After starting the season with six straight losses, the Cleveland Cavaliers have fired head coach Tyron Lue according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Cavs will replace Lue with interim coach Larry Drew.
After firing Ty Lue, Cleveland planning to promote Larry Drew to interim coach, sources tell ESPN. Management meeting with Drew now.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 28, 2018
The news is somehow both surprising and expected.
Lue joined the Cavaliers in 2014 as an associate head coach, getting elevated to head coach in 2015-16 after the team moved on from first-year coach David Blatt. Lue coached a LeBron James-led team to an NBA Championship over the Golden State Warriors and reached back-to-back NBA Finals losses in the next two seasons. He’s done a lot of winning in a short time, exiting leading Cleveland to their only championship in franchise history.
So with three straight finals appearances in three seasons, why move on from Lue? It’s quite simple. The Cavaliers are rebuilding and despite all the winning under Lue, keeping him around didn’t make sense for a young squad. The Cavaliers stink and will continue to stink in 2017-18 and there’s no indication their struggles are a mirage.
In six straight losses to open the season, the Cavaliers have posted an Eastern Conference-worst -12.8 point differential. They’ve struggled like you’d expect a team who lost the game’s best player would. Cleveland has rightly allocated big minutes to younger players, with small forward Cedi Osman getting starts, while rookie point guard Colin Sexton has played at least 18 minutes in every single game. Going younger has left holdovers like shooting guard’s Kyler Korver and J.R. Smith – both key pieces during the James years – earning little minutes and DNP’s early in the season. In a lost, post-LeBron season, the organization’s focus is developing its young talent – something it didn’t have the chance to do in recent years – even at the expense of minutes for veteran players and losing.
It’s hard to say whether Lue’s coaching made an impact on the team’s overall success. LeBron James was a ball-dominant, all-world player who dictated a lot of the Cavaliers on-court decisions. It would have been fair for Cleveland to see what Lue could do with a disheveled roster over a full season, but after six games, owner Dan Gilbert decided he’d rather have someone else (Drew) lead while the losses piled up.
Drew will be responsible for building up a Cavs team starting pretty much from scratch. Cleveland’s in a full rebuild. General manager Koby Altman’s next moves should be dealing veterans and acquire assets which will help the team long-term. The tank is on.
Ultimately, getting axed isn’t the worst thing for Lue. He keeps his winning record and doesn’t have to go through the pains of coaching a team which will struggle to win 30 games. He’ll get a head coaching gig soon based on his postseason success alone. Getting fired probably hurts, but it’s the best move for Lue and the Cavaliers future.