INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Tyronn Lue's first order of business in terms of X's and O's after becoming the new coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers was implementing an up-tempo offense. It's something he described as his "vision" for the Cavs.
Based on Cleveland's success playing at a slow pace, however, it's curious to see how that vision is necessary for the Cavs. Cleveland went 23-5 in games this season when it used 90-99 possessions under David Blatt, versus just a 3-7 record when it used 100 possessions or more, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"I don't know. We don't know," said LeBron James when asked for an explanation for the shift, given the team's solid track record playing with the 28th-ranked pace in the league (95 possessions per game). "This is what Coach [Lue] wants. This is what Coach wants to do, and this is what we're going to do. This isn't a LeBron thing. I'm talking out of IQ of the game, but this is what Coach wants to do, so this is what we're going to do."
Perhaps the motivation is to get James and the Cavs out in the open court more often because they have been even deadlier in those situations than their overall offensive efficiency, which ranks fifth in the league at 105.2 points per 100 possessions, indicates.
Cleveland ranks first in the NBA in points per play in transition, according to ESPN Stats & Information, but only averages 13.1 transition plays per game, which is 17th in the league. Going hand in hand with that stat is the fact that James is shooting 71 percent in field goal attempts taken in transition this season, which also ranks first among players with at least 100 transition plays.
"I'm not aware of that stat," James said when informed of his personal success in transition. "One thing since I was a kid, I love to run the floor. And, it's funny, I always talk to RJ [Richard Jefferson], I say I should've been a West Coast player growing up, because they run the floor on the West Coast, and on the East Coast we dribble the ball and things of that nature."
Despite his fondness for getting up and down the court, James has yet to play on a team designed to play particularly fast during his 13-year career. His teams have only ranked in the top half of the league in pace twice -- his rookie season in Cleveland (13th) and his first season in Miami (15th). James was asked to explain the concept of playing at an accelerated pace in layman's terms.
"You can see it, you can sense it, you can feel it and you know the difference between certain teams in our league," James said. "For the average fan that doesn't know, you just look at a Golden State game and then you can look at a Memphis game. Obviously, Memphis, having Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, they love to pound it into the post and they like to play at a slower pace -- real deliberate, get the ball into the post and let guys work off of that. You look at Golden State, they like the floor wide open for Steph [Curry], for Draymond [Green] to create plays and they like to get a lot of movement, so I hope that cleared it up for some people."
James also made it clear that Lue's directive for his team to work on its conditioning because the Cavs weren't in "good-enough shape" to execute his preferred style of play wouldn't be a problem.
The Cavs captain started his day Monday by getting in a 7 a.m. workout prior to Cleveland's shootaround at 10 o'clock. He shared the results on Instagram.
"I don't think I'm in bad shape at all, just need to get in better shape for what we want to do, but I'm not that far off," James said. "I can get there in less than a week."