INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- When the NBA released its schedule for the 2017-18 season on Aug. 14, the Cleveland Cavaliers' season opener against the Boston Celtics was already intriguing as an Eastern Conference finals rematch.
But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue refused to place any added significance on Tuesday's challenge against the Celtics.
"It's one game," Lue said after practice Sunday, scoffing at a reporter's questioning if the Cavs geared up for the Celtics throughout their entire training camp. "I know both teams want to see each other, but at the end of the day, you don't win a championship by winning or losing the first game. So they're up for the game, they're ready for it, but that's not our main focus is playing Boston."
Perhaps putting a damper on expectations is LeBron James' status. James played in just one of the Cavs' five preseason games after spraining his left ankle on the second day of camp. Lue said James continued to be limited Sunday, but on Monday said James participated in a walkthrough.
Lue said he still doesn't know if James will play Tuesday.
"He went through probably one-fourth of the practice," Lue said Sunday. "Some plays, teaching stuff, some just 5-on-0 offensive stuff, getting up and down the floor. He went through that stuff today, and he went and got cardio in the weight room."
When asked about James' chances of playing, Lue said, "You got to ask him. You got to see how it feels. Just getting the treatment, working the right way, and see what happens."
James did not speak to reporters Sunday. However, he told ESPN on Friday that his ankle injury is testing his patience.
Should James sit out and miss a season opener for the first time in his 15-year career, Lue believes the Cavs are better equipped to win without him than they were the past three seasons, when Cleveland was just 4-23 without the four-time MVP in the lineup.
"I think we'll be a lot better off," Lue said. "I think we got a lot of different pieces. We're deeper. A lot of versatile players. A lot of different lineups we can play. So it will be different, but I think we have a better chance, yes."
One of those versatile players added is Crowder, who will start at power forward this season to try to take pressure off James on the defensive end. Crowder has waited two months to see the Celtics, and he admitted that he is looking forward to the opportunity to "go up against 'em and bang up a little bit and have a good, fun challenge," but he didn't want to rehash any hurt feelings he might have from being traded from Boston after he helped rebuild the franchise into an Eastern Conference contender.
"I'm over it. I've moved on," Crowder said. "I'm with a great group of guys right here who have worked very, very hard each day we've been at practice. It's been fun to be around. Of course, at the time I was shocked, but now that I've moved on, I'm not."
As much as Tuesday will be about Crowder's chance to play his former team, it will also feature Irving coming back to play in his former city.
"We all know Kyrie is a gamer," said Kevin Love, who will play Tuesday after being a late scratch in the preseason finale Friday. "Loved playing with him, in practice hated going against him, so I'm sure it'll be no different from Tuesday. Between the lines it's going to be a fight, especially opening night. The crowd is going to be into it, a lot of emotions there. A cliché thing, but it's true: We just need to get a win. It doesn't matter who's out there or in what uniform."
Love said he wasn't sure whether the Celtics should join the Golden State Warriors as another legitimate rival of the Cavaliers.
"I think it adds another layer to that [rivalry]," Love said. "Boston has been a team that's continued to get better, and they were there in the Eastern Conference finals last year against us. I don't know if 'rival' is the right word, but they're right up there, if not the main competitor with we feel like us in the East, and there's a few other teams in there we're going to fight with. But Boston seems to, like I mentioned, keep getting better."