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Of the four players the Cleveland Cavaliers obtained before the NBA trade deadline Thursday, George Hill will be the only one to start Sunday’s game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.
Having watched his new teammates defeat the Hawks, 123-107, on Friday night in Atlanta, the 31-year-old 10-year veteran is thrilled to be a Cavalier.
“Watching the game last night, kind of got a lot of butterflies in my stomach,” Hill told reporters after practice Saturday in Atlanta. “I was up all night, couldn’t sleep because I was excited. Excited to be a part of this heritage, this tradition. Excited to be with these new teammates and things like that, so. Excited to see how many open shots a lot of them get, I’m just licking my chops, waiting to get the opportunity.”
Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. were acquired by the Cavaliers on Thursday.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said of the new Cavaliers, only Hill will be part of his starting lineup in Boston, with Hood, Clarkson and Nance coming off the bench.
“I mean, they don’t know the plays yet,” Lue said after practice. “So it’s going to be tough tomorrow with George starting because you can’t really run a lot of stuff. Just run some pick-and-rolls.
“But just having him on the floor will be good. He’s a veteran so he can understand the flow of the game and then once we get our plays down and defensively, what we want to do, then you could see a lineup change.”
Lue said the 31-year-old Hill will start in the backcourt in Boston with J.R. Smith, with LeBron James and rookie Cedi Osman starting at forward and Tristan Thompson at center.
“It’s going to be different,” Lue said. “It’s going to take some time. Just trying to figure out the new guys’ strengths and what they like to do. It’s going to be different.”
When asked who Cleveland’s No. 2 scorer will be with All-Star forward Kevin Love sidelined for another seven weeks with a broken left hand, Lue said it will be a variety store.
“LeBron is No. 1, and then after that, it’s going to be, you know, different guys on different nights,” he said. “We said that when the season first started. It could be Hood tonight. It could be George Hill. It could be Clarkson. It could be Jeff Green, Kyle [Korver]. So you never know. Just LeBron, he’s going to make those guys better, I know that for sure. But every night it could be somebody different.”
Hill was averaging 10.3 points and 2.8 assists per game in Sacramento, with rookie De’Aaron Fox taking over as the Kings’ starting point guard in January. He is shooting an excellent 45.3 percent from 3 this season.
He signed a three-year, $57 million contract with Sacramento last summer.
Clarkson, 25, is a 6-5 combo guard. He will like back up Hill at the point and Smith at shooting guard, but Lue preferred to call him, “a player.”
“Just put him on the floor,” Lue said. “He can make things happen and score the basketball. We just want to get the ball in his hands, let him be aggressive.”
Hood, 25, is left-handed swing man, playing shooting guard and small forward. In his fourth season in the league, he was second on the team in Utah in scoring (career-best 16.8 points per game) and Lue orginally said he and and J.R. Smith would both start against Boston on Sunday. However, Lue changed gears, saying rookie Cedi Osman, who had a career-high 16 points in his first NBA start in a win Friday night in Atlanta, would answer the bell against the Celtics and Hood will come off the bench.
“I just play with energy, that’s the biggest thing I bring right away,” Hood said after practice Saturday. “I was introduced to a lot today so I have to pick up on that. Right now, it’s bring energy and play hard.”
Nance, also 25, is a 6-9 jumping jack. He averaged 8.6 points and 6.8 rebounds this season with the Lakers.
“Every game around here is an important, big-time game,” Nance said. “Everything around here is win in the playoffs.”
Lue said the challenge of putting all the new pieces into the mix for the Cavaliers is real, but something he’s ready for.
“These guys, it’s going to take a while for them to catch up, but it’s just good having them on the floor,” Lue said. “Just trying to start all over again with our teaching, and we’ll just see how it goes.”