INDEPENDENCE — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue despised “blowout drills” when he played for the Washington Wizards’ Doug Collins for two seasons.
Now putting the Cavs through the most grueling training camp of his tenure, Lue has borrowed the tortuous conditioning session that Collins used following every off day.
In an attempt to get the Cavs to play the faster pace he’s long sought, Lue runs his players with a 12-second shot clock once or twice a week. Guard George Hill said a buzzer actually sounds. When it’s over, the losing group faces a penalty, like more running.
“We do it for eight minutes and they cry and complain. We did it for 15 minutes,” Lue said of his days in Washington. “Times have changed now, it’s a little different. It’s really useful, though.
“Pushing the ball full court, making a play and making a pass, it trains your body and your mind to play that way.”
Guard Kyle Korver couldn’t resist laughing when he thought about the Cavs’ previous attempts to play with pace.
“We’ve always talked about pace in the time I’ve been here, but we didn’t really work on pace,” said Korver, traded to the Cavs on Jan. 7, 2017. “We just talked about pace.”
Now that Lue has taken drastic measures to achieve it, Korver, 37, didn’t hide how he felt about the 12-second clock.
“It’s like the hardest conditioning drill ever because when you [usually] do a conditioning drill you can just not think and just like, ‘Next foot, next foot, next foot.’ Almost close your eyes and go,” Korver said after practice Tuesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “When you do it like this, you’ve also got to think and you’ve got to catch and you’ve got to shoot and you’ve got to pass. It’s like this combination of everything you need in basketball at this hectic pace. Then you get into the game and you’ve got 24 seconds and you’re like, ‘Ah, this is easy.’
“It’s one of those sayings of old, ‘Make the practices harder than the games so when the games come, everything’s slowed down.’”
Korver said the hardest part is staying disciplined and executing.
“Not getting into running down the court and shoot the first shot because I’m tired and I don’t want to make the extra cut or the extra play or the extra screen. It’s staying disciplined while you’re tired.”
The drill did not shock Channing Frye, 35, who said he did virtually the same thing under Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry from 2009-12. Frye pointed out that Gentry was an assistant coach under Collins with the Detroit Pistons from 1995-98.
“When I was in Phoenix, we used to do that as conditioning. We had to play 14-second shot clock, but you had to make three passes and we would do that for like three to five minutes,” Frye said. “I would rather play that way.
“I like it personally. Old school basketball is you pass, pass, pass 37 times to get your best shot. What’s the difference between doing that the first seven seconds or doing that for 24 seconds? Or you can just waste the time. Get a shot up. Get J’s up. Play the game. It’s supposed to be fast-paced. You’ve got a guy like Jordan [Clarkson] who wants to shoot 37 times, let him shoot.”
Hill, 32, said the 12-second clock is “tough,” but he understands the point of using passes instead of dribbling to get up court.
“We don’t want to be a team that’s only getting 60 to 70 shots a game if we can try to get 90 shots a game,” Hill said Saturday. “It gives us more opportunity to score, but it also picks up the pace. Hopefully those teams that you’re playing against aren’t training that way where you can tire them out, so in the fourth quarter their legs are gone.”
As the Cavs concluded practice, Elton John singing “The Circle of Life” from the movie “The Lion King” blared from the practice court.
Lue didn’t know the reason for the selection, saying it was Kevin Love’s choice.
“We do some conditioning, we work on our minds, we stretch, we get good food,” Love said to Frye, who had an energy drink in his hand.
“I was wondering about it, but I like the movie,” Frye said. “The play was good, too.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.