Tyronn Lue said the Cavaliers – who’ve lost seven of nine – must play without personal agendas.
What did the coach mean by that?
Players have grumbled that James has slowed the ball movement, holding onto the ball until he sees an “assist” pass, rather than moving it quickly.
Players are grumbling about Lue’s lineups, wondering if Thompson should start and if Channing Frye should play more.
There’s truth in both these gripes.
LeBron has held the ball 4.89 seconds per touch (up from 4.37 last year) and dribbled 3.67 times per touch (up from 3.28 last year), according to NBA.com. He wants to win, but he also wants to win on his terms – being seen as the leader and racking up stats that earn praise (like MVP).
The Cavs have fared excellently with Frye on the court (+11.1 per 100 possessions). Thompson has mostly struggled this season, but he’s also playing a career-low 19 minutes per game. As long as the Cavaliers have him, they ought to try getting him going.
On the other hand, LeBron is one of the greatest players and passers of all-time. Putting the ball in his hands more is rarely a problem. He can deliver it to anyone anywhere in the halfcourt at anytime.
Cleveland clearly doesn’t trust Frye defensively against the Warriors, so why give major minutes now to someone who won’t help in the biggest moments? Likewise, more playing time might not be the answer to Thompson’s problems.
There are arguments and counterarguments in all of this. The Cavaliers’ bigger issue is that they’re so frustrated, they’re grumbling to the media. That’s far less likely to happen on winning teams. Yet, the grumbling only makes the Cavs more likely to lose more.
They need to nip this in the bud before it snowballs even further.
(Or not. Maybe they can just dial it up again in the playoffs, no matter how much they meander in the regular season – just like the last couple years.)