Former Cavs assistant Phil Handy: LeBron James, squad were so ‘calm’ even down 3-1 to Dubs

LeBron James, then of the Cleveland Cavaliers, blocks a shot. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
LeBron James, then of the Cleveland Cavaliers, blocks a shot. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

On a podcast appearance this week, former Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach Phil Handy emphasized how people would be “shocked” at seeing how “calm” LeBron James and the squad were even while down 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.

The Cleveland Cavaliers‘ historic 3-1 comeback over the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals is something us Cavs fans will always remember vividly. I still think about it all the time, and yes, NBA fans of other teams probably believe we harp on that memory entirely too much.

Maybe that is the case, but I’m not apologizing for it, nor should you, Cavs fans reading this!

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The Wine and Gold were led by LeBron James, who was the key cog in that run, and Kyrie Irving had one of the best stretches of his career, given the stage and the pressure.

We of course will never forget Irving’s unreal side-step three-pointer to ultimately put the Cavs up for good in the last few possessions in that Game 7 over Stephen Curry.

So why am I bringing that back up in this instance, you ask?

On an appearance on Wednesday on the “Scoop B Radio” podcast with Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson and h/t Cavaliers Nation’s Justin Benjamin, former Cavaliers assistant/player development coach Phil Handy emphasized how if fans were to eventually see how the Cavs were when they were down 3-1, they’d be “shocked” to see how “calm” the Cavs and essentially LeBron and others were in that moment.

Here was more on that team dynamic, via Robinson himself, with among other things, Handy touching on how if there were to be a documentary reminiscent of “The Last Dance” about the 2016 Cleveland squad, it’d demonstrate how the group was just fine. To add to that, Handy also stressed on that pod appearance with Robinson in more detail about how then-Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue was seemingly so poised even in that dire situation, and Handy highlighted how James was so coachable and is, despite the narrative seemingly by many that James is not.

"“I think people would recognize how calm our group was,” Phil Handy told Scoop B Radio. “Especially being down 1-3 in that whole series. People would be so shocked to see how calm we were. After losing that game and what the mindset was. I also think people would be shocked to see how much of a command coach Tyronn Lue is. There was a lot of media that said ‘Bron’s the coach, he’s this, he’s a coach killer, he runs the team and blah blah blah…they would be so wrong in their assessments and they would have so much more respect for T-Lue and they would have so much more respect for LeBron in that sense that he’s probably one of the most coachable dudes that I have been around in the sense of how he approaches the game and WANTING leadership. He wants direction from his coaches and he’s one of those players. Yes, every great player is smart, so you would be remiss as a coach not to involve them and draw from them but, I think the camaraderie of that team, the calmness and just the leadership of the team. I think people would be just totally blown away by those three things and be shocked by what they see.”"

This insight from Phil Handy, who was a crucial part of the Toronto Raptors’ coaching staff amid their championship-winning team last season and is now a Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach, is refreshing to hear regarding James and how he receives coaching.

While Handy may be more biased than some in relation to James, him taking to Lue and Handy’s direction, and even when he and the Cleveland Cavaliers were in that 3-1 hole, showed that 2016 squad had so much trust in each other.

Lue clearly got through to Bron, Kyrie, Love, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert and the others, as did seemingly Handy and the other assistant coaches, and the end result was one of the best comebacks in American professional sports history.

In that 2016 series comeback, James also led all players in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks per game, as noted by Basketball Reference. That wasn’t too shabby, huh?

In Handy and James’ sake, it’s unclear if the Lakers will have a shot at a championship at some down the road in this 2019-20 campaign, given concerns regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Whether or not that is the case, though, James was right in the thick of the MVP conversation, as at this point, even in his 17th season, he’s had 25.7 points, a league-leading 10.6 assists, 7.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. He’s had a superb PER of 26.0, too.

Next. Cavs GOAT LeBron James is ranked #2 all-time in ESPN's NBA Rank. dark

Again, though, it was really cool to hear from Handy on this pod appearance just how still poised Lue, Bron and the Cavs were even down 3-1 against the Warriors, who were fresh off setting the NBA record for wins in a single season that year.