CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue first played coy when asked about LeBron James’ comments from Monday night.
But after a few minutes passed during Wednesday’s pregame media chat, it was clear that James’ words had reached their intended audience throughout the organization.
Monday’s loss to the New Orleans Pelicans pushed Cleveland’s superstar forward into a flurry of powerful words and cryptic tweets, all aimed at the front office with one message: Get us some help.
“I just hope we’re not satisfied,” a frustrated James told the media.
He describe his team as “top-heavy” and, in one general theme, expressed his desire for GM David Griffin to upgrade the bottom half of Cleveland’s roster, and in particular, find someone capable of logging minutes as the team’s regular backup point guard.
Lue was asked about James’ comments on Wednesday and took a bit of a different view after receiving a brief synopsis from the media.
“We have enough on this team to win a championship,” he said. “If we can get better, I know Griff is going to make us better, he’s going to do the best he can.
“For me, LeBron James, the best player in the world, took a team that was worse to the NBA Finals two years ago. We’ve got a good team. We’ve just got to start playing better as a unit. No excuses.”
Lue did add that, as a competitor, he can understand the desire to see a team improve through roster moves — he even pointed to Golden State’s offseason addition of Kevin Durant — but instead of focusing on things he cannot control, the Cavs’ coach prefers to put his energy into the factors which have led to Cleveland’s five losses in the past seven games.
“I’m a coach,” Lue said. “I don’t make business decisions. I don’t make trades. I don’t bring guys in. That’s not my job. My job is to get this team ready to play, play better and that’s it.”
Lue did reveal that the team spoke as a group about James’ comments during Wednesday’s morning shootaround session and Griffin spoke to James individually about his message.
“It was a good conversation,” Griffin said prior to Wednesday’s game. “I think we both needed it. I’m happy it happened.”
While appreciating the frustration which led to James’ comments earlier this week, Griffin said voicing them through the media “wasn’t appropriate from a teammate perspective,” and it has not changed the way the Cavs will approach the upcoming trade deadline and beyond.
“I think we have enough [to win it all] if we play significantly better,” Griffin said. “We have a very fine margin for error. I would like to have a greater margin for error. I’d like to be more protected against injury in different positions. But if we were 100 percent healthy going into any series, I feel pretty good about our situation.”
Despite still looking at several ways to upgrade the roster in addition to the acquisition of Kyle Korver, Griffin sees internal improvement as the most element to Cleveland’s title chances.
Some of the areas that need tweaked include transition defense, overall defense and maintaining their recent emphasis on moving the ball offensively. Griffin would also like to see his squad incorporate some of the “grit and toughness” the team displayed during last season’s championship run.
“We believe in this team at a deep level,” Griffin said. “We need to get better from within and play better, quite frankly. We need to have a greater sense of urgency and start to develop a championship identity. I think it’s clear we have not been doing that.”
Cleveland’s GM was taken aback by any interpretation of James’ comments that led some to believe the team is not committed to winning titles. He does not believe that is the message James intended to convey and could not disagree any more with those “misguided” assumptions.
“Organizationally, there’s absolutely no lack of clarity on what our goal set is,” Griffin said. “We are here to win championships. There is no other solution, there is no other outcome that is acceptable. There never has been. In terms of the on-the-court complacency, I’ve seen a lot of that.”
Griffin, however, still believes his team is capable of overcoming any of the challenges currently holding the Cavs back.
“We have a tendency to be our best when our backs are against a wall,” he said. “I have no reason to believe that won’t be true now.”