ATLANTA -- Tyronn Lue took over as coach of the Cavaliers after 41 games during the 2015-16 season and still led the team to Cleveland's first championship in 52 years.
Being thrust into the fire then may help Lue now. The four players acquired at Thursday's trade deadline are expected to join the Cavs Friday night in Atlanta and barring any failed physicals will likely participate in Saturday's practice before the Cavs fly to Boston.
The Cavs will be six men short for Friday's game against the Hawks after the departures of Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert and Jae Crowder. Lue said he will start LeBron James, rookie Cedi Osman, J.R. Smith, Jose Calderon and Tristan Thompson.
But there is much to do to integrate ex-Lakers center/forward Larry Nance Jr. and guard Jordan Clarkson, former Kings point guard George Hill and ex-Jazz guard Rodney Hood. Only 29 games remain in the regular season and the Cavs may be without forward Kevin Love, sidelined with a fractured left hand, for another month.
"The front office made changes that they felt best fit this franchise, and it's time to go to work," James said before shootaround at Philips Arena. "It is what it is. It's not like, 'Do we have enough time?' It's the time that we have, so let's make the most of it."
During his 15 years in the league, James had held pre-training camp minicamps in Santa Barbara, Calif., and Miami. He said he considers it "his job" to get his new teammates up to speed.
"That's my job to get these guys integrated as fast as possible," James said. "I know the coaching staff and T-Lue is going to do it as well, but it's my job to get these guys on the same page with us with what we want to accomplish, what we want to do. I look forward to getting them here."
Lue huddled on the flight to Atlanta with his coaching staff discussing the starting lineup and rotations.
"There are going to be some peaks and valleys, but I've liked what we've done," Lue said. "I just know we'll start playing good basketball at the right time when it matters going into the playoffs. I'm excited about the young guys we have. Putting it all together is going to be fun and it's going to be a good ride."
Lue said for now his rotations will continue to be matchup-based.
"I think once Kevin gets back we'll have a set rotation," Lue said. "I think with Kevin being out, teams starting bigger when you playing Detroit, when you play teams like Minnesota, with big Taj Gibson and Big KAT (Karl-Anthony Towns). It all just depends and varies from there."
Lue added that he can see Smith and Hood starting together, but "we just gotta see how it unfolds."
He said the addition of three young players should improve the Cavs' 29th-ranked defense, but he can also envision an effect offensively.
"Having guys who are live off the dribble, getting to the basket, getting to loose balls, rebounding the basketball and stuff like that," he said.
James said it didn't take him long to see how the four newcomers will help the Cavs. All are 25 years old except for Hill, 31.
"But obviously you don't want to fast-track it. You look at Jordan and Larry, they've been in the same system for a long time with the Lakers and Rodney's been in Utah for his whole career," James said. "I think it will be a lot easier for George because he's much more of a veteran, he's been around the block. Being a point guard, you've seen every set, you kind of know what's going on. I think it will be a lot easier transition for him. But all four of them are pretty smart guys, we should be fine."
James said he found out about the trades around noon when he walked into Cleveland Clinic Courts and saw his close friend Wade, who told him that Thomas had been dealt to the Lakers.
"He asked me did I see what happened. And he thought I was messing around when I told him I didn't," James said. "He said there was a trade that happened on our team and he possibly could be headed out as well."
Lue said he was surprised as well.
"I started getting lots of texts and phone calls about trades being made," Lue said. "It was like, 'Oh, my God, that trade' and 'Oh, my God, something else.' It was a tough day. Anytime you trade some guys who have been here and try to help you win, it's always a sad day. That's the toughest part about this business. Guys you get used to being around and then you look up and they are gone.
"I don't really know the deadline like that because this is really the first time I had to deal with it. You have a plan in place for the year, for the season. But we had a lot of injuries and a lot of guys came back midway through, which was tough for us. You hate to see this day coming, because it happened to me as a player also, but it's part of the business and it's tough."
For James, among those leaving were his best friend Wade, with whom he played for four seasons and won two championships in Miami, and Shumpert and Frye, part of the 2016 championship team.
"It's always tough when you lose teammates. The trade deadline is always a difficult time for everybody," James said. "So, shout out to my former teammates: Shump, D-Rose, Jae Crowder, Isaiah, D-Wade and especially Channing. He's a great guy, and losing those great guys, period. We put in a lot of hard work over the years with myself and Channing and Shump -- we won a championship together. So that's always difficult to lose a teammate that you had a great run with.
"Obviously, D-Wade, I've been teammates with him before. And then the small little doses that I was able to play with Jae and IT, I wish it could have been better than it was. I definitely wish all six guys, including D-Rose, the best."
Lue said what he learned after taking over following the firing of coach David Blatt should help in this situation.
"Come in in the midst of all that, I can handle a lot of things and I can get through a lot of stuff," Lue said. "Just for me and the game of basketball, I just think you gotta play the game you love to the best of your ability. And I think when you playing hard and leave it on the floor, you can live with the results."
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