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Derek Fisher, Hornets coach Clifford praise Tyronn Lue

Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue answers questions during

Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue answers questions during a news conference before an NBA basketball game between the Chicago Bulls and the Cavaliers, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in Cleveland. Credit: AP / Tony Dejak

CHARLOTTE— While Tyronn Lue was readying to make his debut Saturday night as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, two other head coaches who know him well were discussing their expectations for him.

Derek Fisher played with him during Lue’s first three seasons in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers from 1998-2001. Lue was named the new coach of the Eastern-Conference leading Cavaliers on Friday when the franchise fired David Blatt.

“The main thing for Ty Lue is relationships are really key in leadership positions,” Fisher said. “I think relationships are really his strong point. He’s very clear and articulate in what he wants and what he expects, and I think he’ll do a good job. I’m very happy for him, even if it is an unfortunate situation for Coach Blatt.”

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford was an assistant when Lue played for the Houston Rockets in 2004-05 and the Orlando Magic in 2008-09. Both Clifford and Fisher have coached against Lue as well. He’s been an assistant for the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers and the Cavaliers.

“A leader, very bright, has a great personality, can get along with anybody, a communicator, but also I think he’s worked very hard at becoming a coach,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “He worked for Doc in Boston and went with him to the Clippers. I was just talking with Tom Thibodeau, who was with him in Boston. I think he’s taken it very seriously about becoming a good coach. I’m sure he’ll do a good job.”

Thomas remains out

When Fisher spoke with the media about 90 minutes before tipoff Saturday, he seemed optimistic that forward Lance Thomas might be able to return to the lineup. Minutes after he spoke, the team announced Thomas would miss a third straight game with a sore left knee.

Thomas has been a key figure off the bench for the Knicks, averaging 8.7 points per game. He reached double figures in three of the last five games before his absence.

“Lance has really been able to play a 4-man or power forward-type position and be our first guy off the bench, subbing in for Robin or Kristaps,” Fisher said. “He’s really helped us settle on our rotation and get some roles defined. Defensively, he elevates our game which I like. That’s what we’ve really missed, not having him on the floor.”

Hobbled Hornets

While the Knicks were missing Thomas and Cleanthony Early, the Hornets were severely short-handed because of injuries. Starters Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (shoulder) and Al Jefferson (knee) are inactive, but the Hornets were also without Nicolas Batum (toe), Jeremy Lamb (toe) and Cody Zeller (shoulder).

Batum arguably has been Charlotte’s best all-around player this season, while Zeller was starting in place of Jefferson before his injury.

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