INDEPENDENCE — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he does not believe there is a risk of mentally scarring a rookie NBA point guard by rushing him into the lineup like there is with a quarterback in the NFL.
“Not with this kid, I don’t think so,” Lue said.
But Lue will still start 10-year veteran George Hill over eighth overall pick Collin Sexton in the Oct. 17 season opener at Toronto.
Sexton has impressed going into the Cavs’ final preseason game Friday night against the Detroit Pistons at Michigan State University. But Lue said he preferred to ease Sexton into the lineup and had no target date for Sexton to take over.
“We’ll see how it goes. I want him to understand the game, understanding running the offense, understanding picking and choosing his spots, and G Hill is a great veteran to learn from,” Lue said Thursday after practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “Just watching [Hill] and talking to Collin every day and teaching him is good for him.
“His day is going to come, his chance is going to come, his opportunity is going to come. Just learning the game and not putting so much pressure on him to start right away, I think is good for him. Even though he’s probably ready, from my mindset I just want to make sure we ease him into it, make sure he’s comfortable. He’s going to have his chance.”
The Cavs’ opening night lineup now seems set with Hill at point guard, Rodney Hood at shooting guard, Cedi Osman at small forward, Kevin Love at power forward and Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. sharing the center position depending on the size of the opponent’s big man.
As excited as he is by Sexton’s progress, Lue said he prefers the experienced Hill for now as the Cavs begin another post-LeBron James era. Hill has reached the playoffs in all but one season in the league.
Traded by the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 8, Hill averaged 9.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in starting all 24 games he played for the Cavs in 2017-18, and 18-of-19 games in the playoffs.
Hill, 32, has no problem mentoring Sexton; he did the same thing last year in Sacramento with De’Aaron Fox. Hill kept the starting job until mid-January, when the Kings turned to Fox and sought to trade Hill.
“He’s a smart kid, has a lot of upside and we’re going to take each day and try to do the best we can to win games," Hill said of Sexton after the Cavs' first practice last month. "That’s all that matters. No matter who’s starting or who’s coming off the bench, or who’s playing and who’s not, we’re all going to be on the same page and learn from each other and have fun doing it."
Since then, Lue has seen Sexton make strides in court awareness.
“Yeah, because he’s a natural scorer,” Lue said. “Being aggressive, getting to the basket, getting to the free-throw line, just talking to him, picking and choosing his spots when [Kyle] Korver and J.R. [Smith] and those guys are running, being able to see those guys because they are specialists and they can knock down shots. He’s done a good job controlling the team, controlling the game, picking and choosing his spots and he’s only going to get better.”
Lue has also noted Sexton’s ability to learn quickly. During his one season at Alabama, Sexton was named to the Southeastern Conference freshman academic honor roll.
“The biggest thing is he’s very smart. He picks things up quick,” Lue said. “He knows when he makes a mistake. He’s catching himself. ... And having the work ethic he does, that’s a big advantage.
“A lot of times you’ve got to bring guys in to work them out, but he’s ready to come in and work and doing extra.”
Asked where he thinks he’s progressed most, Sexton said, “Becoming more of a leader and more calm. When I was out there at first you get a little jittery, first time you’ve experienced it.”
He’s already embracing the NBA life, including developing an affinity for the Marble Room, a steakhouse and raw bar in downtown Cleveland.
“We have more down time to make sure your body is good, more recovery time. It’s not like going to class right after practice,” he said.
A Georgia native, Sexton noted that the temperature dipped into the 50s Thursday and vowed to prepare for the Cleveland winter.
“It is cold outside. I’ve got to make sure I get a big coat for the season,” he said.
Love to sit at MSU
Love, Osman and Nance will sit out the preseason finale and Lue was uncertain about the status of Hood.
Lue will start center Ante Zizic, followed by Thompson. Zizic has been efficient in two home preseason games, scoring 20 points with five rebounds in 22 minutes Saturday against the Boston Celtics and contributing six points with three rebounds in eight minutes Monday against the Indiana Pacers.
The Cavs signed Emanuel Terry, 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, an undrafted rookie forward from Lincoln Memorial University. Terry averaged 9.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in starting 72 games in four years at LMU, shooting .704 from the field. As a senior, he was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division II All-America team. He takes the roster spot of guard Levi Randolph, who was waived Wednesday.
Nance sprains ankle
Nance sprained his right ankle in practice Thursday and will undergo treatment and rehab for the next several days, the Cavs announced.
Guard Isaiah Taylor, battling for the final roster spot, was bothered by pain in his lower left leg and an MRI revealed a stress fracture. He will undergo further examination over the next several days.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.