averaging just 5.7 points and shooting 28 percent. That’s not Wade, and he quickly realized that he would better serve the Cavs as a reserve. After Cleveland was hammered 114-93 on Saturday night by Orlando, which snapped a 17-game losing streak to the Cavs, Wade approached Lue with his idea to revamp the lineups.
“We talked about it before we got here, (that) it’d be a better fit with him coming off the bench,” Lue said. “I know he’d been a starter his whole career, so we wanted to try to start him and give him that nod. He came to me and said, ‘You know what coach? What you said was right. I’d be able to be featured more in the second unit and be able to handle the ball more, so let’s make that move and make that adjustment.’
“That’s what professionals do. No ego. He saw it was best for the team for him to come off the bench. It was his call and here we are.” The Cavs are going through some early, expected growing pains as Lue tries to blend new players into the team’s systems.
Wade felt taking on a different role would accelerate the process.
“The biggest thing is, man, we’re three games in the season,” he said. “We’ll all figure it out. We’re all figuring it out together. The one thing is, you want to be healthy enough so that we can play the lineups that we want to play together and then the rest of it will come. Shots will go in for guys, rhythm will come for guys.”
The 35-year-old Wade has spent virtually his entire 15-year pro career as a starter, and as fate would have it, the 12-time All-Star will come off the bench on Tuesday night when the Cavs host the Chicago Bulls.
Wade spent last season with his hometown team following 13 years in Miami, where he was teammates with LeBron James on four Heat teams that made the NBA Finals. James expected Wade to go through an adjustment period.
“He’s in a good place,” James said of his close friend. “I think the first week, like he told y’all, was a long week for him just trying to adjust to a new system, adjust to what we’re trying to do. And I don’t think it’s just him. I mean, obviously he has the name but a lot of guys are trying to adjust as well. “We’re trying to figure out, how can we help these guys get acclimated as quickly as possible? But this is a marathon. And he knows it. He’s been a part of it and it’s not a sprint. So, Week 2 is going to be much better than Week 1 for all of us.”
The Cavs will be without starting point Derrick Rose, who is still recovering from a sprained ankle. Lue expects the former league MVP to be out a week. Jose Calderon will start until Rose is back.