Wins and Lessons with the Cavs: Loss of Lue a Lesson in Stability

Ty Lue Cavs Media Day 2017
Scott Sargent/WFNY

Former Cleveland Cavaliers Head Coach Ty Lue said this season won’t be measured in wins and losses, but rather “wins and lessons.” With that in mind, and in honor of his memory, WFNY is going to follow along with what we learn every week.

If this Cavaliers season is to be measured by wins and lessons, instead of wins and losses, then they will have to do so with a substitute teacher. After failing to win, or have a lead in any second half of their first six games, General Manager Koby Altman fired head coach Ty Lue. Assistant Coach Larry Drew, with head coaching stints in Atlanta and Milwaukee, will fill the spot in the interim, but he is negotiating for a long term deal to take on the role.

So what lessons have we learned?

There was turmoil. Being left with so few beat reporters, and only one, Joe Vardon, that has been on the beat for an extended time, we only get one real version of what happened. Vardon has jumped on two podcasts to relay what he has heard, and they are definitely recommended for those seeking more information. The main theme seems to be that Altman and Lue disagreed on whether the Cavs would play the young players or veterans early in the season. While Altman promised the veterans individually there would not be a tank, his directive to Lue was to play the young players. After a few early losses, Lue disobeyed his General Manager’s wishes and went to the veterans. That move resulted in even more lopsided losses, leading to Lue’s ouster.

Dan Gilbert is restless. If it didn’t manifest itself in such destructive ways, Dan Gilbert’s passion would be commendable. Unfortunately, Dan can’t help but to cycle through head coaches and general managers, leaving the Cavaliers devoid of any lasting culture. Watching this final press conference by Ty Lue is ironic and sort of sad knowing what would happen soon after.

Koby Altman’s message to this roster seems unclear. Vardon reports that Altman told the veterans face-to-face that the team would not be tanking. This was the basis for Kevin Love signing his extension. But the basis for the disagreement with Lue was playing veterans like J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver. In Vardon’s appearances, he mentions the veterans hearing rumors of Altman’s ultimatum on the youth movement and seeing rookie Collin Sexton check in early against the Atlanta Hawks as a sign of the franchise’s preferred path. This reportedly did not sit well with the veterans who had been promised a competitive team. Korver, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, was very emotional when hearing he would be out of the rotation.

The timing isn’t ideal. While the roster is not stacked with high-end youth, players like Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman could use a guiding hand finding their way in the NBA. Other franchises like Philadelphia and Brooklyn have created a culture and a style of play that sets a base as they add talent. The Cavs have not been doing that, and will likely to struggle to do so without a training camp to implement a system. The offseason would’ve afforded them the opportunity to interview young coaches that could’ve given the team an identity, rather than firing Lue so early and relying on a re-tread like Drew.

Larry Nance Jr. is rounding into form. There was some good news over the last few days. In a loss to Indiana, Larry Nance Jr. looked more like his old self, scoring 15 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and dishing four assists. It is important that the long-term pieces continue to grow and to see Nance finally have a big game after returning from injury is a good sign.

The Cavaliers host the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday and the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.