HomeBasketball TodayKey Cavaliers player set to miss start of playoffs against Magic

Key Cavaliers player set to miss start of playoffs against Magic

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Always banged up and battered, the Cleveland Cavaliers were never going to technically be at full strength ahead of their first-round playoff series opener against the Orlando Magic. Ty Jerome, who hasn’t played for the Cavs since Cleveland’s home-opening loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder, has shown no signs of returning to the floor.

But joining Jerome is versatile big man Dean Wade, who is unlikely to be available when the Cavs’ playoffs begin at home. Wade, who has been sidelined for more than a month for personal reasons and a sprained knee, did not participate in practice as Cleveland begins to ramp up toward the postseason, casting further doubt on when the floor-stretching, multipositional defender will return to action.

Where is Cavs’ Dean Wade?

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Dean Wade (32) blocks the shot attempted by San Antonio Spurs 33 guard Tre Jones (33) during the first half at Frost Bank Center.
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

When pressed on whether or not Wade would be available in the playoffs, Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff gave an ominous, more or less admitting Wade won’t be available when the playoffs start.

“My assumption is he will not play in Game 1,” Bickerstaff said. “If he does play [in this series], it’ll be later down the line.”

Wade hasn’t played since March 8 and has missed 19 straight games, with Cleveland’s playoff-opening battle with Orlando making it 20 straight games. While Wade’s injury was originally noted as “knee soreness,” the ailment was later diagnosed as a sprain.

Since the new diagnosis, Wade has been receiving treatment and doing behind-the-scenes rehab but very little basketball-related activity, something he has to showcase he can physically do in order to get the green light to play.

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While Bickerstaff expressed that Wade’s status could change any day and it ultimately depends on his bothersome knee, having someone normally reserved, as Bickerstaff shared that Wade will likely not play, drives home how serious the injury is.

With Wade likely unavailable, Georges Niang and Marcus Morris are candidates for a few extra minutes off the bench. But while Niang and Morris can soak up the minutes Wade might get when fully healthy; there is something either player wishes they had Wade available to help give the Cavs an extra boost on the perimeter.

Even with Wade’s availability in doubt, thankfully Cleveland will have sharpshooter Sam Merrill available against Orlando. After missing the final three games of the regular season because of a neck strain, Merrill was a full participant in practice.

While Wade and Merrill don’t play the same position, Merrill’s three-point shooting acumen can boost the Cavs on offense they’ve been missing without Wade. Merrill’s marksmanship should help him leapfrog up the tight rotational hierarchy, with Bickerstaff mixing and matching various lineups, maximizing things around a fresh and energized Donovan Mitchell.

“He’s a trigger for our offense,” Donovan Mitchell said of Merrill. “He’s a guy that whether it’s helping me get free, creating confusion, can get you 15 points in two minutes. We saw the game we played down there. How many did he have? I think it was four or five. Just being able to create so many advantages for us offensively. To see him back is definitely big.”

Although continued rest, treatment, recovery, and time will allow Wade to get back to the court, which isn’t a guarantee, things will hinge on his effectiveness if he returns. Thankfully, with Merrill likely available, it softens the blow of Wade’s continued absence. Maybe one day the Cavs will be 100% healthy again. But when things open up against the Magic, they definitely won’t be.

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