Title-winning vets now needed for Cavs’ playoff plans

James Jones is among the players who will see his role expand now for the Cavaliers.

Tony Dejak/AP

James Jones. Shawn Marion. Mike Miller. Kendrick Perkins.

These are names Cavaliers fans should probably get to know.

That’s especially the case after general manager David Griffin broke the glum news regarding Kevin Love on Monday: The Cavs’ starting power forward is "highly unlikely" to return this season, having suffered some ligament damage to his dislocated shoulder.

Surgery is an option. Long rest is an option. But when it comes to Love and the NBA playoffs, the Cavs are basically out of options.

Unless you count the likes of Jones, Marion, Miller and Perkins. All are veterans who own championship rings. All are considered to be at least a little past their primes. All are about to be counted on as the Cavs embark on the Eastern Conference semifinals — which start Monday against either Chicago or Milwaukee.

Oh, starting shooting guard J.R.Smith is also out after the NBA handed him a two-game suspension for his role in a tiff with Boston forward Jae Crowder.

That leaves the Cavs without two starters for the first two games of the conference semis. That leaves the Cavs without Love even if they manage to advance. That makes some of the veterans whose leadership was invaluable in the locker room suddenly important on the floor.

"The team has to rally," Cavs star LeBron James said. "We’ve got to pick each other up and figure out a way to get it done."

A lot of that will likely start with Jones, Marion, Miller and Perkins.  

Jones is 34 years old, mostly a spot-up shooter. Cavs coach David Blatt has occasionally used Jones, with some degree of success, as a backup to Love and in a "stretch" forward role.

Marion is 36 and retiring at the end of the season. He started at shooting guard earlier this year, but has been used only sparingly lately.

Miller is 35, and while he’s had his moments, he’s barely gotten off the bench lately. His back isn’t in the best condition, but he remains a threat from the perimeter. Beyond that, Miller has added little besides, again, knowing what it takes to win a title.

Finally, Perkins is the youngest of the aforementioned group at the age of 30. He is a rough-and-tumble backup center, a guy who is more likely to rattle opponent’s teeth than rock the rim with dunks.

Jones and Miller won championships alongside James in Miami. Marion won one in Dallas. Perkins did it with Boston.

Those pedigrees and that know-how, will need to be more than just shared behind closed doors. Now, those four will need to show how to win when it means the most. They can no longer just talk about it.

"Everyone has to pick up not what he’s able to do, but what they are capable of doing," was how James explained it.

Granted, younger guys such as Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov will also be relied on more heavily. Most everyone will need to rethink their roles.

That may mean James playing power forward, or Kyrie Irving playing backup shooting guard, or Shumpert running the point. No less than Blatt admitted the Cavs will be employing different lineups and different strategies to overcome their losses. And what choice do they have?

For now, they are remaining confident, embracing the role of supposed underdog.

"I don’t expect us to survive," Griffin said. "I expect us to thrive."

Added Blatt: "We’re ready to face this challenge. We’re hungry."

Mostly, the Cavs will need to get solid contributions from men who haven’t exactly contributed in a major way this season.

On the bright side, some of those men — men such as Jones, Marion, Miller and Perkins — have all traveled this postseason road. There are few things they haven’t seen. They are battled-tested, they are almost ready.

That’s counts for a lot, as the Cavs need them now more than ever.

"We have the depth," James insisted. "We have the guys who can step up. There’s no excuses."