Nine consecutive postseason wins for the Cleveland Cavaliers after a tumultuous regular season has both media and fans wondering what exactly has changed to make the Cavaliers a very strong contender for the NBA title.
The answer appears to be located on the bench in the form of head coach Tyronn Lue, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. Berger quotes a source close to the team who indicates that once Lue replaced former coach David Blatt, a number of changes were implemented.
The major change came when Lue ended the deference to LeBron James that Blatt had previously shown. That uncomfortable dynamic had made James virtually bulletproof when it came to criticism. However, Lue soon made his presence felt:
“Shut the (expletive) up. I got this,” Lue told James during a team huddle.
Lue also had no problem with pointing out James’ miscues either in practice or during film study. Prior to this, the belief by other team members was that James was ostensibly the head coach.
“We were winning, but we were a fractured team,” said the source. “The players felt they were doing this for LeBron, instead of with LeBron.”
Another key component that changed was that Kevin Love’s game was adapted to exploit his assets. Before this, the idea of using Love in the post was ignored, among a number of other issues.
Lue was blunt in making sure that Love adapted, but also showed confidence in him, which has allowed the forward to flourish.
“Get your (expletive) in the post. We’re going to you,” Lue had told Love. “I don’t care if you’ve missed 10 shots in a row. We’re going to you.”
The bond that Love and Lue had previously established has been strengthened over the past few months.
“We’ve really seen eye-to-eye since I’ve been here, and he knows what I’m capable of. Like any relationship on or off the floor, it’s all about communication,” Love said about Lue. “That’s been always very high with Ty. We’ve been very honest to each other. It’s taken me back to playing my brand of basketball.”
The one word that the Cavs have continued to embrace this postseason is “trust.”
“We’ve always played that way,” Lue said. “This year, we’re just trusting the pass more. We understand who we are as a team. I think defensively and offensively, we understand who we are and who we want to play through.”
Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals will be on Thursday night before the series shifts to Toronto on Saturday and Monday nights.