Tyronn Lue wants Cavaliers to play faster but says conditioning an issue

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Tyronn Lue told his team before their first game with him as coach to start having fun again. The pressure to win now, the issues surrounding former coach David Blatt that led to his firing, the grind of a long season all had seemed to suck the joy out of the game for the Cavaliers. Lue told the team they need to start having fun again.

Part of that — run more, play faster. This is a team loaded with athletes and the best outlet passer in the game (Kevin Love), yet the Cavaliers play at the third slowest pace in the league (and were 25th lst . That shouldn’t be; this team should be getting easy buckets and throwing down dunks in transition.

Except they are not in good enough shape to do that.

Lue was honest about conditioning issues after the Cavaliers’ 96-83 loss to the Bulls’ Saturday. Via Hayden Groove of Scout Media (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

Here’s the money quote:

“I don’t think we’re in good enough shape. I think early we wanted to push it, we wanted to open the floor. I think we came out and did that, and then I think we dropped off the map. I think we got tired. Bron came out early, Ky wanted to come out early, Kevin wanted to come out early, so I just don’t think we’re in good enough shape right now to play the style we want to play.”

What you have to like — Lue called out LeBron James first, followed by Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. He called the big three out in the media first.

The tired legs also would help explain the poor shooting night for the Cavaliers — 37.2 percent as a team, 4-of-24 from three, and most amazingly 9-of-22 from the free throw line. Not to go all Jeff Van Gundy on you, but this is a make-or-miss league and for whatever reasons the Cavaliers couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean Saturday night (to borrow an old Chick Hearn line).

Conditioning is something Lue can push, but like a lot of the issues the Cavaliers need to fix it comes down to the players taking responsibility — they need to put in the extra time to take their conditioning to the next level.

It’s a title-or-bust year in Cleveland — teams don’t fire a 30-11 coach unless that’s true and they don’t believe he can get them where they want to be.  We’ll find out if Lue can fix the team’s problems. But like this conditioning issue, whether that can be fixed in a meaningful way during this season is a bigger question. No matter what Lue does, it’s fair to wonder if he can solve a lot of the Cavaliers’ issues by June. How much can he change?

And can he whip them into shape?