CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland Cavaliers stiffed the fans in Memphis on Wednesday night. They left the Big Three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love at home and the result was a drab loss for the Cavs and a little more diminishing credibility for a league that lacks parity and should at least encourage the headliners to show up as the marquee promised.
Obviously, the Cavs have the right to rest anyone whenever they want to as the rules are now. San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich has made a practice of fielding back-ups and pretending it doesn’t hurt the appreciation of the league by fans victimized by such a bait-and-switch. James will be 32 at the turn of the year and pep in his step is a requirement if the Cavs are to repeat their championship.
Still, NBA tickets are anything but cheap. This was asking Memphians to pay for tickets to “Hamilton” and then sending out the understudies. It was a concert with the three tenors saying “non piu” (“no more” in Italian), spraying their throats and staying home. It was the three musketeers with rusty swords and the saucy little Cavs-type feather on their caps sliced off.
It would be unthinkable to do this to home fans and not all that great to do it to Eastern Conference rivals, whose fans at least get more than Memphis’ one chance to see the Cavs play live.
How would Cavs fans like it had the Clippers sat Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick in their lone visit to The Q? Sure, the Cavs probably would have won, but you want to see the other team at its best.
Rest might not have been necessary had coach Tyronn Lue not played James 44 minutes and 40 seconds in a loss at Chicago and 42:27 in a double-digits win here against Charlotte.
Big minutes are necessary for the starters at this time because without Matthew Dellavedova, the Cavs have no back-up for James as a playmaker. They also miss Delly’s defense.
Given a chance to step up in Memphis, both J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert had bad games. The only bench reliables are Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson.
It’s up to general manager David Griffin to find players who can help. It’s up to Lue to field a representative team.