On Sacramento's side, losers of eight out of their past nine, Rajon Rondo took a not-so-subtle shot at coach George Karl’s tactics as a reason for the Kings’ demise.
“With optional shootarounds, it’s tough,” Rondo said. “When three or four guys show up for shootaround this morning, how can you expect to win?"
Traditionally, shootarounds are held just to get guys out of bed in the morning and sweat out the cobwebs from the night before as much as they are about game preparation and strategy.
For a team such as the Cavs, still trying to get up to speed with new coach Tyronn Lue’s system after a midseason coaching change, shootarounds have taken on an entirely different focus.
“Usually in shootarounds, you try to go bigs and smalls, get shots up, pick-and-rolls, guards getting a feel for the ball, taking shots, bigs working on jump hooks and rolling to the basket,” Lue said. “But the last few shootarounds we’ve had, we’ve tried to split up, white and red. On my end, we go through all the ‘Slice’ packages. On the other end, Larry Drew and Jim Boylan [are] taking the team and going through elbow packages, and then we kind of flip flop. That’s been our thing the last few shootarounds, just trying to get them up to speed. Today, I think, was a good day for us. Guys started to really pick it up.”
While Rondo was seemingly begging for extra instruction, the added structure to the typical casual workout has been welcome for the Cavs, winners of seven of their past 10 since Lue took over for David Blatt.
“For myself, I love it,” LeBron James said. “I’m a detail guy. And I love everything to kind of be detail-oriented. I kind of work on a specific clock, every single day. So it works right in my favor. And so for me, it’s great to be a part of it and to know what we’re doing and how we get into things and being very efficient with it. So I think the guys are buying in as well.”
That detail doesn’t go away come game time, no matter the score. Lue called a timeout just more than a minute into the third quarter when Sacramento went on a 5-0 burst to cut the Cavs’ lead to 13. Lue did it again with 4:38 remaining in the fourth and the game all but over, with the Cavs leading by 18, because he didn’t like the way the team was executing the offense.
“I think T-Lue understands as well as Bron, all of us are coming in and building great habits, and the little things matter in the long run,” Kyrie Irving said. “As we continue to build and as we continue to progress every single game, that reminder is really important for us as a growing team. We need that.
“But most of the time, he leaves it up to me and Bron to call our offense out there and we run it. But if he feels we’re kind of BSing out there, he will call timeout just like he did at the beginning of the third quarter. It’s not necessarily a matter of the score. It’s just our aggression. He wants us to stay there all the time and do what we continue to do and did in the first half to hold the lead.”
The fact that James and Irving are open to the coaching is a good sign for Lue. His seven career wins might be far below Karl’s career total -- 1,163 -- but, as ESPN’s Marc Stein reported late Monday night, Karl might not ever get the chance to win No. 1,164 as the Kings are moving forward with their plan to fire the 63-year-old coach.
For now, the 38-year-old Lue has the ear of his players and their willing participation in being coached, even if it could be considered overkill to call a timeout late in a blowout win to map up what he wants to see executed.
“Well, we need to be overkill,” James said. “We’re a team that has some habits that need to be corrected. And if Coach Lue sees something, even that’s small, it could hurt us in the end. So he wants to correct it right now and not let things linger. We gave up five quick points, you know, the third, fourth and fifth ones was my fault in the third quarter. I kind of complained about a call and Rudy Gay hit a transition three and [Lue] called a timeout. And he got on me and he didn’t let linger.
“And we all respect it and we like it. I like it.”