INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — As the champion Cavaliers embarked on a new season, coach Tyronn Lue revealed he used a creative tactic to motivate them in the NBA Finals.
Lue used money to inspire them.
After the Cavs won Game 5 at Golden State to pull within 3-2 of the Warriors, Lue said Tuesday that he collected $100 from every player, coach, trainer, equipment manager, front office member and media relations persons he could find. In all, Lue gathered more than $5,000.
“They were like, ‘Where is the money going?'” Lue said. “I was like, ‘It’s going to me and I’m going to wrap it up and put it in the ceiling in the coaches’ locker room and we’re going to come back, get our money and get our trophy for Game 7.'”
And that’s just what the Cavs did, winning Game 6 at home and then heading to California, where they completed the biggest comeback in finals history by winning at Oracle Arena to dethrone the Warriors and end Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought.
Lue said he borrowed the trick from Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, whom he coached under with Boston. In 2008, Rivers used the same ploy with the Celtics.
“We played the Lakers on Christmas Day in L.A. and I think we lost by 25 or 30 and he came into the locker room and collected $100 from everybody and put it in the ceiling in L.A., in the Staples Center,” Lue said. “He said: ‘We’re coming back. We’re going to beat these guys in the Finals.’ We lost Game 7, but the money was still there and we met the back in the Finals. Great story.”
Not as great as the Cavs’ tale, and as they began training camp, Lue and LeBron James spent a few moments following practice reflecting on their incredible 2016 journey.
At this point a year ago, Lue was an assistant on David Blatt’s staff and James was being criticized for failing to deliver a championship in his first season back with Cleveland.
Now, they’re on top together.
James smiled when he was reminded of Lue’s money grab and remembered never being reimbursed.
“I’m still looking for my money,” he said. “I didn’t get mine back.”
Lue said not everyone got a refund, but there were no complaints after the Cavs became the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the finals.
“Some people got it back. Some people didn’t,” he said. “We charged $100 for a championship for some guys and some guys we gave it back. We got it back to the right people. Some of it went toward my fine, too, so I had to keep players’ money.”
Lue’s money stash wasn’t the only tool the Cavs used during their amazing postseason journey.
Earlier in the season, veteran swingman James Jones came up with an idea that unified the Cavs. The team created a puzzle in the shape of Ohio and the Larry O’Brien trophy that was divided into 16 pieces, one for each win needed to capture the title. When the Cavs won a postseason game, a piece was added.
By the time they got to Game 7, there was one slice left — for Lue and his assistants.
James said it’s those little moments that make winning that much more special.
“It was great that in the last game it went to the head coach and we were able to finish off the puzzle the right way,” the three-time champion said. “It’s definitely something when you’re done with the game you can look back on, and obviously in the record books, it says we’re world champions in 2016, but you will remember stuff like that from that championship run.”
The Cavs practiced for the first time as champions at Cleveland Clinic Courts, where a spot on the wall above the practice court will soon be filled by a championship banner.
Lue said he emphasized conditioning and defense during the team’s initial workout.
Before they took the floor, Lue said he didn’t deliver any inspirational speech or demand anything special from his players.
“We watched an NBA concussion film,” he said.
He didn’t ask for any money.
NOTES: The Cavs announced that Larry Drew has been promoted to associate head coach. He will run the offense with Lue. Damon Jones was elevated from shooting coach to assistant coach. Jim Boylan, Mike Longabardi, James Posey, Phil Handy and Vitaly Potapenko have been retained in their same roles. … Lue said Iman Shumpert is taking free agent J.R. Smith’s starting spot while the guard remains unsigned. The Cavs have made an offer to Smith, who made two huge 3-pointers early in the second half of Game 7.