Cool Hand Lue

Cavs coach keeps NBA champs cool amid chaos

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY TOM WITHERS

Mo­ments af­ter the Eastern Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship ban­ner was raised by the Cava­liers for the third straight time and the oblig­a­tory postgame in­ter­views ended, Ty­ronn Lue slipped qui­etly away.

Cleve­land’s coach ducked into the shad­ows, his pre­ferred lo­ca­tion.

“I don’t like the at­ten­tion,” he said.

But Lue, once a jour­ney­man point guard who steered the Cavs to an NBA cham­pi­onship last sea­son, has grown more ac­cept­ing of his front­man role. He’ll again be at cen­tre stage this week as Cleve­land meets Golden State in the third in­stall­ment of their ti­tle tril­ogy.

If the unas­sum­ing, easy­go­ing Lue had his pref­er­ence, the teams would duke it out for the Larry O’Brien Tro­phy on a play­ground court in a sti­fling hot gym­na­sium, with only a hand­ful of on­look­ers present. A stu­dent of the game, he’s old school with a fresh per­spec­tive.

Of the many juicy sub­plots be­tween the Cavs and War­riors, one that fre­quently goes over­looked is Lue, the for­mer as­sis­tant who has blos­somed in no time into one of the

league’s bright­est young head coaches and a play­off sa­vant.

He’s 28-6 in two post­sea­sons with Cleve­land. His play­ers credit Lue’s sooth­ing, steady in­flu­ence – on and off the floor – as nearly as vi­tal to their suc­cess as a clutch Kyrie Irv­ing 3-pointer.

“It’s just his level of calm­ness no mat­ter what’s go­ing on,” LeBron James said fol­low­ing prac­tice. “He al­ways talks about, at the end of the day, he’s al­ready won in life, so what­ever else hap­pens af­ter this is ex­tra credit. And I feel the same way. That’s why I re­late to him so much. Lose here, or you win a game here, it’s like, ‘All right, cool. I’ve al­ready done so much more than any­body ever gave me credit of do­ing or thought I can do, so there’s no rea­son to get too high or too low.’

“So it’s the even-keel men­tal­ity about our coach and it def­i­nitely helps us as play­ers when we’re go­ing out into a war.”

Lue has been pre­par­ing for the biggest bat­tle of his bas­ket­ball ca­reer this week.

From the mo­ment he re­turned home from Bos­ton fol­low­ing the Cavs’ win in Game 5 of the con­fer­ence fi­nals, Lue has im­mersed him­self in the War­riors, a virtual All-Star team fea­tur­ing two league MVPs (Kevin Du­rant and Stephen Curry), a dead-eye shooter (Klay Thomp­son) and a triple-threat per­former (Dray­mond Green).

Lue’s de­fen­sive strat­egy to this point in the play­offs has been to neu­tral­ize the op­po­nents’ top player.

The Cavs were able to do that with In­di­ana’s Paul Ge­orge, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Bos­ton’s Isa­iah Thomas, who ag­gra­vated a hip in­jury in Game 2 and missed the re­main­der of the se­ries.

Cleve­land blitzed, dou­bleteamed and did all it could take away the other team’s of­fen­sive threat.

Lue was asked if it’s more dif­fi­cult to iden­tify who that is on Golden State.

“Hell yeah,” he said, his voice ris­ing. “It’s tough.”

AP PHOTO/TONY DEJAK

Cleve­land Cava­liers head coach Ty­ronn Lue yells in­struc­tions to play­ers.

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