Lue: Lineup changes not elixir for struggling Cavs

Tyronn Lue of the Cavaliers said at practice Sunday no lineup changes are coming for his struggling squad.

Having gone through the autopsy of his team’s Walking Dead performance, at least defensively, against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, Tyronn Lue is going to stick with what’s got him here.

For better or worse.

The Cavaliers coach said there will not be any lineup changes headed into a game Tuesday night at San Antonio. The Cavaliers were shellacked by the visiting Thunder, 148-124, at Quicken Loans Arena.

Why not shake things up, especially after tying the franchise record for points allowed, a mark that has stood since 1972?

“I just don’t want to,” Lue said at practice Sunday at Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence. “Looking at film and what we’re trying to do, it’s not the best thing right now.”

“The best thing” for the struggling Cavaliers (27-18), who have won just three times in a dozen games since Christmas Day, is certainly up for debate.

Which was the case after the OKC game, when Isaiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade both calling for more accountability from the Cavaliers, Thomas going as far to say, “If guys ain’t doing the right job they need to come out the game.”

Asked about it, specifically, at practice Sunday, Lue had a matter-of-fact response.

“That’s why they’re players and I’m the coach,” he said.

Lue’s track record is to not make changes while the team is having difficulties as to not paint one or two guys as the one’s responsible for struggles or issues.

“It’s the same group we won 18 out of 19 with also,” Lue said. “We’ve just got to play better. We’ve got to play better, we’ve got to be sharper and that’s what we continue to keep working on.

“It’s the same team that won 18 out of 19 and 13 in a row.”

That’s accurate, to a point. Thomas (hip), Tristan Thompson (calf) and Derrick Rose (ankle), all playing minutes now, were not even dressing for games during that hot stretch, which came after the Cavaliers came out of the gate for the season at 3-5 and 5-7.

The point guard spot was being filled by Iman Shumpert and then Jose Calderon when Shumpert went down with a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery to repair. Sharpshooting big man Channing Frye was playing extremely productive minutes off the bench with the second unit, along with Wade, Kyle Korver and rookie Cedi Osman.

Perhaps coincidentally, as Thomas, Thompson and now Rose have worked their way back into the rotation, the Cavaliers’ results have taken a 180. At the same time, Shumpert is trying to work his way back, Frye only plays in garbage time as Thompson has taken his minutes, Korver is getting less time and Osman doesn’t get off the bench. In fairness, the schedule became much more difficult and the team has spent most of the 2018 portion of its schedule on the road.

Two members of the starting lineup, Jae Crowder and J.R. Smith, have simply been ineffective.

Crowder has never seemed to find his comfort zone since coming to Cleveland as part of the Kyrie Irving trade on Aug. 22 (the day his mother died) and is playing out of position and doing so in a role as a starter, whereas he’s cut his teeth in the league as a tough, hard-nosed, high-energy guy who comes off the bench.

Smith has struggled pretty much from the jump this season and has not produced at levels of which the Cavaliers have been accustomed, at either end of the floor. He has passed up open shot after open shot, not being the 3-point marksmen he has his entire career, and his defense has regressed noticeably.

Part of Lue’s solution is to hit the practice team more. As the oldest team in the league, the Cavaliers often eschew practices for time spent on walkthroughs or in the film room. Sunday’s practice, however, marked the third session in the past week.

Kevin Love was excused from the workout because of illness. Love, the Cavaliers’ second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, played but three minutes against Oklahoma City before leaving the game and not returning. His entire stat line — a missed 3-pointer from each corner.

“I think, with Tristan trying to still get in better shape from missing time, I think with D-Rose, Shump, with IT, they need it,” Lue said Sunday. “I think they’re not really gonna get up to speed just playing games, so we need more practices and that’s why we’ve been doing that as of late.”

Lue was encouraged by what he saw at practice Sunday.

“We’ve just got to continue to try and get better… I think the guys had a good practice today,” he said. “We covered a lot of defensive schemes, a lot of defensive things that we had breakdowns on (vs. OKC) and played a little 5-on-5 today,” he said. “So, we’ve got to continue to get better.

“No film (Sunday). Just move on.”

4 Comments on "Lue: Lineup changes not elixir for struggling Cavs"

  1. Don, You hit EXACTLY the problem. Lue doesn’t even understand that the PLAYERS he has playing NOW ARE NOT THE PLAYERS PLAYING IN THE WINNING STREAK! Stupidity Reins ! Crowder & JR Smiss have been pretty ineffective ALL season, JR more-so, even during the Win streak. Even with the starters lapsing, During the WIN streak, THE EXCEPTIONAL BENCH PLAY OF D-WADE, GREEN, KORVER, CEDI, & FRYE (3pt & spacing) IS WHAT BROUGHT THEM BACK(WITH TRIPLE-DOUBLE LEBRON) The DOWNWARD SPIRAL of not only the bench chemistry, BUT THE WHOLE TEAM, BEGAN WITH THE INSERTION OF TRISTAN THOMPSON ! ! ! ! !
    Track it. It disrupted all that was going on with the open threes for the bench, & most of the open drives/cuts were now shut down by REAL opposing centers blocking shots & clogging lanes with REAL rim protection because TT is ONLY hanging lost at or around the basket or switching unnecessarily to a guard at the top of the key, LEAVING HIS MAN OPEN FOR A KICKBACK 3. IT HAPPENS CONTINUALLY, & Lue doesn’t even care.
    Tristan & Lebron look at each other & “why’d you leave your guy” Shoulder shrug follows. & then TT trots downcourt as if he’s playing lazy street ball.

    A few weeks back it was— no reason to practice, now suddenly aaaah, maybe we need practices(of course, DUH)
    NOW IT’S, — NO REASON TO CHANGE THIS GREAT LINE-UP ???? ???? ???? ????

    Nice read on things, Don. Just where are the energy guys, like CEDI & FRYE,–garbage time.
    Starters have been affected by this lost energy too, & NOT EVEN CLOSE TO MAKING THE THREES & that’s killing them too. When the bench chemistry was working IT WAS CONTAGIOUS, & Love picked it up some, but now MOST of the starters tossing up bricks. Can’t win that way, but we can now practice with the same line-up.

    “COACH LUE-SER” ! ! !

    • Don McCormack Don McCormack | January 21, 2018 at 4:49 pm |

      Howdy, DR… First, thank you for your kind words. They are very much appreciated. To your points, your frustrations and certainly understandable and merited. It really is amazing to see a team that had been functioning so well and at such a high level spiral downward to this point. Sam Amico was the first to jump on the “Why Tristan in place of Frye” train and everyone who watches this team has jumped aboard, too. The only reasoning I can come up with is Lue does not believe Frye can be on the floor in a matchup with Golden State, as was indicated in The Finals last summer, so if he believes that, why play Frye when Thompson needs to play all the minutes he can to not only get himself back into top shape, but to also prep him for the minutes he’ll be needed against Golden State? I’m not saying I agree with him, but that is the only reason I can come up with for Lue doing what he’s doing. The consequences of going that route are obvious to us all, though — a simple look at the win-loss record speaks volumes. Lue is certainly gambling by doing what’s he doing, but while I may not necessarily agree, I admire his willingness to perhaps put his own job on the line for doing what his gut tells him… as always, DR, thanks for reading!

  2. Maybe its Lue’s ego. They are the players and I am the coach. That doesnt sound like a competent coach. He just have to continue to try and coach a little better

  3. Three Cavs vets have said in the past few days that its time to look in the mirror.

    In my opinion theyre talking to the team, and possibly LeBron simultaneously.

    This is the answer to two questions

    1. What do the Cavs need to do to right the ship. (on floor effort is always on the players, and Lue knows that too, hence no changes, make them suffer til they fix it is his philosophy)

    2. How do you coach a guy who Isnt really coachable? (Indirectly and to the team, when 3+ guys saying the same words, they will start to register).

    This was good news tonight, thank you.

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