There’s a reason why, during LeBron James’s second stint in Cleveland, he never made a long-term commitment to the team. And as soon as he was ready to leave, James signed a four-year deal in L.A. Instability just seems to follow around the Cavs—and owner Dan Gilbert—who fired coach Tyronn Lue on Sunday. Lue, the head coach of the franchise’s only title team, was let go after an 0–6 start.
Gilbert, if not for James, could have long ago cemented his reputation as one of the worst owners in sports. This is the same owner who let the GM of his championship roster go as well, and is apparently committed to breeding dysfunction. The Cavs appeared to want to remain respectable after handing Kevin Love a big contract in the summer. The move was short-sighted, as was the decision to let go of Lue. Sure, it’s possible Lue isn’t the man who will bring the team back to contention. But then why not let him go during the summer? What are the expectations for this team in house, anyway? Cleveland’s series of moves since LeBron’s departure can be considered nonsensical at best, and there’s no rhyme or reason to what’s happening right now. This team is almost definitely better off with a tear down, but if they really want to compete, who are they going to find right now that’s better than the man who led them to three straight Finals?
The move can be spun as an opportunity for current GM Koby Altman—who didn’t hire Lue—to build the team in his vision. Altman, who took a bit of a victory lap after remaking the Cavs’ roster in the middle of last season, has seen his two biggest moves blow up in his face. The Kyrie Irving trade only netted Cleveland rookie Collin Sexton. The trade deadline roster overhaul saddled the Cavs with Jordan Clarkson’s contract, an unplayable Rodney Hood in the postseason, and gave the Lakers a boost in cap space to sign James. So while Altman will theoretically have some time to make his name as a general manager, he’ll have to do so under the erratic trigger finger of Gilbert, with a spotty track record in his past.
Lue may not be a great coach. But he’s respected by players around the league, and before he joined LeBron in Warriors-induced purgatory, he was widely considered one of the top assistants in the Association. Lue will have another chance as a head coach if he wants one. Why should he waste his time in Cleveland, where the ownership lacks focus and general managers are lucky to last one presidential term?
It’s practically a certainty that Lue will come out looking the best after his firing. The Cavs are a rudderless ship, and it will be shocking if Lue doesn’t get another opportunity to prove what he can do without LeBron. Gilbert has already shown once he can’t exactly build a winner without one of the greatest players of all time. Cleveland looks to be heading down that path once again.