CLEVELAND — Random dribbles on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 108-94 preseason loss to the visiting Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.
1. The Cavs looked a little slow, a little out of sorts and a little winded in falling to 0-4 in the preseason. As Kevin Love said afterward, the best thing about this game was that it ended.
2. LeBron James made his debut after missing the first three outings with a sore left ankle. You could tell the ankle was bugging him a little, especially after landing awkwardly on it in the first half. He admitted the ankle is not yet 100 percent.
3. Still, this is LeBron we’re talking about, and he looked about the same as always — scoring 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting, with a couple of viscous dunks. He also grabbed five rebounds.
4. Of course, like many of the Cavs, James was also rusty. He committed five turnovers in the first quarter and finished with eight for the game. “Anytime you have new guys, you want to see what they can do, so much that you can make bad decisions,” James said.
5. He also said, “I knew I was off. … Timing affected everyone.”
6. If I’m Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, I rest LeBron for the final preseason game Friday at Orlando. Or play him for about a half, at most. Same goes for Dwyane Wade, who really struggled (1-of-7 shooting, four points, four turnovers).
7. Both James and Wade are going to be needed for much more important nights — starting with the opener against Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics. I would give those two (James and Wade) as much rest as you can until things get really important.
8. Love, Wade and Jae Crowder all had trouble finding their rhythm and struggled with spacing. As James indicated, that’s fairly common with so many new players. I suspect James and Derrick Rose will be fine, but it may be a little bit of an issue for the other three to get going early in the regular season.
9. Love was a miserable 1-of-12 for three points. The good news is, he got a lot of really good looks at the basket. The shots just weren’t dropping. Meanwhile, Crowder scored nine points on 3-of-7 shooting, but didn’t make much of an impact overall. The Cavs were outscored by 21 points when Love was on the court, and the same was true of Crowder.
10. This isn’t intended to bury anyone or induce panic. There are plenty of reasons to believe this team will emerge from the East for a fourth straight season. There are also reasons to believe the Cavs are better than last year. But right now, they are very clearly still figuring things out.
11. One other concern: The Cavs didn’t look great at defending the 3-point line. That can be a problem for an older team that doesn’t have excellent speed. It’s hard to believe, but the Cavs are now a mostly old group. James (32), Wade (35), J.R. Smith (32), Jeff Green (31) and Kyle Korver (36) are all regulars on the wrong side of 30.
12. I didn’t even mention Channing Frye (34) or Richard Jefferson (37), and the fact neither played probably tells you a lot about what’s ahead. It could be especially bad news for Jefferson, as the Cavs still have a major cut to make.
13. But truth is, older veteran teams are the ones that usually fare well in the postseason. So while the Cavs aren’t a team with loads of quickness, they do have strength, smarts and skill.
14. Rose was the player of the game for the Cavs — finishing with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, with five rebounds and five assists. Despite all the knee surgeries, he can still blow right past defenders and finish at the rim. He made it clear before the game that he is a man on a mission, and it’s already quite evident.
15. Tristan Thompson also gave the Cavs some good minutes off the bench, scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds in 10 minutes in the first half. He finished with 11 boards.
16. Iman Shumpert was quietly productive with 4-of-5 shooting and 12 points. After hearing his name tossed around in trade rumors all summer, he too is playing like someone with something to prove.
17. Finally, I like shooting guard John Holland better than any of the other Cavs in camp who aren’t going to play when it matters. Actually, Holland will play — it will just be in Canton for the Cavs’ G League affiliate. This is his second preseason with the Cavs, and both times he’s played fearlessly and made shots. On Tuesday, Holland scored six points in five minutes.
18. One other Love note: He banged his knee going up for a rebound in the third quarter and had to leave the game. He stressed afterward that he’s fine.
19. I can’t wait to see what Isaiah Thomas can do with this group. Things should be interesting even before he returns, but considerably more so after.
20. The regular season tips off in less than a week.
Sam Amico is the founder and senior writer of AmicoHoops.net. Follow him on Twitter @AmicoHoops.