“Just for that, playa, YOU get to go one on one with THE UNDERTAKER!”
Whether you’re a Hue, or a Lue, it’s true, you’re feeling pretty blue.
Despite arriving from altogether different paths, brutally misguided ownership and fumbled mismanagement greased the skids for lost jerbs of two Cleveland coaches. That’s right, Blatt – excuse me – Black Sunday and Black Monday came a tad bit early to the shores of Lake Erie. While the irascible Gregg Williams becomes the latest lackey to try revving up the Factory of Sadness, the shakeup on the hardwood leaves one familiar face to Atlanta Hawks Nation in a bit of a pickle.
As the Hawks make their swift return to Quicken Loans Arena, the scene of a crime they committed just nine days ago to set Tyronn Lue’s ouster in motion, Larry Drew takes over as the interim coach for the Cavaliers (7:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, Fox Sports Ohio in CLE). At least, he kinda will, so we think.
If there’s anybody outside of Montreal who knows a thing or two about screwjobs, it’s Coach Drew. After a mediocre effort running the show under new management, the longtime Hawks assistant and ex-head coach got the “It’s Not You, It’s Me,” treatment from Danny Ferry in 2013, as the latter had an eye on replacing him with his bud Bud from San Antonio.
Given a chance to linger around the Hawks War Room until he got his new gig coaching the Bucks, supplanting interim coach Jim Boylen, Drew soon stuck it to Ferry. He encouraged his new brain trust, led by GM John Hammond, to swipe little-known 19-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo right out from underneath Atlanta on Draft Night 2013.
Taking over a bold-faced tankjob effort commanded by the likes of Brandon Knight and Ramon Sessions, John Henson and O.J. Mayo, Drew was ready to start reaping the rewards after Draft Night 2014, when the Bucks snagged Duke superstar Jabari Parker with the second-overall pick. Oh, but about that…
Bucks owner Marc Lasry wanted his palsy-walsy Jason Kidd to take over the rebuild, working around Hammond to woo the soda-spiller from Brooklyn and unceremoniously dump Drew. While he never established a winner with the Bucks, it should be noted that Hammond would eventually leap at the first opportunity, parlaying the draft advice he wisely took from Drew into a cushy executive gig in sunny Orlando. Drew, however, was left out in the cold in the summer of 2014. That was until David Blatt offered up a lifeline.
The new Cavs coach, Blatt already had the NBA’s highest-paid lead assistant, in Lue, to help raise up the neophytes on the roster. But plans got accelerated when it became clear that LeBron James and, soon, Kevin Love were coming to The Land, so Blatt wanted reinforcements among his staff.
As a Hawks assistant, Drew coached Lue in Atlanta, from the point guard’s arrival in 2005 through the Bibby trade in 2008. Drew was also on the Lakers staff during Tyronn’s rookie season, back in 1999. Blatt figured this duo would surely work well together… under him.
Perhaps unbeknownst to Blatt, James held retired NBA players Lue and Drew in high regard. Very high. So much so, in fact, that despite an NBA Finals appearance, an embarrassing mid-season loss to the champion Warriors was all that LeBron needed to get the shiv out on Blatt. That moved Tyronn and Larry up a chair just in time for luck to strike in the Finals and Cleveland’s championship drought to end.
Lue gained media acclaim for his ability to kickstart his club coming out of timeouts -- a product, I am sure, of the X-and-O stuff that Larry “Drew” over the years on Lue’s behalf. Drew capably handled the top task last season during Lue’s medical leave, the Cavs winning eight of nine games. Along the way to several NBA Finals, sticking it to the Hawks team Ferry and Bud carefully crafted was a nice extra dose of comeuppance for Lue and Drew. It was all quite a fun run. Right up until LeBron tired of stringing Cavs owner Dan Gilbert along and set foot for L.A.
Funny thing, if you go into the summer, a three-time reigning Eastern Conference champ, knowing you’re likely to lose James, and you supplant his production (and, sure, Jeff Green’s) with that of a wide-eyed rookie in Collin Sexton, free agent David Nwaba, and Sam Dekker, things aren’t bound to start out terribly well. They certainly won’t finish well if Love, granted a four-year extension just for being kind enough to want to hang around a bit longer, can’t stay healthy year-round.
Already slow of foot as he is, fluid in Kevin’s toe is going to continue having the franchise face out of action for this game and, probably, well beyond, with Dekker getting his fifth-ever NBA start in Love’s place. I’m not sure what kind of magic Gilbert expected out of Lue, but it can’t be much different than the sorcery the Haslams expected to see by now from Hue.
Where does all this leave us, with the Drew-lemma? The Conun-drew?
Gilbert, naturally, wants Larry to just slide over into his dear friend’s seat and pretend nothing else – including the paycheck – needs to change. Jet propulsion isn’t Larry’s forte, yet it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where this season is headed for whoever takes the reins from Lue.
Should he choose to accept this position, Drew knows a dumpster fire bigger than anything ever seen in the Cuyahoga is headed his way. Oh, need it be mentioned, there are four games yet to play against the undefeated Bucks, starring the Greece Lightning kid that he, himself, tipped that clueless team about? A Bucks team, coached by that peevish dude Ferry tapped to take his jerb in Atlanta?
Never mind Milwaukee, or Indiana, who shot 64.9 percent from the floor and cruised to a 119-107 win on this floor in Saturday’s swan song for Lue. Isn’t this the same Central Division that the lottery pick he tanked so hard for is still in? Only now Parker’s in Chicago, listening to associate head coach Boylan, the guy Drew supplanted in Milwaukee, and one of the Cav assistants Gilbert dumped this summer to save some pennies, while keeping Drew to stick around? Are you jotting all this down, Shakespeare?
Yeah, if I’m Coach Drew, you bet your bottom dollar I’d be demanding top dollar. Guaranteed cash. And no, none of this “interim” business. If I’m gonna get canned by the end of the season anyway, at least make it clear that I’m nobody’s placeholder. Look at me. I’m the “acting” coach now.
Oh, and doesn’t he and his agent have to negotiate with the king of subprime lending, the guy who thinks any young fool (sorry, Koby Altman, and you, too, Danny) could do the GM job on the cheap and be happy about it, to get a fair shake? You’d better ask for a second-year option, LD. Double-check the fine print, and the font, before you sign anything.
Today, Drew has to gather the troops – old fogies like Kyle Korver, Tristan Thompson, and J.R. Smith, newbies like Rodney Hood, Cedi Osman, Larry Nance and Dekker – rally them around all the One For All and Be The Fight catchphrases, and prepare the Cavaliers (0-6) for a must-win, payback match against… the Hawks. Of, course, Larry, it simply has to be the Hawks. I don’t write the tragedies, man, I just sit back and watch them unfold.
Tonight’s contest sets a baseline for what the NBA can come to expect from the Love-less Cavaliers going forward, or, how soon some talented college freshmen may choose to add parkas to their winter shopping lists. The Hawks (2-4) are missing a talented body or two, as well. On top of that, they arrive for their first back-to-back of the young season after getting walloped in the second-half last night in Philly.
This time out, I am quite confident that Drew has a better gameplan, than Lue, to brace for the wrath of Kentean Princemore. Anything is better than just sitting back and watching Princemore (12-for-29 FGs, 4 TOs in Atlanta’s 133-111 win on Oct. 21) jack up shots and driving to the hoop uncontested, while Trae Young (6-for-14 3FGs, 35 points and 11 assists @ CLE; 8 assists and no TOs @ PHI) takes target practice from the outside.
A gameplan is great, but willful execution is a whole other ball of wax. Upon Hood, Osman, Clarkson and the less-expereienced members of the Cavs (30th in D-Rating and Opponent FG%), Drew needs to expound that if you’re content anticipating that Princemore (8-for-27 FGs, 5 TOs last night @ PHI) will eventually dribble the ball of its foot out of bounds, that the Hawks (37.2 FG% @ PHI) will keep missing all their shots and the rebounds will magically bounce into your arms, then you’d do just as well sitting beside him and letting The J.R. Swish Show take hold.
What if Coach Drew doesn’t have a trick in his bag to make the Cavs go after opponents defensively? What if slipping up in this game is not the most embarrassing of defeats that lie ahead? What if he, and the vets, all mentally check out? Before November?
What’s round at the ends, and has the initials for Hawks Nation right in the middle? “OH NO!”
Let’s Go Hawks!