Cavaliers host Hawks in Drew's 2018 debut
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Nine days ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers stumbled through an ugly loss to the Atlanta Hawks in their home opener.
It turned out to be the beginning of the end for former coach Tyronn Lue.
Three more losses followed and by Sunday afternoon Lue was shown the door when GM Koby Altman replaced him with Larry Drew.
Drew will coach the winless Cavaliers Tuesday night when the Hawks visit but as for his status, that seemed to remain murky at best.
"I'm not the interim coach," Drew told reporters Monday after practice. "I'm the voice right now."
Drew is in charge because after the Cavaliers dropped to 0-3 with a 133-111 loss to Atlanta on Oct. 21, Lue went back to using veterans JR Smith, Kyle Korver and Channing Frye at various portions of the next three games.
Those veterans from Cleveland's 2016 title team could shake the Cavaliers from their ugly start and the day after a 119-107 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Altman felt a new voice was needed, especially since Cleveland has not held a lead in the second half and trailed by at least 16 in each game.
"The challenge of this year was we had a mix of veterans and young guys and that's a complex situation that's difficult," Altman told reporters. "It didn't come together the way we envisioned, and we just didn't think coach Lue was the right fit for this group. We wanted to go in a different direction, a different coach and a different voice."
Drew will be coaching the Cavs for the second time. He won eight of nine games last season while Lue dealt with health issues and will be coaching his third team after going 143-169 in four seasons with Atlanta and Milwaukee.
However, now Drew does not want to be the interim coach without a new deal. Drew and the rest of Cleveland's assistant coaches are in the final seasons of their contracts.
"It's not a very complicated situation," Drew told reporters. "It's obvious this team is going in a different direction with the group that we do have and with the decisions that have been made with the organization. I would like to be part of it long term, to be perfectly honest. I've been through the rebuilding process as a player and as a coach and I feel I know what it takes. Certainly, when you talk about rebuilding, it's not an easy thing to do. It's usually something that takes a little time.
With their new "voice", the Cavaliers will try to avoid their first 0-7 start since 1995-96 under Mike Fratello. That version of the Cavaliers recovered to win 47 games and reach the playoffs and the front office is hoping for another recovery.
Cleveland enters the game as amongst the league's worst defensive teams with a defensive rating of 120.1 while allowing 118.5 points per game. On Saturday, Cleveland allowed the Pacers to shoot 64.9 percent from the floor. It was Cleveland's second-highest field goal percentage allowed in team history.
Kevin Love is expected to miss his third straight game Tuesday as he recovers from the same injury that limited him in the preseason.
On Thursday in Detroit, Frye started but on Saturday Sam Dekker started and played 24 minutes. Dekker is listed as the starter in Love's spot again for Tuesday but eventually, Larry Nance Jr. could work his way into the starting lineup after getting 15 points and 12 rebounds Saturday.
Atlanta followed up its rout in Cleveland with a 111-104 home win over Dallas last Wednesday but enters off consecutive losses to Chicago and Philadelphia.
On Monday, the Hawks hung with the 76ers for the first half but were outscored 31-13 in the third quarter and were handed a 113-92 loss.
"We had a couple lapses defensively to start the third quarter, obviously they were prepared for some of the adjustments we were making and we just had a couple lapses at the start," first-year Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. "It was a 10-12 point stretch and we just never really recovered.
Rookie Trae Young scored 35 points in the first game in Cleveland but was held to 11 on 5-of-13 shooting Monday. In his last three games, Young is averaging 13.6 points while shooting 29.7 percent (11 of 37).
In the first meeting with Cleveland, the Hawks sank a franchise record 22 3-pointers but Monday they shot 21.6 percent (8 of 37) from 3-point range, marking the first time it did not hit 10 3-pointers this season.
Updated October 30, 2018