The Cleveland Cavaliers are gearing up to defend their Eastern Conference title for the fourth straight year. But their plans have hit a snag, with head coach Tyronn Lue taking a leave of absence over health problems. These are the same health reasons that forced him to leave the sidelines in three different games in the 2018-19 season.
“After many conversations with our doctors and [Cavaliers general manger] Koby Altman and much thought given to what is best for the team and my health,” said Lue. “I need to step back from coaching for the time being and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation from which to coach for the rest of the season.”
Lue hasn’t specified a timeline for when he’ll resume coaching duties.
LeBron James Supports Coach Taking Time Off
Cavs star LeBron James believes that it’s a good time for his coach to take some games off.
“I think it’s probably well overdue, understanding what he’s been going through throughout this season,” said James. “Obviously, health is the most important with everything in life, so I’m not surprised by it at all.
LeBron James talks about Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue taking a temporary leave of absence from the team to deal with an illness. pic.twitter.com/GBoAinRmtz
— clevelanddotcom (@clevelanddotcom) March 19, 2018
LeBron added, “I knew he was struggling, but he was never not himself. He was just dealing with it the best way he could, but he was never not himself when he was around. Obviously, once you leave the gym and things of that nature, when he goes home, we don’t know, but he was the same every single day, even though he was going through what he was going through.”
Lue Has Had Chest Pains
Lue hasn’t said much on his ailment throughout the year. But he did describe “chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year” in a recent win over the Chicago Bulls.
Cleveland GM Koby Altman addressed the matter through a press release.
“We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues,” Altman stated.
When Will Lue be Back?
Tyronn Lue is hoping to resume his coaching duties before the end of the regular season. Cleveland (41-29) is currently third place in the East, sitting half a game ahead of the Indiana Pacers in the standings.
“While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team,” said Lue. “I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season.
“My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards.”
NBA.com’s David Aldridge, Lue reports that Lue could be back as soon as next week:
Tyronn Lue will be on a one-week plan to address his health issues, per source. The current plan is to return to the bench next week.
— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) March 19, 2018
Lue joins the Charlotte Hornets’ Steve Clifford as NBA coaches who’ve needed time away from the job. Clifford, 56, took a month off after battling sleep deprivation and severe headaches. He also had heart problems in 2013.
Larry Drew will Coach the Cavs
Many problem wonder if LeBron James will take over coaching duties. But Cleveland has a very capable replacement in assistant Larry Drew, who was the Atlanta Hawks’ head coach from 2010-13. He also served as head coach for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2014.
He’s stepped in as head coach of the Cavs each of the three times that Lue headed back to the locker room.
“I don’t know if it’s impacting the team,” Drew said about Lue’s absence. “I think particularly at this stage of the season — this is the last day of a 13-day road trip — certainly some elements are going to come up. As a head, you wear a lot of hats.”
You have a lot of responsibilities, and sometimes these things come up and they’re unavoidable and you just have to deal with it. But we know as a staff, if he’s not feeling up to par, we have to step up and that’s just what we did.”
Road Ahead is Difficult
The Cavs are almost a lock to make the playoffs, especially with the return of Kevin Love. But Drew has a tough road ahead, given that the team is still meshing after making multiple trade deadline moves.
George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., and Jordan Clarkson are all playing heavy rotation minutes, despite having been with the team less than 20 games. Hood, Nance, Tristan Thompson, and Cedi Osman are dealing with injuries too. Everybody is expected to be back and healthy by the beginning of April.
Cleveland is just 9-7 since making the trades. And they haven’t looked like the same team ever since dealing Kyrie Irving in the 2017 offseason.
The defensive rating has improved slightly to 28th, up from 29th before the trades. But this still might not be enough to win the East once again if they can’t get stops.
Lue began his tenure in Cleveland after David Blatt was fired halfway through the 2015-16 season. Lue then led the Cavs to the NBA championship, defeating the 73-win Golden State Warriors in seven games.
Lue’s second season was also a success, although Cleveland lost to the Warriors in the Finals in five games. The 2017-18 campaign hasn’t gone quite as well, with the team struggling throughout the regular season.
How will Lue’s Absence Affect the Cavs?
“We’re going to find out, but obviously it’s tough — it’s like losing one of your best players,” said LeBron. “[He’s] a guy who’s pretty much the captain of our ship and has run the thing for the last three years.
“But everyone has to step up, and we have coaches in place who are ready for that challenge and we have to do our job as players as well. But, like I said, his health is most important, and I look forward to when he comes back.”
Cleveland has 12 games left to maintain their third seed in the East and build chemistry with the roster. Staying in this spot would help Cleveland maintain home court in the first round and avoid playing the No. 1 seed Toronto Raptors until conference finals. Of course, playing the No. 2 seed Boston Celtics in the second round won’t be any picnic either.
2018 Cavs Futures
GTBets offers NBA futures off and on throughout the season. We don’t have NBA futures up today, but here’s the most-recent version from March 12:
NBA Championship Futures
Golden State -170
Oklahoma City +3500
San Antonio +5000
2018 Eastern Conference Futures
Cleveland was still favored to win the East, despite only being third in the conference. It’ll be interesting to see where the Cavs rank in our next round of futures, though, given Lue’s health problems.