VIDEO: The Fast Break — Jan. 23
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Cavs lose in Lue debut — Just hours after replacing David Blatt as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tyronn Lue made his head coaching debut at home in a nationally televised game against the Chicago Bulls. And while Lue talked about wanting to make the experience more fun for his players, as Chris Haynes writes for Cleveland.com, that turned out to be easier to talk about than actually make happen, as the Bulls won 96-83…
The Cavaliers showed energy, but lacked any efficiency — showing no shooting touch on the floor or at the foul line. They missed beyond the arc — making just four of 24 attempts — and at the foul line, where they were 9-of-22. By game’s end, they left the floor to boos from the home crowd.
During Lue’s pregame presser, he said one of the problems was that his team needed to start having more fun post David Blatt.
“I don’t think they’re enjoying it,” Lue said. “That was a part of our speech today. The game will pass you by. No matter how great LeBron is, Kyrie, Kevin, the game will pass you by. … I want them to just enjoy the moment now.”
To help cater to a new pleasurable basketball experience, before the game the Cavaliers did something they haven’t done since mid-November: they participated in the starting lineup introductions. Before, the players would just stand in a huddle as the public address announcer announced each starter.
That was the full degree of Cleveland’s (30-12) fun.
Initially into the contest, it looked as if the Cavaliers were energized and full of life by jumping out to a 7-2 lead. But that vigor slowly evaporated and old habits of isolation ball crept back in. They went scoreless in the final 6:26 of the opening quarter, missing their last 16 shots.
Ball movement could have been better, but for the most part Cleveland just couldn’t hit a shot. It was brutal to watch as they shot a horrific 37 percent from the field for the night.
When the buzzer sounded for halftime and the Cavaliers were down five, a frustrated LeBron James slammed the ball to the floor as he headed to the locker room. He had missed all three of his first half free throws. By game’s end, the Cavaliers were 9-of-22 from the charity stripe — and that required an 8-for-11 stretch to finish the game. Chicago capitalized on those missed opportunities, expanding its lead to 17 with 42 seconds remaining in the third.
An exasperated sellout crowd booed the home team, which trimmed the deficit to nine on a James layup plus free throw with 2:55 left in the game. A pair of free throws by Smith chipped it to eight seconds later.
But the Bulls found Taj Gibson for a difficult layup with a foul on James, pretty much ending any suspense. There was no overcoming that margin on this cold shooting night.
James was an assist shy of claiming his his first triple-double of the season. He finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds, but was 11-for-27 shooting. Smith put in 18 points on 17 shots. Love was the only player to make half his shots, finishing with 14 points and five boards and Kyrie Irving registered 11 points on 16 shot attempts.
Lue informed the media at morning shootaround that he would go with a 10-man rotation in order to develop an identity with the second unit. Veteran James Jones, who was out of the rotation under Blatt, was the first to sub in. Mo Williams, who hadn’t played in 10 of his last 13 games, soon after entered. The surprising aspect is that Lue used 10 players in the first quarter, showing how serious he is about improving his bench.
The results didn’t prove beneficial. Chicago’s bench outscored Cleveland’s 22-8.
With the franchise invested in Lue for the long haul, his objective is still to win games, but he also wants to restore his team’s passion.
“I’m not really worried about, right now this early, about the games, I really just worried about the spirit is more important than anything,” he said. “Getting our spirit right, getting our spirit together and I think everything else will take care of itself because we got a lot of great players.”
No. 2: Stan Van Gundy rips Blatt firing — NBA coaches are members of a fraternity, and whenever one gets fired, the other coaches usually publicly offer some comments of support. But last night Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy went all in in support of David Blatt, as David Mayo writes for MLive.com…
“We have no idea why it happened,” Van Gundy said. “But there’s no explanation that can include that he didn’t meet expectations, in terms of winning. There’s absolutely no way to even make a flimsy case, let alone a solid one, for that.”
Van Gundy said he reached out to Blatt “and used a few expletives, and just said, like, ‘What the heck’s going on?’ ”
“The only thing more absurd than what just happened would be (Golden State’s) Steve Kerr or (San Antonio’s Gregg) Popovich getting fired,” Van Gundy said.
Blatt was fired Friday with a 30-11 record, one season after Cavaliers lost the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors.
“He went to the NBA Finals, and who knows what would’ve happened had he had Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving? And even without them, that was a damn competitive series,” Van Gundy said. “He did a hell of a job. Then he comes back this year, and at the halfway point, despite having injuries, and Kyrie missing most of the time, (Iman) Shumpert missing time, he’s on pace to win 60 games, and he’s on top of the (conference).
“You can’t even make a flimsy case for the fact that the guy wasn’t meeting expectations. So obviously, there’s something else going on, and that’s what I’m saying — none of us now has any clue, whatsoever, what the expectations for coaches are.”
Van Gundy was asked whether part of the job expectations is being satisfactory to superstars. Cavaliers star LeBron James widely is known to have preferred talking through Tyronn Lue — the assistant who replaced Blatt as head coach — rather than going to Blatt himself.
Blatt was hired before the Cavaliers re-signed James and the superstar never gave any endorsement of the coach, even when asked directly.
“Look, that’s the stuff we don’t have any idea about,” Van Gundy said. “I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus on that because we have no idea. But clearly, there were expectations on David Blatt other than to meet, or even exceed expectations, and he did all that. So clearly, there was something else there.”
No. 3: Kerr, Myers find support in pain — Warriors coach Steve Kerr has been in the headlines plenty over the last few months as he attempted to return from back surgery. But Warriors GM Bob Myers and his family were also dealing with their own issues, as Myers lost his brother-in-law in a tragic accident. As Sam Amick writes in USA Today, Kerr and Myers found support in each other…
All those months had passed, with Steve Kerr telling Bob Myers day after day that he just wasn’t ready to return to the court, and the response from the Golden State Warriors general manager to his ailing coach was always the same.
“Steve, do what’s best for you,” Myers would say to Kerr. “The Warriors are going to be fine. It’s a basketball game.”
Those words held true on Friday night, when Kerr coached for the first time in more than six months and the fact that the Warriors beat the Indiana Pacers to improve to a league-best 40-4 had almost nothing to do with the meaning of it all. The part that mattered most, that had Myers smiling afterwards and inspired Kerr to call his general manager “an amazing human being” before tipoff, is that he was happy and healthy again.
Just like Myers’ late brother-in-law, Scott Dinsmore, used to say.
As Kerr made his way back from complications caused by offseason back surgery, those kind and patient words from Myers had come from a place that was as special as it was sad. On Sept. 12, 2015, right about the time Kerr was deciding whether or not he’d be ready to take on the rigors of training camp while dealing with severe headaches and fatigue, the 33-year-old Dinsmore was killed by falling boulders while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with his wife, Chelsea.
The love of her life, this passionate man whose TED talk imploring people to follow their dreams has approximately 2.6 million views and who founded a company – “Live Your Legend” – based on that uplifting principle, was just a few feet away from her on the mountain when he was taken. Their backpacking adventure around the globe had come to a tragic end. She would hike back down the mountain alone.
Chelsea Dinsmore lives in the Myers’ San Francisco home now, with Bob, his wife, Kristen, and their two young daughters all trying to fill an unfillable void. As Myers searched for the right words to explain the devastation of it late Friday night, the look of anguish on his face said more than enough. He was forever changed by this.
But somewhere along the path, while Myers’ family grieved and Kerr wondered how he’d gone from the NBA’s mountaintop in June to a lonely hike downward of his own, these two men who had no relationship before becoming partners in May of 2014 began to lean on one another. Their bigger-than-basketball bond was born.
“We would often say that this was the best year and worst year of our lives,” Myers, who joined the Warriors in April of 2011, told USA TODAY Sports. “What he went through personally, and what I went through in a family way, it’s a true statement. Only a few people knew about it, or know it, and so yeah there was a very sad common bond that we both were able to talk about and empathize.
“I’m lucky to have a guy like that in my life, who I respect and trust. He spoke to my wife and family (after Dinsmore’s passing) and wrote an e-mail to them afterwards that was one of the most beautiful e-mails I’ve ever seen. It meant a lot to me to do that to my wife’s family, so there’s a lot of layers here that go deeper than (the typical) coach-GM (relationship).”
No. 4: Scola the Explorer — Luis Scola is a power forward for the Toronto Raptors, his fourth team in five seasons. Whenever a player plays for several teams, he can earn the tag “journeyman.” Scola has also earned that title, although as our own Ian Thomsen discovered, Scola is a more literal “journey man”…
“I won’t waver,” says the Raptors 35-year-old power forward. “I don’t care if they trade me. I won’t go to a new team before I see Niagara.”
Is he joking? His smile reveals nothing more than his sincerity. The three great falls, formed 10,000 years ago, are the latest subject of his curiosity. Their name — Niagara — rolls and hops exotically to the cadence of his Argentine accent.
“As soon as I got here, the first thing I want to do is go to Niagara,” says Scola, who is midway through his first season in Toronto. “And every time I have a day off there’s something happening, and I didn’t have a chance to go there yet. Niagara. I have to go there.”
It is not as if he has been wasting these first four months in Canada. Scola was able to tour the country in October as the Raptors they played preseason games from Montreal to Vancouver.
“Montreal is beautiful,” says Scola. “Vancouver, when I got there, I was like, what is this place? We spent there a week in training camp. I took this little floating plane; it was right in front of the hotel. The guy was really nice. He was taking me all over the places, and I was like, oh my God — these mountains, the beaches, the city — it’s an amazing place.’
He is not saying that flying over Vancouver or visiting Niagara Falls is more important than his job. Anyone who has seen Scola play — and you don’t need anything close to 90 minutes — recognizes that basketball is his tireless passion. What he is saying, backed by 15 years of conviction, is that his investment in traveling and sightseeing and experiencing the larger world has served to nourish his passion for basketball.
“The NBA is the ultimate,” he says. “I know that some training facilities are a little more fancy, and some teams have, like, two more people working for them than the other teams. But it doesn’t matter where you go, the point is the same. This is the highest level. It doesn’t get any higher. If you are a player in the NBA, and you come up with an idea or a question or a problem, there’s three people dying to help you right there at the moment. If you suggest one thing, the answer is there.
“It creates not only all of this energy for you to come to work,” he says of the support he has received in nine seasons with four NBA teams. “But also it creates a great responsibility. Because they are working for you. So you’ve got to do your part. You have got to do your part.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Tyronn Lue thinks David Blatt should coach the Eastern Conference All-Star team … The injuries keep coming for the Charlotte Hornets — Cody Zeller is out at least a week with a shoulder injury … Kevin Garnett on the development of Karl-Anthony Towns … Dwight Howard doesn’t sound quite ready to return from a sprained ankle … Clint Capela has been able to start working out with Hakeem Olajuwon … After a video of a policeman playing pickup basketball with some kids in Gainesville, Florida went viral, Shaquille O’Neal made a surprise visit to show his support …