The new-look Cavaliers played their first game on Sunday—and they definitely surprised some people with how well they played despite the limited amount of time they’ve spent with one another since coming together at the NBA trade deadline late last week. Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, George Hill, and Larry Nance Jr. suited up for the Cavaliers and played alongside LeBron James, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, and the rest of the remaining Cleveland players to knock off the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics 121-99 in what may have been a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals.
But the new Cavaliers players weren’t the only players dealt at the NBA trade deadline to enjoy positive results during their first game with their new team. Now-former Cavaliers forward Jae Crowder was sent to the Jazz last Thursday as part of a deal that brought Hood and Hill to Cleveland. On Sunday night, he played his first game with Utah during their 115-96 win over the Trail Blazers, and he played surprisingly well seeing as how he’s only had time to take limited reps during practice since getting traded to the Jazz. Crowder scored 15 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and dished out 3 assists in 29 minutes of action.
Crowder also seemed to suggest he thinks he’ll play better in Utah this season than he did in Cleveland, and he may have thrown a little bit of shade at the Cavaliers in the process. While speaking with reporters about his first game with the Jazz, Crowder said he "got back to having fun playing basketball with a great group of guys" on Sunday. Additionally, he said he loves "playing within a system" in Utah, which could be interpreted as a shot at the style of basketball Cleveland was playing prior to the trade deadline.
Crowder wasn’t the only one who appeared to throw shade on Sunday. LeBron may have done it, too. Following the Cavaliers’ win over the Celtics, he hinted at the fact that some of the players Cleveland traded last week may not have been working as hard as they should have while in Cleveland. He didn’t name any names, but as ESPN’s Rachel Nichols pointed out, LeBron likely chose his words carefully while indirectly speaking about his ex-teammates.
J.R. Smith was also spotted yelling, "We got a [expletive] squad now," in the Cavaliers’ locker room on Sunday night after the game, which could be seen as a slight against some of his former teammates.
At the end of the day, there’s a chance the trades the Cavaliers made last week could end up benefiting everyone. Cleveland could get back on track thanks to Clarkson, Hood, Hill, and Nance Jr. and guys like Crowder could flourish elsewhere. But for now, it seems like the feelings associated with the trades are still fresh, and we’re going to hear more of this kind of shade from all sides in the days and possibly even weeks to come. It should make what’s already been a wildly entertaining NBA season even more interesting as we push closer towards the postseason.