Tyronn Lue didn’t make it through the season’s first month without LeBron James.
The Cleveland Cavaliers fired their coach on Sunday, two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The Cavaliers are off to a 0-6 start without James, who left Cleveland this summer for the second time in his career and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent.
The Cavs weren’t showing enough progress under Lue and the team decided it was time for a change before the situation worsened, said the people, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team has not commented on the move.
Lue guided the Cavaliers to an NBA title in 2016 — Cleveland’s first pro sports championship since 1964 — and helped the team to four straight Finals.
Players appeared to be caught off-guard by Lue’s dismissal. All-Star Kevin Love, who has missed the past two games with a sore left foot, posted a message to Lue on Instagram .
“You helped me see the big picture,” Love wrote. “Life changing experiences and teaching points. Nothing but love and admiration. Know we will work towards something greater together again. THANK YOU.”
Love also posted a photo of him and Lue hugging on the court at Oracle Arena after the Cavaliers rallied from a 3-1 deficit and won Game 7 of the 2016 Finals over Golden State.
The 41-year-old Lue has three years left on a five-year, $35 million contract he signed after Cleveland won the title. He went 128-83 in three-plus seasons as coach.
It’s not immediately clear who will replace Lue. Assistant Larry Drew would seem to be a likely candidate. He filled in when Lue stepped aside for 10 games last season while dealing with chest pains, insomnia and anxiety.
The Cavaliers were hoping to remain competitive without James, but they’ve been overmatched. They dropped their sixth straight game on Saturday night to Indiana and are off to their worst start since losing their first seven games in the 1995-96 season.
Cleveland has trailed by at least 16 points in all six losses and the club has yet to lead in the second half. The Cavs have also been plagued by poor defense and communication issues, and has looked disorganized at times.
The Cavaliers host Atlanta on Tuesday night. Led by rookie Trae Young’s 35 points, the Hawks clobbered the Cavs by 22 points in Cleveland’s home opener last week.
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