Cavaliers' LeBron, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love remain home vs. Grizzlies
Clay Bailey | The Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — When Philip Speering’s mother told him she would do something special for him making good grades, he focused on the Cleveland Cavaliers only visit to Memphis to face the Grizzlies.
Speering, 15, wanted to see LeBron James. He wanted to see Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
Speering got his wish to see the Cavaliers and Grizzlies game Wednesday night, but without Cleveland’s main three players in the ever-growing playing maintenance NBA teams are employing.
“Honestly, I feel like they should come and support their (fans),” said Speering in a Believeland T-shirt. “I understand rest, but it’s kind of disappointing.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue announced immediately after beating Memphis 103-86 in Cleveland on Tuesday night that James, Irving and Love would not make the overnight, one-game trip. The Cavaliers next game is at home Saturday against the Lakers.
The Grizzlies took a similar approach to Tuesday’s game in Cleveland. Center Marc Gasol was left at home rather than making that trip. There’s an increase in teams relying on minute calculations or number of games in a stretch in deciding to sit their main players.
That can be upsetting to visiting teams’ fans who — in the Cavaliers’ case — have only one chance to see Cleveland come to town. With the Cavs in the Eastern Conference and Memphis in the West, the teams face each other twice a season — once on each other’s floor.
Throughout Wednesday, sports talk show hosts debated the decision — both from the focus of the team, but also from the fans, some of whom paid premium prices for the one opportunity to see the defending champions. Some noted in sharing ticket packages, the Cleveland visit was among the first games selected.
Rick McKenna of Memphis was sitting by himself in the stands. A native of Ravenna, Ohio, he said he paid $400 for his ticket.
Lue said a combination of factors contributed to the decision. The Cavs played four games in six nights before the Tuesday game against the Grizzlies. James has not had his usual pep, Lue said, Love has dealt with back issues, although he had 29 points and 13 rebounds in Tuesday’s win, and Irving has dealt with “tired legs.”
All three were listed as not with the team due to “rest.”
“It was pretty much the circumstance. It wasn’t like; `we’re coming to Memphis; we’re going to sit our guys.”‘ Lue said.
The reasoning still doesn’t sit well with fans. Jaden Jenkins, 14, of Memphis was decked out in his Cavaliers shirt in the pregame. He noted it was “pretty upsetting” when he heard James wasn’t playing, but “even worse,” when Love and Irving were added to the mix.
“If a player only plays one game at a particular location, they should play that night,” Jenkins said.
Mark Edge and his 12-year-old son, Coleman, of Bartlett, Tennessee, a Memphis suburb, “marked the game on the calendar” as soon as the schedule was released. The father said it might be the only NBA game they attend this season.
“It’s like if you had a lollipop and someone stole it,” Coleman Edge said.
The disappointment was tempered somewhat when a member of the Cavaliers security staff approached and, said the team liked to have people in Cleveland gear on their bench during pregame.
At that point, Coleman was escorted to the Cavs bench. He wouldn’t see James or Irving, but he was perhaps sitting in the same seat they would have occupied if they made the trip to Memphis.
And his father could find a bright spot to the whole episode.
“We’re kind of disappointed,” Mark Edge said, “but it’s still a nice father-son night. We’re still making memories.”