When the Cleveland Cavaliers fired head coach David Blatt in January and replaced him with assistant Tyronn Lue, many interpreted the sequence as LeBron James firing Blatt and giving the job to … himself. That notion was reinforced by numerous scenes of James providing animated instructions to teammates during timeouts throughout the season.
LeBron should really engage with his teammates more. pic.twitter.com/E9Xar8k43D
— Scott @ WFNY (@WFNYScott) March 30, 2016
However, a report Wednesday claimed that the Cavs’ recent success — they’ve overcome what appeared to be internal turmoil and are 9-0 in the Eastern Conference playoffs — has plenty to do with Lue firmly taking the reins of the club. And that leadership began with the new coach letting James know who was boss.
From a story by Ken Berger of CBS Sports:
“[Other Cavs] felt they were doing this for LeBron,” the person familiar with the internal workings of the team said, “instead of with LeBron.”
Lue changed that the moment he first told James in a huddle, “Shut the [expletive] up. I got this,” according to a person who heard the exchange — and a few others like it. If Lue was going to get the stars and the role players to buy into the strategic changes he was determined to implement — play faster, space the floor, move the ball, take full advantage of [Kevin] Love’s versatility — he was going to have to restore order first.
He did it in every way possible, starting with James — calling him out in film sessions, barking at him in practice, seizing control back. Only then could the Cavaliers evolve into the juggernaut we are witnessing now.
Many in Cleveland were hoping that James could help lift the curse that seems to hang over that city’s sports teams, but hey, if he needs to be cursed out in order for that to happen, that’s fine, too, right? There’s certainly no denying that the Cavs have gotten their act together, and then some, following season-long rumors that James didn’t like playing with Love and/or Kyrie Irving and might even be thinking of returning to the Miami Heat.
Cleveland leads all postseason teams in scoring differential (plus-12.8) and in three-point attempts (34.4) and makes (15.7) per game. All the success from long-range, including an NBA record 25 threes in Game 2 against the Hawks in the previous round, has also led to a playoff-leading 58.7 true shooting percentage.
Of course, it’s one thing to tear through the Eastern Conference, something James has done with almost numbing regularity, and quite another to topple the best of the West in the NBA Finals, where James has posted a 2-4 overall record while the Cavs have yet to emerge with a title. Still, Lue has apparently proven to have far more value to his team than just as a towel rack.