CLEVELAND — LeBron James, Larry Hughes and Anderson Varejao were all in action Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
All three came off the bench against the Indiana Pacers, however, as the Cavaliers went with a starting lineup of Eric Snow, Shannon Brown, Sasha Pavlovic, Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
It was the first time James, who had missed the last five games with a sprained left index finger, did not start an NBA game in which he appeared. He had started 332 regular-season games and 33 playoff games prior to Tuesday.
The 22-year-old worked with the second unit in practice Monday, leading many to believe a decision was made then to bring the small forward off the bench.
Meanwhile, Daniel “Boobie” Gibson, who normally starts at point guard, missed the game after having a wisdom tooth removed Monday night. That led to Snow getting his first start of the season, while Shannon Brown continued to start in place of Hughes, who was in his second game back after missing 11 games with a bruised knee.
“He’s a veteran,” Mike Brown said of his decision to start Snow. “With Boobie (playing), I have a lot of young players on the floor anyway. To have a veteran presence to help two guys on the wing that can score in Sasha and Shannon is good.”
Varejao — whose wild hair appeared lighter than it was at the end of last season — also came off the bench, which will continue to be the Brazilian’s role going forward. He did not speak with the media before the game, but Mike Brown said “Wild Thing” was already in full flopping form.
“We had one (flop) in practice the other day,” he said. “When it happened, bodies were flying everywhere. I think it was Coach (Hank) Egan who said, ‘He’s back!’”
In James, Gibson, Pavlovic, Hughes, Shannon Brown, Devin Brown, Damon Jones and Ira Newble, the Cavs now have eight healthy players capable of playing shooting guard.
“Everybody can give a reason for this guy or that guy or that guy (to play),” Mike Brown said. “The bottom line is I get paid to make tough decisions.”
Player rotations and managing minutes have never been among Mike Brown’s greatest strengths, but the third-year coach expects his players to fall in line.
“At the end of the day, everybody will be on board,” he said.
Just a guard
Hughes was under the impression he would play mainly shooting guard now that he’s back in action, but Mike Brown said that’s not true.
“He’s just a guard,” the coach said. “He’s going to have to play some point, some two (shooting guard) and some three (small forward).”
When told Hughes didn’t want to be known as a point guard, Mike Brown smiled.
“Tim Duncan didn’t want to be called a center,” he said. “OK, call him a power forward.”
The Cavs had a 9-3 record without James prior to this season, but dropped five straight games while he was out with the sprained finger.
“It was a lot different this time around,” said Mike Brown, meaning the Cavs were also without Hughes, Varejao and Donyell Marshall during that period. “It was a terrific experience for these guys.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.