CLEVELAND -- Following the Cavaliers' 103-86 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue announced that LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love would all rest on Wednesday. Lue added that the Cavs' Big Three will not travel to Memphis with the team for Cleveland's second night of the home-road back-to-back against the Grizzlies.
James, who previously explained how he chose to play a preseason game in Cincinnati rather than in another NBA city because it was the fans' one chance to see him play there, was asked if that line of thinking also applies to Wednesday's game. It will be the only time Cleveland will play in Memphis this season, unless the Cavs meet the Grizzlies in the NBA Finals.
"I do whatever my coach asks me to do," James said, perturbed by the question. "My coach wants me to rest, I don't buck my coach. That's what he wants and that's what we're going to do. I've been in this league 14 years. I shouldn't have to explain me sitting out a game or not playing games. I've played in every arena, including Seattle, that's no longer here. It's not like it's my first year. I've got 14 years. I've paid my dues -- and more than a lot of guys in this league. But I'll ride with my coach."
Lue said there was different reasoning to rest each player:
Irving, who did not play Tuesday because of rest, revealed he had "tired legs" in Cleveland's win over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday. Love recently missed part of a shootaround because of back spasms after having his back "lock up" during the Cavs' win against the Knicks in New York last week. James is 31 and coming off six straight NBA Finals appearances. He logged 80 minutes in back-to-back home wins over the Miami Heat and the Hornets over the weekend.
"If his body was hurting that much, legs were tired, makes sense to give [Irving] a little extra rest," Lue said. "Bron's [rest] coming up was the back-to-back. And Kevin's back has been tight a little bit. And we made the decision, so that's what we're doing."
Cleveland has won five straight games following a three-game skid to improve its record to an Eastern Conference-best 18-5.
Several members of the Cavs have stated their intentions to have the best overall record in the league this season. With Cleveland trailing the Golden State Warriors (22-4) and San Antonio Spurs (19-5) in that quest, the rest strategy could seem counterintuitive. However, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is widely considered the innovator of the mass-rest move.
"You've seen, I think, more and more teams do it," Love said of resting several key players at once. "I think with Bron having just logged so many minutes, from Ty Lue -- I don't know what the conversation is among those guys, but I kind of imagined that Bron would take some back-to-backs off or some games he'd rest.
"Not because his body feels any different than it does. I believe he says that and it looks like his body is the best it's ever felt. Same thing with Kyrie. He played a lot of minutes. Also USA Basketball this past summer. So it's just one of those things."
"I think you look to get guys rest when you can," Love continued, "and I guess my opinion is we are looking forward. And obviously, right now, in the meantime, trying to win as many basketball games as you can and be first in the East and have the best record, but we also want to look long term, as well."
Cleveland has a stretch of three games in five days coming up starting on Saturday at home against the Los Angeles Lakers, followed by a road-home back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Irving is coming off one of his worst performances of the season, scoring just 11 points on 4 for 13 shooting with three turnovers against the Hornets. Lue was asked if there was something more serious going on with Irving, who fractured his kneecap in the 2015 NBA Finals and had suffered major foot injuries in the past.
"No," Lue insisted. "No. He wanted to play ... Is that OK? I mean, he wanted to go, and I just said take another game off and he'll be ready to go. That will give him seven days to work on his game, get his legs back, get his rehab; and hopefully, he'll be ready to go come Saturday."
Love said his body "feels good" but invited the break, saying, "It will be good for us to get a little bit of rest, get our legs underneath us and get back to work."
Lue was asked why he did not choose to stagger the rest for his stars so that he didn't have at least one of them available for both legs of the back-to-back against the Grizzlies.
"Come home and win this home game," Lue explained. "We're home [playing] in front of our fans. ... So, with two of the Big Three, I know we can win that game.
"It will be hard to go down and travel and to ask one person to try to carry the team, especially the way the offense runs. For me, I just -- it made sense to keep Kyrie here and then be ready for Saturday."