CLEVELAND -- Following Tyronn Lue's first game as Cleveland Cavaliers head coach, a 96-83 loss to the Chicago Bulls, Lue held true to his promise to hold his players accountable, telling reporters the Cavs are not well conditioned enough to play up-tempo basketball.
"I don't think we're in good enough shape," Lue said. "I think early, we wanted to push it, we wanted to open the floor, and I think we came out and did that, and then I think we just dropped off the map. I think we got tired."
Lue noted that his players, including LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, "wanted to come out early." Not only did having his players ask for early substitutions throw off Lue's planned rotation patterns, the Cavs' collective conditioning led to poor results on the offensive end when they sped up the game.
Cleveland shot just 35-for-94 as a team (37.2 percent) and an even more anemic 4-for-24 from 3 (16.7 percent).
"I just don't think we're in good enough shape right now to play in the style that we want to play," he said.
"As far of pace-wise and the vision that I have for this team, I think we got to play faster. I think we got to utilize Kyrie and LeBron's one-on-one ability in transition to open the floor more, running more drags and getting that weakside big out, and we just haven't been accustomed to playing that way. It's something new, so I got to do a better job of getting us in some better shape."
James accepted Lue's assessment.
"Yup, we got to get in better shape," he said. "Coach wanted to play faster, so we need to start doing stuff on off days, doing stuff at practice, during shootarounds, getting up and down the floor, getting our heart rate going, because he wants to play faster, play with more pace than we've done in the past. Try to get up and down the court before the defense is set on us. So we all need to be in better shape."
Irving, having returned just 16 games ago from a 6½-month layoff from surgery on his left kneecap, said he still feels like he is in his own personal preseason period. So the accelerated attack might have affected him more than anyone else.
"This was the first time since I've been back playing that my chest felt like it was about to cave in the first six to eight possessions when we were getting up and down," Irving said. "Got to get used to that pace that Coach Lue wants us to play at. It's exciting, it's an exciting brand of basketball that is tailor-fitted for the players that we have on our team."
Cleveland came into the game ranked 28th in the league in pace, using just 95 possessions per game. Sacramento is first at 101.9.
"Well, we played slow basketball up to this point," James said. "And we walk the ball up a lot. Every now and then, we'd get out on the break and we'd run off turnovers, but, you know, Coach, he wants us to get up the floor, made or misses, and that's the transition from walking the ball up. So, all of us, we need to do something different as far as our pace and our conditioning. If he wants us to play faster and you want to be out on the floor, you can't get tired, and if you do, you got to come out. Something that Coach Lue want us to do, and we all got to accept it."
Lue said he didn't want to make his team simply run sprints in practice to achieve the requisite level of fitness but would incorporate more full-court, up-and-down drills in his practices.
A reporter asked Lue if it is alarming for a team to be "out of shape" past the halfway mark of the season.
"They're not in terrible shape," Lue said. "They're just not in the type of shape that we need them to be in to play at the level we're trying to play at, so it could take a few weeks."