INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue lamented that his new-look team with its limited playbook has become “predictable,” and he implemented new sets at practice Monday to diversify its offense in hopes of keeping defenses off-balance.
“I thought today was a good day, a good teaching day,” Lue said. “I was able to add some more stuff offensively because right now with only two or three practices, we’re predictable offensively and teams are kind of sitting on that and taking advantage of that.”
Before the All-Star break, the Cavs won their first two games with the four players they picked up at the trade deadline. But Cleveland has gone 1-2 since, including a 110-94 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday when the team shot 41.8 percent from the field.
Lue introduced an offensive structure that starts with feeding the ball to the elbow and has “six or seven” options to pursue from there, depending on how the defense reacts. In the starting unit, the elbow feeds — while Kevin Love is hurt, at least — will flow through LeBron James. With the second unit, those touches will go through Larry Nance Jr. or Jeff Green.
Lue said that the Spurs, coached by Gregg Popovich, loaded up on James and clamped down on the Cavs’ offense in half-court situations on Sunday.
“Not being able to run a lot of stuff,” Lue said of the Spurs game. “They did a good job of switching and putting anybody on Bron — putting Patty Mills, putting [Bryn] Forbes, you know, putting Tony Parker [on him]. So we drew [up plays showing] where we want guys to be and it’s going to be a process and we’ll continue to get better at that.”
James had 33 points on 25 shots against San Antonio; the four new players combined had 29 points on 28 shots.
“It just became a little bit stagnant,” Hood said Monday. “We got to be aggressive. Especially not depending on LeBron to do a lot. We got to be aggressive, especially in transition. We got to be able to make plays. We can, but we just got to be confident to make plays while he’s on the court, and I think that’s the biggest thing that [Lue] stressed to us today.”
Hood was asked whether learning the Cavs’ offense on the fly is akin to learning a foreign language.
“It’s getting better. It’s getting better,” he said. “It took me a while to learn Spanish, so I’m getting better at it. All of us are picking it up very quickly. We just got to continue to speed up that learning process so it will be become natural.”
Hood has seen the biggest drop in production since his move, averaging 10.6 points on 9.0 field goal attempts per game with the Cavs, down from 16.8 points on 14.2 FGA with the Utah Jazz this season. Hill is averaging 9.0 points on 8.6 shot attempts in Cleveland — on par with the 10.3 points on 7.6 shots he took per game in Sacramento. Clarkson is averaging 14.2 points on 11.0 shots with the Cavs, nearly identical to the 14.5 points on 12.6 shots he had for the Los Angeles Lakers this season. And Nance is averaging 8.6 points on 6.2 shots for Cleveland, mirroring the 8.6 points on 6.0 shots he had for L.A.
Lue said that getting Hood more involved is a priority.
“We definitely have to get him more touches,” Lue said. “That’s why I was saying we don’t have a lot of stuff in. So we have to make sure we have a balance of getting the ball in his hands and getting the ball in Jordan’s hands with that second unit and letting those guys be aggressive. Also at times when he has the ball he has to be aggressive. I think right now he’s in between, not sure. But we need him to be aggressive and score the basketball.”
Hood, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, said his impending contract situation is not on his mind as he tries to find a fit with his new team.
“I mean, now, I’m playing to try to win a championship,” Hood said. “That’s the biggest thing. … I’m going to continue to get better here, but right now it’s just all about winning and that will take care of itself during the summer.”