His head shaking, Doc Rivers said Cleveland firing Tyronn Lue “makes no sense” hours after the coach became the first to lose his job this season.
Lue coached the Cavaliers to an NBA championship in 2016 and three consecutive NBA Finals appearances. The Cavaliers lost LeBron James in free agency to the Lakers and lost their first six games this season.
“It’s awful,” Rivers said Sunday. “I think what it shows you is, go to the Finals, win it, go to the Finals three years in a row and come back and get fired. It makes no sense. It's the ugly part of our game.”
Rivers is close with Lue, who played for Rivers in Orlando and broke into coaching in 2011 while on his staff in Boston. Lue has said his experience coaching the Celtics’ 2012 summer league team cemented his belief that coaching would be his future and told the Boston Globe last season that “everything I do coaching-wise is Doc Rivers-driven.’’
In a statement, Lue thanked Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, general manager Koby Altman and former general manager David Griffin for a “truly special” tenure.
“I only wish the organization success moving forward,” Lue said.
Rivers and Lue spoke Sunday at length.
“He was really disappointed, but he has a lot to be proud of,” Rivers said. “He did a heck of a job in extreme circumstances and I probably am not prouder of anybody that's played for me and been a coach under me than Ty Lue.
“It makes you so angry when you see stuff like that but there's nothing you can do about it and I thought he handled it … with just amazing class, thanked everybody. He's better than me.”
Austin Rivers welcomed back
The Clippers played a tribute video for Austin Rivers in the first quarter as the guard faced his former team for the first time since he was traded to Washington on June 26. Rivers acknowledged fans' cheers with a wave and Doc stepped out of a Clippers huddle to point at his son.
Rivers arrived in January 2015 and played 243 games with the Clippers, averaging 11.1 points.
“I had a chance to coach him and just from a purely parenting, father-son relationship, we've never been closer,” Doc Rivers said before the game. “So there's a lot of good things to come out of it. But now you really want to beat him.”
Rivers had nine points in 22 minutes off the bench in the Clippers’ 136-104 win. Clippers center Marcin Gortat and reserve forward Mike Scott, both of whom came over from Washington, combined for 15 points and 11 rebounds.
“Hopefully he has a good year this year after tonight; I have no complaints,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of Gortat. Scott, who visited Washington’s locker room briefly before tipoff to meet with former teammates, is “loved by all of this team,” Brooks added.