Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue may be limited to shouting plays to his team from the sidelines nowadays, but there was a time when he was known as one of the better guards in the NBA. In fact, in the 2010 offseason, Lue was part of a pick-up team at Las Vegas’ Impact Basketball tournament that left the competition scratching their heads.
Lue served as captain of a five-man team, which featured Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley, Tayshaun Prince and Patrick O’Bryant. For three straight weeks, Lue’s squad went undefeated against teams that were loaded with names like Chauncey Billups, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis, Andrei Kirilenko and Corey Maggette.
“They were a problem,” Billups admitted of his friend’s team. “I do remember that team and they did win for a few straight weeks. They beat a lot of great players; I’ll give them that. They all knew their role and they had the right group of guys.”
Dudley, a former first-round pick in the 2007 Draft and Lue’s teammate at the Impact tournament, says he remembers Billups, Jermaine O’Neal, Baron Davis, Al Harrington, Kyle Lowry, and Stephen Jackson assembling teams to face their squad.
“I remember the Warriors flew in as a team to play us – Stephen Jackson brought out Matt Barnes and Kelenna Azubuike,” Dudley said. “I remember thinking, ‘Wait. What? The Warriors are flying in to play our pick-up squad? What’s happening?’ “People were flying in to play us or asking us to travel to different gyms! It’s not like we entered the offseason thinking, ‘We’re going to go into summer basketball and destroy everyone!’ No, we were just working out, trying to get better and this just kind of happened.”
“Everyone was wondering, ‘Why can’t we beat them?!’” Dudley said with a laugh. “Everybody wanted a shot at us. This kind of thing hadn’t really happened before.”
Dudley credited the team’s success to their high basketball IQ’s, defensive mindsets, and the fact that their players complemented each other well on the floor.
“Our team had a high basketball IQ and we played the right way defensively,” Dudley said. “Most times in pick-up, you let someone defend one-on-one, but we would help. If a guy started scoring, we’d double. The teams didn’t have plays, so they struggled to pass out of doubles and adjust to our help defense.”
After dominating for three straight weeks, Lue’s squad was finally defeated by a team that Billups assembled.
“Yeah, it was me, Dahntay Jones, Al Harrington, Melvin Ely and, I think, Kyle Lowry that beat them,” Billups said with a smile. Man, those were good times. That was so much fun.”