By: Monte Perez
The Cleveland Cavaliers fired their Head Coach, David Blatt, last week. Assistant Tyronn Lue has taken over the reins on the sideline. When this move was made the first thought on social media was… “LeBron James is a coach killer” I t want to be 100% clear here, LeBron is not a coach killer, he is a coach maker. Mike Brown won the NBA’s Coach of the Year Award in 2009. He stopped coaching LeBron and he has been fired three times since then. Erik Spoelstra had a record of 43-39 and 47-35. LeBron signs with the Heat and Miami goes to 4 straight NBA Finals. (Last season, without LeBron, the Heat didn’t make the playoffs.)
In the Movie Rocky III, Mickey says to Rocky, “three years ago you was supernatural. You was hard and you was nasty and you had this cast-iron jaw but then the worst thing happened to you that could happen to any fighter. You got civilized. This is exactly how I feel about LeBron and the Cavaliers as a team. They are not hungry, it is almost as if getting to the NBA finals last year was enough for them, they were satisfied.
In a recent interview Lue said, “Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have to stop worrying about their brand and worry about winning games.” This is great advice but if you look at the Cavaliers contracts…their players are being paid handsomely.
LeBron James: $22M this year, $24M in 2017.
Kevin Love: $19M this year, $113M guaranteed through 2020.
Kyrie Irving: $14M this year, $15M in 2017, $16M in 2018, $17M in 2019 and $18M in 2020.
Tristan Thompson: $14M this year, $82M contract.
(For more information on the Cavaliers Salary just go to https://www.basketball-reference.com/contracts/CLE.html )
Hall of Fame Boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler once said, “It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning to go for a run when you’re sleeping in silk sheets”
The Cavs players need to stop making commercials, stop making movies and get back The Eye of the Tiger. This all starts with James. He has to show them the way. I compare LeBron to WR Randy Moss. They are both world class athletes who need structure, accountability and need to be pushed by their coaches. LeBron had this in Miami with Pat Riley and he played the best basketball of his career. Now, critics and fans will say, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant didn’t need this. But, if you look closer… they did. They both had Phil Jackson as their coach and Kobe never won without the “Zen Master” on the bench.
Lue’s biggest challenge will be to get players to stop worrying about who gets credit and who is making money off the court. He needs to sell winning and team first. This is a monumental task because fans and media won’t allow this to happen. For example, Kevin Love is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds and fans say.. it is not enough. They want him to do more! The Cavs are in first place in the Eastern Conference (31-12). If the Cavs win the Finals critics will still say Love didn’t do enough. Ask yourself this question… Besides Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry what NBA Player would average more points per game than James and Irving. No matter who came on the team they would be the 3rd option. Love is the 3rd option and that is fine as long as they keep winning.
Like Rocky III, the Cavs and LeBron are at crossroads. Lue needs to become “Apollo Creed” like and motivate them to buy into what he is selling. If he can’t…and the Cavs lose in the Finals…and he won’t be coaching this team next year. Magic Johnson had a young Pat Riley, Michael Jordan had a young Phil Jackson. Maybe Lue is exactly what LeBron needs, (something he has never had) an elite coach. Time will tell.
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