• Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue will take a leave of absence. And while Cleveland has been a hotbed for gossip, it's not important not to conflate his health issues with their typical drama.
By Rohan Nadkarni
March 19, 2018

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue will take a leave of absence to focus on his health issues, the Cavs and Lue announced Monday. Lue has missed parts of three games this season to deal with his illness, which Lue says is causing him “chest pains and other troubling symptoms.“ Larry Drew will take over head coaching duties while Lue is absent. Lue could be back on the bench in as soon as a week, reports TNT’s David Aldridge.

The news is, of course, troubling from a personal perspective for Lue. Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon says Lue has been tested by doctors throughout the season but hasn’t been diagnosed with anything. The same report says Lue has contemplated taking a leave at multiple points this season, but resisted until now.

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The Cavs have been a hotbed of NBA gossip all season long, and it’s important not to conflate Lue’s health issues with the typical drama that surrounds this team. First and foremost, we’re hoping Lue returns with a clean bill of health. 

As far as the effect Lue’s absence will have on the Cavs, well, they’ve proven for years now they can handle all types of obstacles standing in their way. Lue himself is a reminder, taking over the team in the middle of LeBron’s second season back, when David Blatt was fired despite having Cleveland in first place in the Eastern Conference. This season, the Cavs have remained in third place in the East despite making over most of their rotation at the trade deadline, while also dealing with a major injury to Kevin Love and, obviously, the departure of Kyrie Irving in the offseason. At this point, it’s a hallmark of LeBron’s second tenure in Cleveland for the team to basically thrive in the face of change.

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Troublingly, coaching absences have become less uncommon in the NBA over the last couple seasons. The Warriors have been successful without Steve Kerr in both the regular season and the playoffs. Kerr missed 43 games during the Warriors’ 73-win season, and he missed much of the postseason last year before returning to the bench for the Finals. Earlier this season, Hornets coach Steve Clifford took a leave of absence due to health issues, and Charlotte went 9–12 without him. The silver lining there, from a purely on-court perspective, is that teams can still operate well without their head coach.

For the Cavs, although this is a season with the faintest title hopes since LeBron’s return, their resilience is admirable. In a constant state of flux, Cleveland is still in a position to finish top three in the East, and LeBron looks healthy enough to take his game to another level in the playoffs.

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This Cleveland season has been far from a storybook narrative. However unlikely it may seem, the Cavs still have a chance to right their ship headed into the playoffs. For all the negativity this team deals with, you can argue the Cavs are also in an enviable position: Headed to the playoffs, with LeBron James on the roster. Hopefully Lue takes all the time he needs to return to full health. His team, which has survived all season long, will be waiting for him.