INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- After sitting in on film sessions as a Los Angeles Lakers bench player when Phil Jackson would peel the paint off the walls while tearing into superstars like Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, Tyronn Lue feels comfortable doing the same coaching LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“The thing with Phil is he did all of his coaching in practice,” Lue said after Cavs practice Tuesday. “He always held Kobe and Shaq more accountable than anyone else on the team. It always starts at the top and trickles down to the bottom. If you can get the respect of your best players, everyone else will fall in line. That was the biggest thing with Phil, like, in a game he’d let you figure it out and let you play, but in practice he’s coaching. In film sessions he used to kill Shaq and Kobe all the time, like all the time, and it worked. And I think that’s what (Gregg) Popovich does with Tim Duncan (and) Manu Ginobili (in San Antonio). If he gets those guys’ respect and gets those guys to buy in, everybody else will just fall in line.”
Lue has been the Cavs head coach for less than three weeks since David Blatt was fired, but says he and James already have “had some” moments where Lue got on the four-time MVP in the same fashion Jackson would get on a five-time champion like Bryant.
While James is considered one of the most powerful figures in all of sports, let alone basketball, Lue said his hardline approach has been well received by the Cavs captain.
“It’s been good, so far,” Lue said. “He understands what we’ve got to do to get to the point we want to get to. It’s not personal. It’s just teaching and correcting. If I can teach and correct him, like I said, other guys will follow in line. We can’t be afraid to do that and hold him accountable. Of course he has the best basketball I.Q. of the guys I’ve been around, so he knows a lot. I’m not taking anything away from him. Just getting back on defense, attacking more, being more aggressive, taking shots when he’s open, things like that. It’s stuff that he knows.”
Complimenting James’ basketball I.Q. like that is no small statement from a guy like Lue, who has been teammates with Bryant and Michael Jordan and played for coaches like Jackson, Doc Rivers and the Van Gundy brothers.
“LeBron, just his I.Q. because he can play 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5,” Lue explained. “And he knows every position on the floor. At all times you can call (an instruction), it’s not like, ‘I’m thinking about it.’ He knows it right away. That’s really important.”
Part of Blatt’s downfall in Cleveland was the perceived lack of accountability he demanded of his players. However, Lue knows that discipline is easier said than done.
“I think nowadays, the way the coaching business is, players, they have a lot of weight,” Lue said. “And if you try to correct, or (are) always staying on the best players, they can kind of get you removed at some point. But I just felt like, with LeBron, he wants to be coached, he wants guys to be hard on them so he can get to the next level, so I don’t have a problem at all with doing that.”
Lue’s style has also been welcomed by Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving.
“It’s just everyone has responsibility,” Irving said. “I think that’s the biggest thing, is accountability and not (being) afraid to go after the best player on our team, our leader. All of us have to make sure we’re doing our jobs. That’s what it really comes down to. He expects it out of himself, Bron. He expects himself not to make any mistakes, but when he does we all have a responsibility to tell one another as teammates in order for us to be better. It’s nothing personal. Leave it right there where it stands.”