OKLAHOMA CITY — After the Cleveland Cavaliers headed into the All-Star break with two massive street wins over the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder with their new trade acquisitions in tow, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue had one thing to confess.
“They exceeded my expectations,” Lue stated following a 120-112 win over the Thunder on Tuesday.
LeBron James led the best way in opposition to OKC with 37 factors, eight rebounds and eight assists, serving to the Cavs avenge an embarrassing 148-124 house loss to the Thunder on Jan. 20, however as soon as once more, it was Cleveland’s newcomers who additionally made a collective influence.
Larry Nance Jr. had 13 factors, 9 rebounds (eight offensive) and three blocks. Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood scored 14 factors apiece. George Hill chipped in 7 factors, four assists and a steal as the start line guard. And the Cavs prolonged their successful streak to 4 video games.
“I thought that we’ve got guys that can shoot, dribble and pass, and they can make plays,” Lue stated of the revamped roster. “It’s changed our team, and we’re a lot faster. Now I think we’ve got a chance to switch a lot of things with our size and our length. We can switch stuff defensively. I thought it would be a process; it’s still going to be a process. But the first two games I didn’t think they would not be decent. But they exceeded my expectations.”
Lue stated the brand new personnel has helped the Cavs discover their attacking mentality once more.
“I think we’ve got to get back to being the hunters and not the hunted,” Lue stated. “These younger guys we have, in a position to shoot, drive or move it, provides a unique aspect to our workforce. They’re taking part in free, having enjoyable.
“The greatest factor is Clarkson completed the sport. George Hill in the course of the timeout was speaking to him and glad. Tristan [Thompson] is glad for Larry Nance. That’s what we have got to have. If you need to win you have to sacrifice. With our workforce that we have, whoever’s taking part in nicely goes to complete the sport. They perceive that and it is all about successful with this group.”
James, who’s averaging 30 factors, 9.5 rebounds and 13 assists in his previous 4 video games, spoke with a sore voice as he publicly lauded Cavs rookie basic supervisor Koby Altman by title for the primary time since the workforce’s trade-deadline offers had been accomplished and defined his position in taking issues from right here.
“Well, I believe Koby did a heck of a job of understanding what our workforce wanted,” James said. “It simply wasn’t understanding for us, and he felt like — clearly, you guys noticed his quotes — he made the modifications that he felt most closely fits our workforce. Then it is on me to verify the brand new guys that are available in. I be sure that they slot in and make it as seamless as attainable. That’s my job. This is the third recreation in a row my voice is gone. And so, I am simply attempting to have the communication at an all-time excessive for us, for the brand new guys and for the remainder of the blokes as nicely.”
Nance, a former teammate of Kobe Bryant’s on the Los Angeles Lakers, is not any stranger to having directions barked at him. He described being a beneficiary of James’ yelling and supplied a robust endorsement for the brand new star he performs alongside.
“It’s onerous to overlook a defensive protection once you’ve bought any individual behind you yelling it for you,” he said of James. “He sees every little thing on the court docket, offensively and defensively. Offensively he can inform the place to go, it doesn’t matter what place. So he is been integral to my becoming a member of the workforce, however he isn’t most likely one of the best participant of this period. He is.”
With solely 26 video games left within the common season, James stated he was attempting to hurry up the introductory course of because the Cavs start to coalesce.
“I am attempting to fast-track it and assist the blokes out on the ground, as a result of a few of the issues that we’re doing they are not used to — offensively and defensively,” James said. “So my voice needs to be heard. Some issues we might do on the fly with the blokes that we needed to begin the season or prior to now as a result of we sort of knew the system. Right now I am attempting to fast-track it and be sure that the brand new guys are at all times listening to me behind them on the defensive finish and offensively they know the place to go. So I am simply attempting to do my half and lead them the easiest way I can.”
Even leaders want a break. As Cavs gamers stated their farewells to at least one one other within the guests locker room at Chesapeake Energy Arena because the workforce performed its final recreation earlier than the All-Star break, James advised ESPN he can be boarding a chartered aircraft to fly to Cabo San Lucas for a number of days off earlier than persevering with on to Los Angeles for All-Star Weekend.
He’s not solely serving as one of many captains in Sunday’s recreation, however he’ll be a spectator on Saturday when Nance competes within the slam dunk contest in opposition to Dallas’ Dennis Smith Jr., Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo.
How does James view Nance’s possibilities?
“Well, he is my teammate, so I am undoubtedly rooting for him,” James said. “Oladipo is my [All-Star] teammate, too, proper? Team LeBron, huh? I am taking these two.”