INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers held their first post-All-Star break practice Wednesday and all 14 players were on the court for it. That group included Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert, Timofey Mozgov, Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams -- five players whose names have increasingly popped up in trade rumors in the last couple of weeks.
Despite the fact that nearly a third of the roster has been linked to potential swaps, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said he did not address the group regarding Thursday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.
"That's not really my department," Lue said. "The guys came in and responded well. That wasn't a problem at all. It's the nature of the business. It's unfortunate, but it happens."
ESPN's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst reported this week that the Boston Celtics have interest in Love, and the Cavs could potentially package Shumpert and Mozgov to acquire Kosta Koufos, Ben McLemore and a shooter like Marco Belinelli from the Sacramento Kings.
With $110 million in payroll already committed, and an additional $65 million in luxury-tax fees slated to come down the pike because of that commitment, the Cavs would like to shed or at least swap salary in a deal, rather than just add a player through one of their two trade exceptions worth $10.5 million and $2.9 million, respectively.
Varejao, who has played his 12-year career in Cleveland, is making $9.7 million this season and is on the books for $9.3 million in 2016-17. While he is viewed as a positive locker-room presence and has made sporadic contributions this season when called upon because of injuries at the top of the rotation, the Cavs are willing to move him to acquire an additional wing player who could have an immediate impact, a source with knowledge of the team's thinking told ESPN.
The Cavs could have a hard time finding a taker for Varejao, considering his age (33) and injury history. Having already dealt their 2016 first-round pick, the Cavs' most tradable assets in terms of amenable salaries commensurate with those players' abilities are probably Shumpert ($8.9 million), Mozgov ($4.9 million) and Williams ($2.1 million) outside of Matthew Dellavedova (a steal at $1.3 million and someone the Cavs want to hold on to).
With one open roster spot, the Cavs could also look to shore up their squad by going after a player who would accept a buyout from his current team. One popular buyout candidate is Brooklyn's Joe Johnson, considering the sorry state of the Nets. Johnson, a seven-time All-Star, has connections to Cavs general manager David Griffin through their time in Phoenix together, to Cavs lead assistant coach Larry Drew through their time in Atlanta together, and to LeBron James through USA Basketball. That would make him a welcomed fit in Cleveland. However, according to a source familiar with the Cavs' thinking, Cleveland's belief is Johnson does not want to leave Brooklyn and will seek to stick with the franchise on a multiyear extension as it undergoes its rebuild.
James, for his part, did not want to offer an opinion of any potential upgrades the Cavs should pursue.
"For me, control what you can control and that's not something none of us can control what happens," James said. "The trade deadline happens every year and there's teams that make moves, teams that don't make moves. We're all here to find out what happens and if there's nothing we'll be ready to go."
Cleveland is in first place in the Eastern Conference at 38-14, including an 8-3 record since Lue took over for David Blatt. However, in the West, Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma City all have better records. Also, the Cavs rank 28th in bench scoring at only 27.0 points per game, making their depth their most glaring weakness when comparing themselves to the rest of the league's elite.
Last season, Griffin transformed the team with a pair of midseason trades, sending out Dion Waiters and Lou Amundson to bring in Shumpert, Mozgov and J.R. Smith. Much like James, Lue said he would leave any moves this year up to Griffin again.
"I'm not involved," Lue said. "Whoever we have, that's who I have to coach. I stay out of that."
No matter what happens when the dust settles after the trade deadline, James says he believes the Cavs -- no matter how they're constructed -- must sharpen their focus for the stretch run.
"It's all about the mental side for our team," James said. "The physical is going to take care of itself, but mentally if we engage, we can be very, very good. When we're not engaged, we can lose a lot of ballgames."