The Cavaliers broke the news earlier this week that coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence while he recovers from an ongoing illness, with Larry Drew stepping in as interim. While all are hoping for a swift recovery for coach Lue, a question that is being asked is: should the Cavaliers part ways with Lue at the end of the season to keep LeBron James?
There are only a handful of games left until the end of the Cavaliers' regular season, and it’s been a rollercoaster campaign. Cleveland have struggled through injuries, feuds between players, mass trades, and the threat of James leaving at the end of the season. With James considering joining the Rockets, Lakers and Sixers next season, it doesn't help the Cavs' cause when he and Lue end up in shouting matches on the sidelines.
New-look Cavs struggle with the hype
The Cavs' current situation can’t be helping their chances of keeping LeBron. Since the All-Star break, and the major trades, Cleveland have been hovering around the .500 mark, and have been struggling with injuries to Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Cedi Osman and Larry Nance Jr. Love is back in action and was crucial as they disposed of Milwaukee earlier in the week, while LeBron has been doing his best to carry the increased load, posting triple-double after triple-double.
But, even with the roster replenished, will there be enough time for the team to work it out before the playoffs? Whether they face the Wizards, Sixers or even the Pacers in the first round, Cleveland have a tough test as soon as the playoffs start. If they don’t sort things out, they won't make the Finals this year.
Better coaching options
Out of the four teams LeBron is considering, you’d have to say the Cavs are the weakest option in the long term.
The Lakers and Sixers boast great young talent, cap space, and bigger markets, whilst the Rockets have James Harden and Chris Paul, the number one seed in the West, and no state taxes. Cleveland may have a potential top-five pick in the draft from Brooklyn, but they also have no cap space, and seem to be slowly self-destructing.
The fact that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is considering selling the franchise suggests he may feel that this is the most valuable the team will ever be. However, if the Cavs are going to stay in the hunt, there’s one play they could make that could just sway LeBron to stay home: part ways with Lue and hire coach David Fizdale.
Many have been saying that Lue is on the hot seat, and some are even calling for his job. Whilst there will be no coaching changes this season, maybe it’s becoming more clear that Lue is over his head with this job. With so many injuries and lineup changes, it’s been tough for him to work out a rotation that can consistently puts wins on the board. If he’s not able to work it out in the postseason, it may be time for Cleveland to look for a new coach to breathe new life into the team.
Why David Fizdale would work in Cleveland
Not only does Fizdale have a good rapport with LeBron from their time together in Miami, where he was an assistant coach, but he had success in his first coaching job in Memphis. The Grizzlies went 43-39 in his only full season as coach, and lost a tough playoff series to the San Antonio Spurs in six games.
Fizdale could only coach 19 games this season, going 7-12 before he was fired from the role. Whether it was due to the personal row he was having with Marc Gasol, or he wasn’t cut the slack he deserved given Mike Conley’s injury, it’s clear that coach Fiz was thrown under the bus, a sentiment LeBron also stated. Given that Memphis have gone 12-38 since his firing, it’s clear that the coaching wasn’t the issue.
At full strength, the Cavaliers have no problem putting the ball in the basket, but their defense has been lacking for a while now. There’s enough defensive talent on this team to at least not be a bottom five defence, and that’s something Fizdale can provide. Under coach Fiz, Memphis were second in the league in opponent FG%, and third in defensive efficiency and opponent points per game. With Fizdale holding the reins with all the athletic talent on hand, Cleveland could complete turn the page on the defensive side of the ball.
Fizdale is a fine guest analyst, but it’s clear that his talents deserve a role as a coach in the NBA. Imagine what he could do if you have him, James, Love and Co. at his disposal. The decision will ultimately be made in the Cavs’ head office, but if LeBron leaves in the summer, the organization's NBA Championship window will be closed.