INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dwyane Wade approached coach Tyronn Lue over the weekend and requested to come off the bench for the defending Eastern Conference champions, returning JR Smith to the starting shooting guard role he occupied for most of the past three seasons.
"I just decided, earlier than later, just to get to the unit where I'd be more comfortable in and can probably be better with this team in that lineup," Wade said after practice Monday. "Why wait? Three games in, why wait? Wanted to get in there with those guys."
Lue and Wade spoke Sunday, one day after the Cavs lost to the Orlando Magic 114-93 -- a game in which Cleveland fell behind by as many as 37 points and Wade scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting -- and put the lineup change in place.
"We talked about it before we got here [that] it'd be a better fit with him coming off the bench," Lue said. "I know he'd been a starter his whole career, so we wanted to try to start him and give him that nod. He came to me and said, 'You know what, Coach? What you said was right. I'd be able to be featured more in the second unit and be able to handle the ball more, so let's make that move and make that adjustment.'
"... That's what professionals do. No ego. He saw it was best for the team for him to come off the bench. It was his call, and here we are."
Wade, 35, has come off the bench only 11 times in his 15-year career. Lue initially acquiesced to start the 12-time All-Star -- who left nearly $8 million on the table when he accepted a buyout from the Chicago Bulls to join the Cavs -- but told reporters the lineup was subject to change.
Now that Wade has agreed to come off the bench, Lue said it will be a permanent move.
"I just wanted to give him a chance because he'd been a starter his whole career," Lue said. "To watch him with that first unit, we see how it worked out, and he came to me and just said, 'What you said was right. It's a better fit for me in the second unit.' For a future Hall of Famer and a guy that's won three NBA championships to come to the coach and see what's best for the team, that's big time."
Wade is averaging 5.7 points per game on 28 percent shooting from the field with 3.3 assists. He has scored in single digits in all three games, something he did only six times in 60 games with the Bulls last season, when he finished with averages of 18.3 points, 43.4 percent shooting, 31.0 percent on 3s and 3.8 assists.
"I came here for one reason," Wade said. "I didn't come here to shoot 20 shots or average 20 points. I came here to be a part of winning and to bring what I can to this team, and I want to do that. I feel that my best opportunity to do that is in that unit, so it just came down to that."
The Cavs will get their first look at the new lineup Tuesday when they host the Bulls. Cleveland will be without Derrick Rose again because of a sprained left ankle, and Lue said he will again turn to Jose Calderon as the starting point guard in Rose's absence.
Wade's swap to the second unit will have a ripple effect on Rose, who was also ruled out for Wednesday's game against the Brooklyn Nets. Lue had been turning to Rose to run point guard with the bench.
"We have to start all over again," Lue said. "But it's OK. It's early in the season, and this is what it's all about, trying to figure it out and understanding who plays best with who and what lineups work. Another step in another direction. I like it and can't say enough about D-Wade and how he came to me and approached me saying he wanted to be with the second unit."
LeBron James said Wade's adjustment reflects what the entire Cavs team has been dealing with in the early going.
"I think the first week, like he told y'all, was a long week for him just trying to adjust to a new system, adjust to what we're trying to do," James said. "And I don't think it's just him. I mean, obviously he has the name, but a lot of guys are trying to adjust as well -- Jae [Crowder] as well, D-Rose as well. All the new guys -- Jeff Green as well. We're trying to figure out how can we help these guys get acclimated as quickly as possible.
"But this is a marathon. And he knows it. He's been a part of it, and it's not a sprint. So Week 2 is going to be much better than Week 1 for all of us."