Basketball: Cavs out of shape, says Lue

Team lose to Bulls in his first game in charge as Cleveland grapple with Blatt's sacking

CLEVELAND • Within 24 hours, Cleveland fired their head coach, management blamed it on the tone of the locker room and regression on the floor, and the star player denied culpability in the affair.

To cap it all off, the Cavaliers' Tyronn Lue era got off to a rocky start on Saturday as they were beaten 96-83 on their home floor by National Basketball Association (NBA) Central Division rivals Chicago.

"It was a tough day for our players, coaching staff and our organisation," said Cavs star LeBron James after his side fell to 30-12. "And it's a tough game to come in and play.

"But I think if we play as hard as we did tonight, then we're going to give ourselves a chance to win every night."

General manager David Griffin made the surprising decision to fire David Blatt on Friday despite the Cavs owning the top record in the East. He did not like the tone of the locker room and did not see improvement despite the team piling up victories.

THE ON-COURT PROBLEM

We wanted to push it, we wanted to open the floor and we came out and did that and then we just dropped off the map... I just don't think we're in good-enough shape right now to play in the style that we want to play.

TYRONN LUE, new Cavaliers coach, on the team's problems on the court.

Lue added to that by acknowledging before Saturday's game that he did not believe the players were enjoying themselves this season.

Then they shot 37 per cent from the field, did not get any scoring from their bench until late in the third quarter and were just nine of 22 from the free-throw line as they were booed off the floor after the loss.

James scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and fell one assist shy of his first triple-double this season. He had 26 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists but was 11 of 27 from the field. Kevin Love scored 14 points and Kyrie Irving had 11.

The Cavs went scoreless for the final 6min 57sec of the first quarter and missed their final 16 shots of the first. The offence never really recovered.

Lue thought a large part of the reason was because the players are out of shape - a fairly surprising announcement at the halfway point of the season.

The Cavs ranked 29th in the league in pace entering the night and Lue wants them to play faster.

The result, he said, were all three stars asking out of the game early.

"I don't think we're in good-enough shape," he said. "I think early, we wanted to push it, we wanted to open the floor and we came out and did that and then we just dropped off the map.

"We got tired. LeBron came out early, Kyrie wanted to come out early, Kevin wanted to come out early.

"I just don't think we're in good-enough shape right now to play in the style that we want to play."

Centre Pau Gasol led the Bulls with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Jimmy Butler had 20 points and nine rebounds, while forward Taj Gibson had 15 points.

"We talked a lot about Cleveland coming out and playing with a lot of energy early and we had to match it," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "I thought we did that."

The loss capped a turbulent 24 hours in Cleveland.

James insisted he had no role in Blatt's firing despite media reports claiming that Blatt was never the coach he wanted to work with and that the two-time NBA champion had hoped that Mark Jackson, the former Golden State Warriors coach, would succeed Blatt.

Not that James was concerned that people might think he had anything to do with Blatt's dismissal.

"That's not my concern," he said. "I found out about it just like every other player on this team at 3.30 yesterday.

"I think (Griffin) was right on everything he said ... Like it or love it or hate it, we've got to respect it."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2016, with the headline 'Cavs out of shape, says Lue'. Print Edition | Subscribe