Chances of the Warriors facing coach Tyronn Lue and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fourth consecutive time in the NBA Finals went from infinitesimal to absolute zero Sunday morning.
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, dissatisfied with the team’s 0-6 start -- not entirely surprising after LeBron James' departure to the Lakers -- fired Lue and moved assistant Larry Drew into the role of interim coach.
“I wasn’t surprised. Nothing really surprises me in the NBA,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Sunday in Brooklyn, 90 minutes before tipoff against the Nets. “I did feel bad for Ty. I think Ty is a great coach.
“But circumstances dictate everything in this league, and as coaches, we all know we are completely reliant on talent. If you’ve got talented players, you have a chance. When LeBron left and the team sort of split up, it left Ty in a very precarious situation. It has surprised everybody with how quickly it has manifested itself.”
The Warriors and Cavs have met in the last four NBA Finals, with David Blatt coaching in the first series and Lue in the last three, including the 2016 Finals in which Cleveland became the first team to overcome a 3-1 series deficit to win it all.
The Cavs not only lost their contender status when James left for the Lakers, but they also are expected to drop out of the playoffs altogether. One year before James left, the Cavs traded All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics.
What’s left behind basically is All-Star power forward Kevin Love and a cast of role players. Lue was given 11 days to make something of it, and it wasn’t working. It’s not likely that Drew will do much better.
“This is the NBA. It seems like stuff like this happens every year," Kerr said. “But Ty’s a great coach, and if he wants to get back into the league, I’m sure he going to have opportunities. The guy has done a hell of a job. I know it from coaching against him in The Finals several years in a row.
"He’s good. He knows what he’s doing. He’s well prepared every night. If he wants another shot, he’ll get one. But it’s always sad when you see a fellow coach get the axe this early in the season.”