Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue has a long list of immediate concerns.
Keeping his job isn’t currently one of them.
Despite Cleveland’s recent slide and his team’s lack of cohesion, the Cavaliers have no immediate plans to replace Lue, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Sunday.
The status of Lue, who led the team to an NBA title in 2016 and three straight Finals appearances, came into question following Saturday night’s 32-point home loss to Houston, the latest blowout suffered by a team in disarray. However, Lue’s job isn’t in danger because of the need for “keeping continuity” at this challenging time, given Cleveland’s roster overhaul and injuries, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday because of the sensitive nature of the situation.
ESPN first reported that Lue’s job wasn’t in jeopardy.
Cleveland has lost 12 of 18 and LeBron James and his teammates have been beaten by at least 24 points in four games during the span. They were booed by fans in Quicken Loans Arena almost from the start of the performance against Houston, and following the game, Lue and several of his players challenged the team’s level of effort and trust.
“We didn’t have no fight,” Lue said.
James said: “I’m at a loss for words.”
Isaiah Thomas said the struggled is internal.
“We’re not together on both ends,” he said. “There’s a lot of one-on-one on the offense end, maybe because we don’t trust each other. And then on the defensive end, it’s the same thing. Guys are put on islands and there’s no trust. I mean, if you don’t trust something . I don’t know.”
A search for answers has yielded no solutions during this prolonged slump, and Cleveland has looked overmatched against the league’s elite teams.
The Cavaliers have lost eight consecutive games on national TV, prompting James to half-heartedly joke the team should be dropped from future network appearances.
Lue, who took over the Cavs midway through the 2016 championship season when David Blatt was fired, has been criticized for an unwillingness to change his lineups. But he’s had to juggle minutes because of injuries and the Cavaliers’ makeup was altered radically when Thomas returned from a hip injury that knocked him out last year’s playoffs with Boston.
The Cavs haven’t been the same since Thomas came aboard, and the former All-Star has struggled trying to find his rhythm and shot. It has created a trickle-down effect through Cleveland’s lineup, weakened an already feeble defensive team, and raised tensions in the locker room.
And as if Lue didn’t have enough problems, the Cavaliers lost All-Star forward Kevin Love this week with a broken hand. Love could be sidelined two months, and there’s no telling what the team will look like when he returns.
The trading deadline is Thursday, and the Cavs have been engaged with several teams about potential deals. At this point, there may not be anything they can do make them title contenders this year.
Although Cleveland owns two first-round picks to swap, the team’s front office must decide whether it’s worth investing in this core group or begin rebuilding for the future while not knowing if James will leave this summer for a second time in free agency.
As for the present, James has not been himself on the court. He’s going through a puzzling slump, and after scoring just 11 points and taking only 10 shots on Saturday, his night ended with him whipping the ball in disgust toward one hoop as the third quarter horn sounded.
In a weirdly quiet locker room, James expressed frustration and confusion, then deflected questions about whether he senses any moves.
“I’m not the GM and I don’t make those calls so I can’t control that,” he said. “What I can control is how I show up to work every day and try to put my hard hat on and go out and play. That’s what I can control.”
There’s no doubt James, who has played in seven straight Finals, would like to see the Cavs re-load for another title chase. But without any assurance that the three-time champion will be staying beyond this season, Cleveland’s front office is hesitant to make a major deal.
Lue’s focus is on the here and now.
“Only way you can get to April, May and June is fixing it right now,” he said. “We have to play better. We understand that. I have to be better. So we all have to look in the mirror and be better.”