“If guys have agendas, we’ve got to get rid of our agendas and play the right way.”
This blunt quote came from Tyronn Lue, fresh after his Cleveland Cavaliers got run out of the gym by the Toronto Raptors. Last night’s defeat, the team’s seventh in the last ten games, was essentially unwatchable. The Cavs lost by 34 to a Raptors team missing Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, and it resulted in their coach making the above call-out.
It should be noted, though, Lue is hardly in the clear when it comes to Cleveland’s current funk. In fact, his refusal to make any lineup changes despite a glaring need for them is part of the reason this team is playing so poorly.
When looking for specific Cavs players who are struggling, you won’t have to search long.
J.R. Smith has been in a funk for most of the season, and hasn’t made a field goal since last Saturday. The less shots he makes, the more hesitant he becomes to shoot in the first place. His defense is slipping, and he’s basically providing nothing for Cleveland right now.
Meanwhile, new teammate Jae Crowder – acquired to provide offense and a boost to the defense – can’t offer either consistently. Efficient performances, such as his 17 points on 6-12 shooting in last week’s win over the Portland Trail Blazers, are often followed by duds. In his very next game, a blowout loss to the Boston Celtics, Crowder only made two of his 12 shot attempts.
Outside of the fact both he and Smith are struggling mightily, they have something else in common.
They’re both still starting on a nightly basis. Despite the fact neither Crowder or Smith can offer much of anything on either side of the court right now, Lue refuses to take them out of the starting lineup.
Cleveland’s coach can throw barbs about agendas within the locker room all he wants, but he deserves scrutiny for continually sticking with an ineffective group of starters.
Crowder, by his own admission, has felt lost for most of the season. Smith is a shell of himself. Yet, when asked if this would make him consider shuffling the rotation, Lue confidently shot down such a suggestion.
To be fair, this isn’t terribly surprising. Lue has resisted lineup changes in the past, appearing very set in his ways when it comes to his rotations. Case in point – Channing Frye has played surprisingly well for the Cavs this season, but lately has been lucky if he even gets to touch the court now that Tristan Thompson has returned to the lineup.
This, of course, is another example of Lue’s trademark resistance to change negatively impacting the team.
Why can’t Smith be replaced by Kyle Korver, who’s proven to thrive when sharing the court with LeBron James? If Crowder is openly admitting he’s struggling to get used to his new surroundings, why not put him on the bench and start Thompson in his place? Why basically omit Frye from the nightly game-plan despite the fact he’s been giving quality minutes the entire season?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. Lue doesn’t seem interested in providing them. Instead, he appears to be sticking to his usual strategy – assume things will eventually just work themselves out.
Said routine has proven successful in the past. Of course, this was only when issues lingered for a few games.
What we’ve seen from Crowder and Smith has dragged on for four months now. Yet, Lue still isn’t concerned enough to even consider tweaking his lineup. However, instead of this leading to things working themselves out, the results are only getting worse.
The longer Lue lets it happen, the more blame he should be receiving.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook