To say that the 2017-18 NBA season has been a stressful one for the three-time defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers would be the understatement of the year. From the injuries to key personnel, the trading of their All-Star lead guard this past summer, to the inconsistency of the team on the hardwood, especially on the defensive end, it has been not the easiest of seasons. That stress has especially gotten to head coach, who finally had to face the music when it came to his health.
Cavs’ head coach Tyronn Lue stated at the start of this week that he needed to “step back from coaching for the time being” to take care of a persistent health issue.
NBATV/NBA on TNT sideline reporter and insider David Aldridge reported that Lue will be on a one-week plan to address his health issues and that the current plan is for him to return the bench next week.
In a statement released by the organization, the 40-year-old Lue, and Cavs’ general manager Koby Altman addressed his recent health scare that had him spend the second half of the team’s 114-109 win at the Chicago Bulls (24-46) on Saturday night with an undisclosed illness.
Lue, who led the Cavs to the 2016 NBA title after taking over for David Blatt midway though that season said in a statement via Cavs.com: “After many conversations with doctors and Koby and much thought given to what is best for the team and my health, I need to step back from coaching for the time being and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation from which to coach for the rest of the season.”
“I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a batter of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.”
“While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season. My goal is to come out of it stronger and healthier version of myself, so I can continue to lead this team to the Championship we are all working towards.”
“I greatly appreciate Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman, our medical team and the organization’s support throughout.”
Lue, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski had been considering stepping aside for several weeks but had resisted until now.
At Monday’s practice, four-time league MVP LeBron James said he knew that Lue was struggling but showed no signs that the situation was more serious.
“I think it’s probably well overdue, understanding what he’s been going through throughout the season, so obviously health is the most important with everything in life. So, I’m not surprised by it at all” he said.
“We’ll I knew he was struggling, but he was never not himself. He was just dealing with it the best way he could, but he was never not himself when he was around… He was the same every single day, even though he was going through what he was going through.”
Lue, according to Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon said he had doctors at the Cleveland Clinic check his condition for months, while also undergoing a battery of test, with no diagnosis.
He had missed all or parts of three games this season due to his symptoms, which included the previously mentioned second half at the Bulls.
While it is Lue’s call when he returns to the sidelines, which Aldridge reported that will be next week, he said on the Monday evening edition of “10 Before Tip” on NBATV, that it how his body reacts that will decide when he returns to the sidelines of the Cavs.
“If he’s not ready, then he shouldn’t come back,” Aldridge said. “I think most people would agree with that, but they hope that they can this at least identified, and start a treatment plan within a week.”
In his weekly column Morning Tip on NBA.com last week, Aldridge wrote about how the stress of being an NBA player, and especially coaching staffs, and the front office is incredible, and the tole it takes on you is incredible.
Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford took several weeks off earlier this season when he went through something similar that Lue is going through now in terms of not sleeping and that his fitness was off.
Jason Lloyd of The Athletic Cleveland also said on “10 Before Tip” that Lue was experiencing some of these symptoms while he was an assistant with the Cavs and dismissed the warning signs at the time.
Lloyd also said that there have been nights that Lue has not gotten a wink of sleep at all during this season, and that has led to him having swollen eyes some nights when he has been on the sidelines.
That, along with the tremendous amount of turnover the Cavs have had this season, coaching a talent and high basketball aptitude of LeBron James, who will be a free agent after opting out of the final year of his deal when the Cavs' season concludes and the challenge of coaching a team with high expectations to a championship that has had to deal with injuries, that lack of sleep has caught up with coach Lue.
“I think the hope here is that as David said if he’s good to come back next week, he can get some sleep,” Lloyd said. “And if he can catch up on some rest, and if that can help recharge his body a little bit.”
“I know he’s a little scared of the fact that they’ve never been able to figure out yet what this is. That they’ve been unable to pinpoint anything…You hope that with some time off here and the ability to rest his body he can come back in a better mental state of mind.”
With Lue on the shelf, Associate head coach Larry Drew will coach the team for the time being. The former head man of the Atlanta Hawks from 2010-13 and the Bucks in 2013-14 filled in for Lue in the second half at the Bulls, where the Cavs held on for the victory after losing their 17-point lead.
“T-Lue is a warrior. He’s been that warriors since I’ve known him,” Drew said to the media on Monday. “There comes a time when you just have to listen to your body and you have to listen to your mind, and that’s what he’s doing right now.”
Defending NBA champion head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors weighed in on Lue’s leave of absence saying he feels for the counter part he’s matched up against in June the past three seasons. That he’s been in contact with Lue.
“Health is everything,” Kerr said to reporters before his Warriors (53-18) 89-75 loss at the San Antonio Spurs (41-30) on Monday night on ESPN. “This game is fun and it’s exciting, and we all love our jobs, but we just want to be healthy.”
Former Cavs backup guard Matthew Dellavedova, now with the Bucks said before their contest at the Cavs, “Just hope he’s okay and it’s nothing too serious. That’s tough news.”
“This is a stressful job,” were the words of Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton before their 110-100 loss at the Indiana Pacers (41-30) a little over 48 hours ago. “It important for coaches take time to also take care of themselves as far as health wise.”
In their first full game without Lue on the sidelines, the Cavs (41-29) won versus the Milwaukee Bucks (37-33) 124-117 on ESPN, for their third win in their last four games.
James scored 40 points as part of his third triple-double in the last four games as the Cavs have a slight ½ game lead over the Indiana Pacers (41-30) for the No. 3 spot in the East.
James scored 17 of his 40 points in the third quarter as he finished with 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his 16th triple-double of the season and the 71st of his eventual Hall of Fame career.
“He looked great,” James, who joined New Orleans Pelicans injured All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins and MVP candidate of the Houston Rockets James Harden in recording his third 40-point triple-double of the season and his fifth career 40-plus point triple-double said to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the game about how All-Star Kevin Love looked in his return to the lineup after missing 20 games with a broken left hand.
“Obviously his wind is not there, but he’s been out 20 games. But he shot the ball very efficiently. Rebounded for us, got some assists and great to have him back on the floor.”
In his first game back since Jan. 31 from that broken hand that shelved him for six weeks, Love had 18 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes.
“I felt fine,” Love said after the game to FOX Sports Ohio’s Allie Clifton. “Seven weeks, my rhythm’s a little bit off. Actually, my wind felt a little better than I thought it would, but I got to tip my hat to the training staff…Coaching staff. Player development.”
“It was an easy transition for me to come back, and more than anything I felt good out there. Felt my legs were underneath me.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers losing their head coach while getting back their second-best player seems to fit the bill for what has been a turbulent season in Northeast Ohio. Despite all the shake-ups, injuries, the overhaul of half the roster at the Feb. 8 trade deadline and other distractions, the Cavs are still as mentioned sitting currently at the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference.
Their goal of representing the East in the NBA Finals for a fourth straight season is still in front of them, and coach Lue will be back before the playoffs. They are also expected to get starting center Tristan Thompson, who has not played since Mar. 3 because of a sprained right ankle. The Cavs also hope to get back forward/center Larry Nance Jr., guard Rodney Hood and forward Cedi Osman back soon as they all sat out against the Bucks with a right hamstring, lower back, and hip flexor injuries respectably.
On top of that, the Cavs still have the best player in the game, at least until the end of this season in LeBron James, who also made history on Monday night becoming the third-oldest player in NBA history to notch a triple-double while authoring at least 40 points at 33 years, 79 days old. That put him behind Hall of Famers Larry Bird, who did it at 35 years, 99 days old, and Elgin Baylor at 34 years, 48 days old, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
While the Cavs have had their ups and downs this season, that have carried into March as they have gone 5-5 so far, James has been at the top of his game in the 15th season of his eventual Hall of Fame career with averages of 31.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 9.2 assists on 41.0 percent from three-point range in 37.4 minutes.
James also became the fifth player in league history with five 40-point triple-doubles, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and his fourth triple-double of the month on Monday came as he was awarded Eastern Conference Player of the Week for a record 60th time of his career, and the third of the 2017-18 season.
“Staying committed to my regimen,” James, who averaged 32.0 points, 56.9 percent from the field, 13.3 rebounds, 9.7 assists, two steals and 2.3 blocks last week said of his recent play. “I’m not going to make shots every night, but what I do know is I’m going to do other things if I don’t make shots to get my guys involved and rebound and defend. I can take a charge here and there if it presents itself, I can block shots and get steals. I can always figure out a way to be a threat on the floor even if I’m not scoring. For me that doesn’t change.”
He also had a message for Coach Lue when he was asked about that by Salters and he said, “Health is the most important thing in life, no matter if you’re a basketball player or great reporter like yourself Lisa, or great fans, or whatever the case may be.”
“Health comes before anything. So, that all we want from our coach and we’ll figure it out here.”
Information, statistics, and quotations are courtesy of 3/19/18 www.nba.com article, “Cleveland Cavaliers Coach Tyronn Lue Stepping Away From Duties Due to Health-Related Issues;” 3/19/18 www.espn.com article, “LeBron James Outshines Giannis Antetokounmpo with Historic Triple-Double,” by Dave McMenamin; 3/19/18 6:30 p.m. edition of NBATV’s “10 Before Tip,” with Jared Greenberg; 3/20/18 2 a.m. edition of NBATV’s “Gametime,” with Kristen Ledlow, Jarvis Hayes and Sam Mitchell; www.nba.com/games/20180319/MILCLE#/recap; www.espn.com/nba/team/schedule/_/name/cle/cleveland-cavaliers; www.espn.com/nba/standings; and https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Drew. .