New Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is unafraid to speak his mind.
First, he said he’d do things better, not differently, than fired David Blatt – reversing a tried-and-true axiom for a coaching change.
Then, he said his players weren’t conditioned well enough to play up-tempo.
“With our young stars, with Kyrie and Kevin, they’re young, so it’s still about their brand and different things, it’s just way different,” Lue said.
If you’re shifting in your chair, perhaps concerned that Lue, in one of his first acts as coach, went to the media to rip Irving and Love, relax. He apparently said the same thing in front of the entire team on Saturday, too.
“I talked to our team about, ‘if you win, everybody’s brand is better,'” Lue said Monday, before the Cavs beat the T’Wolves. “If you win as a unit, everybody gets credit for it. Just trying to keep instilling that in our guys because, you know, we still have a young group of guys. Just gotta keep instilling that message. If we win, everybody’s taken care of, so that’s the message.”
Another way of putting it: The Cavs are at their best when everything goes through LeBron James. Know your place, and get in line behind him.
Mostly, Lue is right.
LeBron remains Cleveland’s top player, and his passing ability means funneling the offense through him won’t make it a one-man show. Irving and Love will still get plenty of touches.
And winning does improve perception, especially when expectations are so high. Love was already viewed as a failure in many circles for not winning enough in Minnesota, and his play with the Cavs hasn’t changed minds. It’s only a matter of time until Irving faces similar criticism if this loaded team doesn’t win a title. Is that fair, especially for a team that – despite injuries to Love and Irving – pushed the Warriors in last year’s Finals? Probably not. But fair and reality don’t always overlap.
Lue just has to be careful not to offend the wrong people. More than Irving and Love need to fit in with a LeBron-led team, Lue needs those stars to buy into his message.