There’s no denying that last season was a difficult one for Tyronn Lue. The Cleveland Cavaliers head coach battled dysfunction within the team, constant turnover, as well as issues with his own health.
After taking a leave from the team, Lue returned to the team and discussed the issues he had been having. He explained he had battled anxiety and is combating his health concerns with a healthier diet, as well as lifestyle changes.
In a podcast with Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon and Chris Fedor, former Cavs general manager David Griffin explained that he expects to see a “revitalized” version of Lue next season:
“Seeing him be on the court again in sweats, on the floor and working with guards and we have been able to see that now in terms of the Instagram and all those things, T-Lue is going to be the best version of himself he’s ever been,” Griffin said during the Wine and Gold Talk podcast. “When you have that in the form of a guy who is that good out of timeouts yeah I think you can be a six, seven or eight seed and a really difficult out (in the playoffs). If you’re a six it’s not a given that three beats you.”
Griffin also went on to discuss the issues the team had defensively, and how not all of the blame should fall on Lue:
“It’s hard to scheme a lack of effort,” Griffin said. “And they got lack of effort from a whole bunch of people, but I think what was important for Ty and this was always the case with us, when Ty takes over the defense, which is what he does in the playoffs, he turns the water off of whatever the best weapon is that the opponent has an that’s because he’s so good at taking away what you do best. We’re going to beat you because he has enough time to prepare. There’s a reason Toronto had to change as radically as they did and a big part of it is Ty Lue. He completely took away the two greatest weapons they had. That’s all Ty Lue. That’s his genius.”
”So the same person they are faulting for the faulty defense in the regular season is the guy whose magic makes it possible to get stops in the playoffs. When he takes over the defense things change radically. I think moving forward Ty is going to have to learn from that and moving forward he’s going to have to understand just as you are now intimately involved with the guards on the floor, this defense has to be yours again and if it’s not going to be his they could struggle again”
There certainly are some valid points there with regards to the issues with effort among the team. The problems started from the top down with the roster, as LeBron James using the defensive end to rest and save himself for later in the season. When your on-court leader isn’t motivated, it’s hard to create accountability throughout the roster and the issues trickle down.
That being said, some responsibility still falls on the coach to motivate and connect to the team. The Cavs no longer have championship expectations and their goals have been re-calibrated.
While they still have veterans, those players no longer can coast through the season with the expectation that they’ll turn it on in the playoffs. If the Cavs truly want to make the post-season, they’ll need a much more consistent effort.
In a sense, we are going to learn who Tyronn Lue really is as a coach. It’s hard to deny that he played a pivotal role in the 2016 championship. The Cavs made critical adjustments throughout the playoffs and his Game 7 halftime motivation of LeBron James is forever a part of Cleveland lore.
But coaches, like players, can have good years and bad year. They can get better, or they can regress. You’d be hard pressed to find anybody that says that Lue did a great job last season. While there are valid reasons behind that, it’s not something that can continue.
Lue has the reins now, it’s his team and the responsibility is on him to set and develop a culture. He has the opportunity to establish himself as a head coach separate from LeBron James, just as Erik Spoelstra did in Miami from 2015 on.
Whether or not the Cavs make the playoffs will likely be dictated by the front office. But how well the pieces play and whether or not the individual players are maximized will go a long way towards defining how Lue is viewed around the league.