Will LeBron James or Tyronn Lue Leave Cavaliers’ Sinking Ship First? Spurs Loss Could Be a Tipping Point in Cleveland

LeBron James passed 30,000 points on Tuesday night against the San Antonio Spurs, but what should have been cause for celebration seemed more symbolic of the Cavaliers’ demise.

James was solid as usual, totalling 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in 38 minutes of play. He got precious little help from anyone else, though. Isaiah Thomas had 14 points, Jae Crowder 13, Kevin Love 10, Dwyane Wade 12 from the bench… but Cleveland couldn’t stop LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with 30 points and eight rebounds. This wasn’t as bad as Saturday night’s blowout at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, but that’s faint consolation. The Cavaliers are just a half-game back of the Miami Heat in the East. The Raptors and Celtics are almost out of sight.

"I'm gonna make a change," head coach Tyronn Lue told Cleveland.com after the loss to the Spurs, Cleveland’s tenth in its past 13 games. Lue didn’t elaborate but Joe Vardon pointed out an area that needs to be fixed. “The Cavs' current starting lineup of LeBron James, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Isaiah Thomas, and Jae Crowder has a minus-22.8 rating—which means it's being outscored by that many points on average per 100 possessions,” Vardon wrote, adding in parentheses, “(That's really bad).”

Thomas has struggled since he was inserted into the Cavaliers’ starting lineup after recovering from a hip injury. The two-time All-Star turned the ball over three times against the Spurs. But the elephant in the room may be Lue himself. The head coach is paid to make decisions like whether to stick with Thomas as a starter or bring him off the bench. Lue is saddled with an ageing roster, sure, and he could do with a defensively-adept center. But he still has the best player in basketball on his team for 40 minutes a night.

"Just a special moment," James told ESPN about the jump shot at the end of the first quarter that put him on 30,001 points for his career. "I just started thinking about everything. My journey from being a kid who first picked up a basketball when I was 5 years old to first playing organized basketball when I was 9 all the way up to this point.”

While James keeps producing and drawing closer to an off season in which he will face another momentous free-agency decision, the Cavaliers keep losing. It’s looking more and more plausible that Lue could leave Cleveland before him.