Ty Lue’s Boss Move

The easiest way to get fired is to clash with your boss. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, that is the sure way to get pushed out the door. But what if you want to get fired? What if you see it’s the Titanic and want to jump ship before the whole thing sinks and your name is attached to it?

Here are the Ty Lue facts. His boss, Koby Altman, wanted to develop Collin Sexton, the number eight pick in the draft.  It’s a big deal for Altman- the Sexton development- because he selected Sexton over Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a John Calipari product. On the season, Sexton is shooting 42% and has made ZERO threes. 11.2 points and 2.2 assists round out his numbers. His 23.5 minutes per game was an issue for Altman which led to the Lue firing but more on that later. First, Gilgeous-Alexander’s numbers.

He is shooting 48% and 60% from three. He’s averaging 9 points and 3.7 assists, playing 26.5 minutes a game for Doc Rivers. So…more than Sexton except for the points which at a 2 point differential is negligible.

Collin Sexton’s Offensive Rating/Defensive Rating differential is -20 while Gilgeous-Alexander’s is +7. Alexander has an Offensive Rating of 113 and a Defensive Rating of 106. Sexton’s is way south. His Offensive Rating is 103 and his Defensive rating is 123.

Gigeous-Alexander is making 42% of his jumpers while Sexton is making 38% of his. Altman wants more Sexton in games because, frankly, his reputation is based on a fundamental question: did he draft the right guard for the post-LeBron James era? These days, versatility is the holy grail.

Cleveland is touchy about the draft. They drafted Anthony Bennett instead of Victor Oladipo or Giannis Antetokounmpo. They drafted Andrew Wiggins and traded him instead of drafting Joel Embiid. Embiid’s an All-Star, Wiggins is not.  Those decisions weren’t Koby Altman’s to fumble but the organization still has it as a black mark. Procuring young talent is the name of the game. On the other hand, they drafted Kyrie Irving, a good choice. But he wanted out. Cleveland either can’t draft the right player or can’t keep the right player from fleeing.

Ty Lue team player, as the Cavs begin their version of The Process, was a fail. Lue wasn’t feeling the whole let’s develop the kids thing. He knows what happens when you develop the kids. The team loses. The coach gets blamed and then fired. The Cavs have veterans with skills like Kevin Love (injured again), Tristan Thompson (overpaid and one-dimensional) and J.R. Smith ( brain freezes under pressure). But Love, Thompson, Smith have been good to adequate postseason performers. Lue tied the early season to them as far as wanting them to play and rebuffing the Altman strategy. It was a risky walk the tightrope line. The coach is being allowed to coach but to a point.

When Lionel Hollins of Memphis refused to integrate the front office “suggestions” into the game plan, specifically who to play and how many minutes, he was fired.

Same concept, different team.

Lue had two options. He could have followed orders, been a team player and did the Altman thing. Or, he could have been who Ty Lue has been all his career. Lead from his gut. Do what he wanted to. Allen Iverson may have had the classic step over on Lue after hitting a game winning shot but Altman wasn’t going to have the same privilege.

Lue went out swinging. It wasn’t the Cavs inability to compete that got him fired. Love is injured and the roster is a mismatched bunch of average, young and overpaid. But it was because Lue refused to tote the company line. He openly defied his boss. He knew he was going to get fired. He also knew he had $15 million coming his way. It wasn’t a hard decision.

Do the Lue math. It’s a win win.  He rescued the Cavs from David Blatt. He won a title. This Cavs catastrophe isn’t on his watch. He can sit out and circle the drain and be mentioned when the next coach is fired, maybe Luke Walton.

Lue is in very elite company, a champion as a player and a coach. He joins Steve Kerr (Bulls, Warriors), Rick Carlisle (Celtics, Mavericks), Phil Jackson (Knicks, Bulls, Lakers), K.C. Jones (Celtics, Celtics), Billy Cunningham ( 76ers, 76ers), Pat Riley (Lakers, Lakers), Tommy Heinsohn (Celtics, Celtics), Bill Sharman (Celtics, Lakers), Bill Russell (Celtics, Celtics), Red Holzman (Royals, Knicks), Larry Costello (76ers, Bucks).

Lue won with the Lakers as a role player and with the Cavaliers as a coach replacement. Now it is Lue who will be replaced but it is dicey as to who since Larry Drew is haggling over money.

Tyronn Lue won a NBA title in sparkling fashion, ruining the Warriors near perfect season, an underdog who trailed in the NBA Finals 3-1.  Lue will be in demand for another job. He’s young. He’s either played with or coached iconic players. He handled the LeBron James pressure tsunami perfectly, even though he had to sit out to take care of his health. He more than managed all the expectations.

The Cavs are the only team in the NBA without a win and with Kevin Love possibly out for more than a month it looks like a fire sale is coming. It’s going to get uglier before it gets better. Lue saved his rep by getting out now even if it meant sticking it to management and forcing their hand.

Yeah he lost his job. But you can lose and sometimes that is the best thing that happens to you. Particularly if $15 million is the consolation prize.