Dribbles: Lue will need time to solve Cavs

Sam Amico


Random dribbles on the Cavaliers' clunker of a 96-83 loss to the visiting Bulls on Saturday.

1. Tyronn Lue was the new coach. Quicken Loans Arena was packed. The game was the first of the season on ABC in primetime. The buzz was endless. The city was energized. Then the Cavs came out and … thud.

2. This was ugly. The Cavs couldn't make a shot. They embarrassed themselves from the free-throw line. They couldn't get a big stop defensively. They looked bad. Real bad. Welcome to NBA head coaching, Mr. Lue.

3. Blatt, Lue, doesn't matter. The Cavs too often appear hesitant, unsure of themselves, and sometimes soft. It's as if they've seen their worst, and as GM David Griffin indicated, stopped believing. Or at least don't believe nearly as much as they should.

4. Part of me gets it. The Cavs hadn't even practiced under Lue. Former coach David Blatt was fired the day before. The players were collecting themselves. They may have been a little distracted. Let's hope, actually. Any team that goes 9-of-22 from the line better have an excuse. I can even understand the atrocious 4-of-24 on 3-pointers -- which is what the Cavs also shot. Sometimes the jumpers just won't fall. But when an entire team is so horrid on foul shots, it's just a lack of focus.

5. Other than all that, Lue's debut went great.

6. Lue's first time as an NBA head coach was really no different than Blatt's. Remember that? Blatt was the new coach. It was the Cavs' first-ever game with LeBron James and Kevin Love next to Kyrie Irving. The Knicks were in town. The buzz was endless. The city was energized. Then the Cavs came out and … thud.

7. LeBron scored 26 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and passed for nine assists. But he went 11-of-27 from the floor. That included 0-of-5 on threes. I sure would love to see the Cavs' brightest star get his jumper in order. He's been off from the perimeter all season. Eventually, the Cavs will need it. So will LeBron.

8. I admit, I'm also starting to worry about Kyrie a little. He only looks like himself maybe every other game. On Saturday, he finished with 11 points on 5-of-16 shooting. He passed for just three assists. Again, not panicked here. But wondering.

9. It's only January. The Cavs are 30-12. They haven't beaten the best of the best -- losing to the Bulls twice, the Warriors twice, and the Spurs once. That's 0-5 against teams that are considered their biggest threats. Or in the case of the Warriors and Spurs, teams they are chasing. You don't need me to tell you the Cavs have a ways to go.

10. Now here's the part I keep telling myself: I'd be a lot more worried if this were, say, March. That's just a month before the playoffs. There is still an entire second half of the regular season. The Cavs still have to get in that practice under Lue.

11. They have issues, yes. But they also have an issue's worst enemy: Lots of time.

12. Still, at some point, the Cavs will need to toughen up. They'll need to say enough is enough, that they're tired of getting kicked around by the league's elite. They are, after all, supposed to be elite themselves.

13. They may need to tweak the roster. They sure could use a dead-eye perimeter shooter. It would help if he can defend wing players, too. I don't know. I'm not the GM. But maybe there's still some work to be done.

14. I also know never before has so much scrutiny been placed on a team that's won 30 of its first 42. I sure wouldn't make any sweeping changes. The firing of Blatt was shocking enough for now. Let the players digest it. Let's see what Lue can do. You still have about a month before the trade deadline. Give yourself that long to evaluate things. Then decide.

15. It was a little surprising to hear Lue say afterward that the Cavs aren't in the best of shape. Say what? But he was referring to being in the type of shape needed to play a faster pace. Plus, when you can't make jumpers, a lot of times it's because you don't have your legs. And the Cavs don't make jumpers with any sort of regularity these days.

16. Lue on that topic: "I don't think we're in good enough shape. Early, we wanted to push it, we wanted to open the floor, and we came out and did that, and then we just dropped off the map. We got tired. I just don't think we're in good enough shape right now to play in the style that we want to play."

17. Amazingly, I was planning on maybe writing five dribbles. I wasn't even at the game. My son was a ball boy at the University of Akron. I went there instead -- then watched the second half of Cavs-Bulls on TV. It was one of the few times I've watched this team and thought: Are the Cavs ever gonna be overcomers? Are they ever gonna come out and make a statement against a really good opponent? It can be frustrating watching this team, I know.

18. But again, it's important to give it some time. Yes, I'll probably keep writing that until the season ends. I've been covering the NBA to some degree for 20 years. It's extremely easy for me to keep everything in perspective. I've seen worse teams overcome more.

19. LeBron always says he's seen everything in this league. That is true -- but I've seen more. And these Cavs can certainly overtake whatever it is that's holding them back. I have no doubt about that. Will they do it? Now that I don't know. But given the choice, I think most fans would rather the Cavs beat the Bulls, Warriors and Spurs in May and June. They may have a ways to go, but there's time enough to get there.