CLEVELAND -- Those who have been through the struggles and grind of a playing career in the NBA, especially a resume that includes playing with three of the best players in league history, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, carry a certain amount of cache when they walk into a locker room.
And Coach Tyronn Lue is that man for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are appreciative of what he has brought to the organization after six-plus years as an assistant with the Boston Celtics (2009-2013), Los Angeles Clippers (2013-2014) and Cavaliers (2014-2016) before taking over for David Blatt at the midway point of the 2015-2016 season.
“It’s very exciting,” point guard Kyrie Irving said.
“It makes my job as a point guard, as well as one of the leaders on our team, a lot easier. Over time, the relationship has just strengthened naturally, so I’m appreciative because I think he now knows what to expect from me, and I know what to expect out of him, so it makes my job a lot easier.”
By playing for a former NBA point guard, one who was a part of two league championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, Irving has learned the importance of being there for his teammates not only every day, but through every drill and each play, whether it be in practice or on game days.
“The demand of just being a leader every, single day,” Irving said. “As a young player, some days are going to be a little bit gloomy. Some days are going to be really exciting, but as one of the leaders of the team, you just have to stay the course.
“No matter how dim it’s looking or how great it’s looking, you’ve just got to stay even-keel. I’ve definitely garnered that from a lot of the players that I’ve seen in the past and a lot of guys I’ve been around now.”
In the playoffs, particularly the NBA Finals, pressure gets ramped up to an intense level as two teams full of prideful players compete with all-out effort for the privilege of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy and forever being known as champions.
Over the last two years, the Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have each attained that level of success, and with the third straight meeting now in full swing, a cool, calm and collected approach will be a key to success.
“It has been a learning experience in terms of the relationships that he has with everyone, as any great coach knows how to motivate guys, how to necessarily keep that even-keel attitude in order to get the best out of all of us,” Irving said of Lue’s level of calm.
“He has his ways, as well as the other coaches, but T-Lue does an especially great job. Despite what’s going on in the game, he knows what to expect from us and what our potential is. When we’re not necessarily playing up to that potential, I don’t know that he’s necessarily worried, but he knows that it’s going to come from us as a team in order to get our spirit where it needs to be.”