Before coming to the conclusion that “it is what it is” Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue revealed to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin on NBA Lockdown that he gets unfair criticism from the media about the controversial issue of resting players. (Even NBA commissioner Adam Silver has admitted it’s a challenging issue.) Now Lue is clearly a great coach — he’s the head coach of the NBA Champs, proof in the pudding. But Lue seems so frustrated about perceived criticism of his work that he conflates the “playing time issue” with the “resting players” issue. Here’s Lue:
“I know that the media has to do what they have to do, because when you rest him, they cry, ‘Oh, he should play! Jordan would never sit!’ And then you play him 42 minutes: ‘He’s playing too much!'” Lue said. “Like, what? So if you don’t play, you mad. If you play too much, you mad.”
Lue feels understandably besieged by attention — coaching LeBron James and Kyrie Irving means the coach’s every decision is fodder for the media. But if he took more time he would certainly distinguish between LeBron James averaging an NBA high in minutes per game and James taking full nights off. Here’s the critical difference for the NBA brand and the fans. If LeBron James plays 35 minutes instead of 38 minutes in a game against the Warriors, fans who paid good money for seats and fans watching on TV still get to see him play and compete. If James sits out that game in street clothes to rest, those fans feel cheated. That’s the crux of the issue. Whether Lue needs James to lead the NBA in minutes per game when he does play is a different issue from resting him.