The King has returned. LeBron James made his preseason debut Tuesday night after missing Cleveland’s first three games with a sprained left ankle. He scored 17 points, but also had eight turnovers in the 108-94 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
It was the first chance for James to play with close friend and former Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade as the Cavaliers showed off their new starting lineup. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue brought out his new starting group for the first time now that James is back. He was joined by Wade, Kevin Love and newcomers Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder. Lue announced the lineup, which includes three former MVPs on Monday. James and Rose have won regular-season MVPs and Wade was the 2006 Finals MVP.
Rose finished with 13 points and Iman Shumpert added 12.
“Tonight, I was off. I could feel it,” James said. “It’s just my first action since the Finals and my timing was a little off and turnovers, I think, just trickled down to everybody. So, I made everyone’s timing off.”
The starting five was expectedly rusty with the group having spent little time together. Wade was just bought out by the Bulls on Sept. 24. Crowder and Isaiah Thomas went to Cleveland as part of the Kyrie Irving trade on Aug. 30. And Love was just recently informed that he’d be moving to center with the unit from power forward.
Love and Wade were a combined 2 for 19 Tuesday.
“I don’t think we’ll be the team we want to be in a week,” James said. “It’s going to be for the whole season. We’re going to have changes, we’re going to make changes, we’re going to become a better team as the games go on. So, the team opening night will not be the team that we know we can be.
“We’ve only practiced for two weeks and you play on the third week, that’s not like a lot of time to prepare, especially when you have so many new guys playing here.”
Rose will move to the bench once Thomas returns from a hip injury expected to keep him out for months. That second unit will then be a formidable group with a mixture of Rose, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver and Jeff Green.
As the Cavs maneuver a veteran-laden roster, the young Bulls move on from the Jimmy Butler era. Justin Holiday scored a game-high 28 points and 2017 No. 7 overall pick Lauri Markkanen poured in 18. Denzel Valentine finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
UP NEXT: The Cavs (0-4) travel to face the Magic on Friday. The Bulls (3-2) host the Raptors on Friday.
RAPTORS 116, PISTONS 94
The Raptors never trailed as newcomer CJ Miles scored 19 points off the bench, including a 5-for-8 effort from 3-point range.
Ish Smith led the Pistons with a game-high 22 points off the bench as the starting five struggled.
PISTONS: Langston Galloway scored 16 off the bench and Andre Drummond finished with 14 points and 11 points. Detroit’s starters shot just 13 for 39 (33.3 percent) from the floor.
RAPTORS: Jonas Valanciunas scored 18 and grabbed 11 rebounds in the victory. Serge Ibaka added 14 and DeMar DeRozan chipped in 13.
UP NEXT: The Pistons (2-2) travel to face the Bucks on Friday. The Raptors (2-2) travel to face the Bulls on Friday.
PACERS 108, MACCABI HAIFA 89
Newly acquired Victor Oladipo did a little bit of everything for the Pacers as he scored 18, grabbed five rebounds, handed out four assists and had five steals.
Former Atlanta Hawk Josh Smith scored 16 and pulled down seven rebounds in the loss.
HAIFA: The NBA exhibition tour continued for Maccabi. Angel Rodriguez scored 15 and Oz Blayzer and Samardo Samuels added 14 apiece. Haifa actually outscored the Pacers 56-47 in the second and third quarters combined.
PACERS: Darren Collison scored 15 as Indiana navigates a world without Paul George. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 13 and Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis each scored 12 in the win.
UP NEXT: The Pacers (3-1) open the regular season by hosting the Nets on Oct. 18. Maccabi Haifa (0-2) travels to face the Trail Blazers on Friday.
MAGIC 103, SPURS 98
Aaron Gordon scored 27 and snatched 11 rebounds as the Magic rallied from an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 16 and on 6 for 11 shooting in the loss.
SPURS: Dejounte Murray scored 15 points in a team-high 26 minutes while Patty Mills and Rudy Gay added 13 apiece off the bench.
MAGIC: Jonathon Simmons put up 20 points and 10 assists and Bismack Biyombo chipped in 18 points.
UP NEXT: The Magic (3-2) host the Cavs on Friday. The Spurs (2-2) travel to face the Rockets on Friday.
THUNDER 96, NUGGETS 84
Russell Westbrook put together an efficient 20 points for Oklahoma, knocking down 9 of 13 with every miss coming from behind the 3-point arc. The reigning regular season MVP also had seven assists.
Will Barton was on fire off the Nuggets’ bench with 26 points, including four triples, five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
THUNDER: This is what Oklahoma envisioned with its three-headed monster of Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. George had 19 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and four assists. Anthony added 16 points and nine rebounds.
NUGGETS: Offense was hard to come by as Denver shot 34.1 percent from the field. Nikola Jokic finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds while Gary Harris totaled 11 points.
UP NEXT: The Thunder (3-1) open the regular season by hosting the Knicks on Oct. 19. The Nuggets (3-2) open the regular season on the road against the Jazz on Oct. 18.
JAZZ 105, LAKERS 99
Rookie Donovan Mitchell knocked down consecutive baskets with just over a minute remaining to give the Jazz a four-point lead they never relinquished. The No. 13 overall pick finished with 26 points, five rebounds and three assists in his best preseason game.
Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma continued his strong preseason with 18 points and four rebounds.
JAZZ: Rudy Gobert dominated on both ends of the floor with game highs in points (29) and rebounds (13). Ricky Rubio scored 22 and Rodney Hood left the game with neck soreness and did not return.
LAKERS: No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball missed his third straight game with a sprained ankle. Jordan Clarkson had 18 points off the bench while Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle added 13 points apiece.
UP NEXT: The Jazz (5-0) host the Nuggets in the regular-season opener on Oct. 18. The Lakers (1-4) will be the road team against the Clippers on Friday. •