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The Cleveland Cavaliers entered the All-Star break riding the momentum of a four-game winning streak.
With The New 4 of George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. added to the mix and an invigorated LeBron James regaining the bounce to his step, it appeared the last thing the Cavaliers wanted was a break.
Turns out, that was incorrect, according to Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue.
“I thought we needed a break,” Lue said after practice Wednesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence. “Going through a tough stretch and then finally getting these guys here. We win four in a row, it’s been positive.
“You never want to take time off when you’re kind of playing good and rolling. But I thought as a team we needed it. Now we’re back and we’ve got to continue to keep building.”
After the Cavaliers silenced the Thunder at Oklahoma City last Tuesday, Lue joked about The New 4 forgetting some of the team’s system during the All-Star break. He was so concerned, in fact, he had the information put on the new guys’ iPads.
It didn’t help. The atmosphere at practice Wednesday was similar to training camp. The New 4 even had photographs taken in their wine-colored Cavalier uniforms, just as is done at preseason media day.
“Just like how I suspected, they forgot the plays,” Lue said through a laugh after practice. “So, we grabbed them early, tried it, and then we’re going to grab them again after the shooting and just continue to keep going through the plays and a couple defensive coverages. But overall, the energy of the practice is great.”
With only 26 regular-season games to go, starting with tonight’s clash against the Washington Wizards at Quicken Loans Arena, James believes the Cavaliers (34-22) will be up for the challenges that await them.
“Just try to help them fast track what we want to try and accomplish,” he said. “Obviously, we’re not going to take away from the process and we understand that.
“We can’t do that, but I want to try to help them fast track what we want to implement into the game situation every day, so if it’s watching film, more film or if it is dummying offenses like that, just try to get them implemented into what we want to accomplish every night as quickly as possible.”
James stressed it will be a daily task for the retooled Cavaliers, who will play 17 games in the next 32 days, to build the habits that will be necessary for the team to be prepared for the postseason, which begins in mid-April.
“It’s the same. We want to build championship habits every day,” James said. “We want to be very good defensively. We want to share the ball and move the ball offensively, where everybody feels like they’re in a good rhythm. That’s been it and we want to try to execute that.
“Obviously, we wasn’t able to do that for a majority of the season, but that’s what we want to do for the rest of the season.”
James realizes it could be a daunting quest, but one he says he’s more than up for.
“We got a long way to go,” James said. “Four new guys that’s in a top-eight, top-nine rotation.
“Me, as the leader of the team, I welcome it even with the … we don’t have that much time. It’s almost March, so we don’t have that much time and we’re looking forward to the journey.”