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Report: J.R. Smith, Kevin Love slated to return to starting lineup soon

Kevin Love, J.R. Smith
Joshua Gunter/Cleveland.com

When the NBA’s defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers are back at full strength, there will need to be some minor adjustments to the starting rotation.

The Cavs have dealt with quite a few injuries this season. Kevin Love suffered a knee injury in February, J.R. Smith fractured his thumb in January, and Andrew Bogut went down with a season-ending leg injury just moments into his debut with the team. However, there is good news on the horizon, as the Cavs seem to be getting healthy at just the right time.

Shortly after 5:00 p.m. today, Joe Vardon of cleveland.com reported that Love will make his return tonight against the Utah Jazz, four weeks and two days after undergoing surgery to remove loose body masses from his knee. Initial recovery time estimations had Love missing six weeks.

Smith, who made his return to the Cavaliers’ lineup on March 9th, has been working his way back into playing shape. Cavs Head Coach Tyronn Lue will likely promote “Swish,” as Smith is affectionately known, to a staring role soon. Coach Lue recently told reporters that Smith would start so that he and Korver could be “on different shifts”. The two marksman have a similar style of play. Both are excellent shooters and great on-ball wing defenders.

Via cleveland.com:

“It’s been on my mind a lot lately as far as rotations, who’s going to play with who,” Lue said of the rotational changes that will be made. “Of course when Kevin comes back he’s probably going to have a minutes restriction. Probably going to be tired. Probably going to be certain points of the game where you’ve got to take him out and you don’t want to. So there’s going to be some adjustment period, but we’ll get through it. But the biggest thing for me is just getting everybody back healthy so we can start taking off like supposed to.”

Iman Shumpert and Richard Jefferson will likely see their minutes decrease when the Cavaliers’ roster is healthy once more. Jefferson has stepped up to the metaphorical plate in Love’s absence, starting Cleveland’s previous five games. Coach Lue told reporters after Wednesday’s abbreviated practice session that Jefferson will probably welcome a bit of a break.

“I don’t think he wants to play that many minutes,” Lue said of Jefferson. “So for him, Kevin coming back, he’ll get to his normal role which I think he’ll like.”

Coach Lue also indicated that he might elect to use Smith and Korver on the floor at the same time in certain scenarios — at the end of games, for instance. In those end-of-game cases, Cleveland’s lineup would probably inlude the likes of Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and either Love or Tristan Thompson roaming the paint — quite a formidable force for opposing sides.

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