During a break between games at the NBA Summer League, Lakers coach Luke Walton found Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue for a short chat.
The two former Lakers have a lot to talk about these days.
For the last 2 1/2 seasons, Lue has coached LeBron James. Now that James has agreed to a four-year deal with the Lakers, it’s Walton’s turn. Their chat between games was just the beginning. Lue said he plans to meet with Walton and Lakers associate head coach Brian Shaw — who was Lue’s Lakers teammate for two seasons — in Las Vegas this week to discuss over dinner their new coaching challenge.
“I’ll just tell them LeBron’s easy,” Lue said. “People get this whole thing built up like he’s hard to coach. It’s not. LeBron’s not the problem. It’s the outside tension that’s the problem. Just put added pressure immediately on the coaches, on his teammates. Now everything you do is under a microscope. … So it’s going to be a totally different change for the Lakers. They’ll be able to handle it.
“LeBron is easy to play with, very unselfish. LeBron can bring guys along, make sure they’re doing the right thing. It’s going to be good. The outside is what you’ve gotta be able to block out.”
Lue was an associate head coach for the Cavaliers from 2014 to ’16, and the head coach from January of 2016 until now. James returned to the Cavaliers in the summer of 2014 and won a championship with the franchise in 2016.
Lue mentioned talking with James and Kevin Love on the Cavaliers about things they saw and how they liked playing.
“He’ll try anything once,” Lue said of James. “If it don’t work, he might be like, you know. But overall it was great. He made my job, made my life easy. Turned me into a championship coach.”
The former Lakers player and Clippers assistant said he spoke with James at times while he made his free agency decision. But he never pressed him on what he was planning.
“Everybody he’s touched is made better,” Lue said. “Family, friends, organizations, the city of Cleveland, his players, his coaches. He made everybody’s life easier, everybody’s better. It’s tough to lose that type of piece. It was hard to swallow.”
Hart leads win
In their bid to repeat as summer league champions, the Lakers found a new leader.
Second-year guard Josh Hart led the team with 24 points in 26 minutes as the Lakers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 96-79 in their summer league opener.
“Josh found a great balance between passing, scoring tonight,” Lakers coach Miles Simon said. “He obviously found a great balance. But for me, Josh Hart and the organization, we want him to be a leader in this setting. Today he set the tone defensively he drew the assignment of [Furkan Korkmaz], who had 40 points last night. He took him out of the game early.”
Korkmaz was one for 11 from the field.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who returned to the Lakers on a one-year deal worth $12 million, is the Laker who has had the most access to his soon-to-be-teammate, James, as the two share an agent.
A year ago, Caldwell-Pope, with four years of NBA experience, was considered a veteran on an exceptionally young Lakers team. This year, he’s a young guy again.
“I’m excited to play with someone like LeBron,” Caldwell-Pope said. “But it’s also going to help the young guys out, including myself. It’s going to open the floor up more. Hit a lot of open shots. I just tell us to be prepared.”
Caldwell-Pope thinks James’ arrival will help second-year point guard Lonzo Ball.
“They’ll fit well,” Caldwell-Pope said. “Lonzo can learn a lot from him about seeing the floor, making better decisions.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli