When a team starts 0-6, something needs to change. One of the realities of professional sport is that the coach is usually chosen to be that thing. So from that perspective, Cleveland’s move to fire Head Coach Tyronne Lue doesn’t come as a surprise. But wins and losses are a pretty simplistic way to judge anything. Judge Lue on this question; is 0-6 much worse than Cleveland could reasonably expect to be.
Lue might be a bad coach worthy of firing, but how would we really know at this point? Nearly two years after being hired and these six games were the first normal six games of his coaching career. Coaching LeBron James isn’t a regular coaching job; some would argue that if you’re coaching a team with LeBron, you’re not even really the coach.
The point is, it’s hard to know anything about Lue when you only have six games to judge him from. But sure, those six games have been bad. Six losses to kick it all off, with the worst net rating in the league, 21st ranked offence and 29th ranked defence. They’re bad with the ball and even worse without it.
If you’re firing your coach though, that means you’re pretty sure that he’s the reason for your poor record, and a quick look at the roster should tell you there are more obvious problems. Even if you’ve got Brad Stephens coaching, who’s he getting the wins from? Put simply, the 2018 Cavs are a wasteland, devoid of talent, (and devoid of LeBron).
If you lose LeBron from a team that scraped its way to 50 games last year, why should you reasonably expect the team to get anywhere close to that? Even more so when it was so obvious that he was pulling that squad by the scruff of its collective neck.
Kevin Love cannot lead your franchise to winning. Love was a three-time All-Star in Minnesota who averaged 19.2 points and 12.2 rebounds in six seasons and they never made the playoffs once or won more than 40 games. Love is an excellent player with a complementary skillset; but not even the best player on a playoff team. To make things worse, he’s injured his toe and won’t play for a while.
Tristan Thompson’s been a shell of himself since 2016, and the Cavs are still paying out the wazoo for him to be there. The trade deadline-frenzy of last season that brought in Rodney Hood and George Hill didn’t make the team better either, merely removing the personalities that didn’t gel with LeBron. They reached at Pick 8 in the draft for Colin Sexton, and he’s been far from impressive to this point.
The Cavs were set up to fail this season. Despite Tristan Thompson’s protests that they were still the top dogs in the east (no Tristan, the Cavs didn’t win the Eastern Conference, LeBron won the Eastern Conference), nobody thought of them like that. Despite Dan Gilbert finally getting his wish to prove to the world that he was a good owner and LeBron hadn’t been the sole reason for the franchise’s success in the past 15 years, (maybe he’s kinda right though, Kyrie was pretty good in the 2016 Finals), there was no success coming this year or in the foreseeable future.
So why should the Cavs be playing better right now? They’re a bad team without any reasons to have a better record than what they do. Lue might be a bad coach, but how could anyone know at this point? The Cavs will point to Lue’s unwillingness to commit to the younger players, and say that he needed to stop playing the veterans and look to the future. But that doesn’t really line up with the narrative they’ve pushed all summer long that they’re gunning for a playoff spot.
All we really know is that the turnstile placed in front of Lue’s old office is going to keep swinging, just like the one in front of GM Koby Altman’s office. The one constant is Dan Gilbert, who’ll continue to chop and change, all while the team remains mediocre under the rest of his tenure (until the next GOAT falls into his lap by being born just down the road).