Following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 114-102 loss against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, it is clear that things are spiraling out of control in Cleveland. Granted, this team has experienced mid-season blues before, this time feels much different.
Last night’s loss is particularly frustrating given that the Spurs remain shorthanded. With several of their key players sidelined, including Kawhi Leonard, the Cavs’ loss further magnifies things.
Even though the Cavaliers’ lineup is certainly talented, they are simply not getting the job done. One area hurting the ball club is that they currently rank 29th in the league in terms of defensive efficiency. Only the Sacramento Kings are worse in that department.
Earlier last week, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin expressed other reasons as to why concern is on the rise. Let alone the fact that Cleveland is one of the NBA’s older teams, he also strongly believes that “patience” is thinning within the organization.
The Eastern Conference team’s apparent lack of patience was on full display several days back. Just a few minutes into Saturday’s blowout loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder, versatile big man Kevin Love left the game due to being under the weather. However, some of his teammates did not come to his defense initially. According to CBS Sports writer Jack Maloney, a few Cavs players went as far as to accuse Love of faking the illness.
At this point, those surprising rumors have slowed down after Love explained himself. Nonetheless, stories like this to go along with their massive slump demonstrate that something is not clicking in Cleveland. The Cavaliers are not a cohesive bunch at the moment, with that being a bit of an understatement.
Due to the chaos, head coach Tyronn Lue recently admitted that he cannot stand pat anymore. In a different piece written by McMenamin, Lue explicitly conceded that change is on the horizon. As to the specifics, Lue was not willing to disclose that information.
The lineup swapping is somewhat curious by virtue of a point Bleacher Report’s Rob Goldberg alludes to. Goldberg understands that outside of Isaiah Thomas, LeBron James, Love, Jae Crowder, and JR Smith have been starters most of the time this year.
In spite of that, the Cavs’ bench is pretty deep. Their bench is one, too, that has a luxury most teams cannot boast. That luxury is having guys who have been starters in the past. Center Tristan Thompson and multiple time All-Star Dwyane Wade are merely a couple such players worth mentioning.
The consistent losing has also led many to believe that a potential trade is lurking. With the trade deadline being a mere couple weeks away, such a suggestion is by no means outlandish.
SI’s Daniel Rapaport grasps this possibility as well. He elaborates on what Cleveland’s management may pull the trigger on in the not too distant future.
“There is a growing consensus that Cleveland needs to make a deal before the Feb. 8 trade deadline. The Cavs have been rumored to be interested in a number of big-name targets including DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan, but the trade that seems most likely—at least for right now—is a deal for [George] Hill, which could include Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye as well as a second-round pick, per ESPN.”
With that being said, one cannot help but wonder if this is what Lue actually meant by his ambiguous statement. While it seems unlikely, it is not entirely out of the equation. The Cavaliers are going through quite a series of doldrums; therefore, “change” of any kind may indeed be feasible.
Although he did not address Lue’s thoughts, Love acknowledged after last night’s game that the team’s issues are real.
Per NBA.com’s reports, “Love said the problem is “‘all of us.'”
Such comments are definitely going to raise some eyebrows. At the same time, what Love is saying is not necessarily far-fetched. Sure, it is remarkably easy to point fingers at one guy like his teammates did recently, yet this is a team sport. He is right in saying that everyone deserves to share the blame for the mess they are enduring.
It adds validity to Lue’s decision to make some lineup changes. On the one hand, the team certainly appears to be at odds with one another. On the other hand, it seems like the perfect time for them to start holding one another to a higher standard. That very component is what has caused this group to reach three straight NBA Finals.
The desire for another championship remains. That is for sure. Albeit such an ambition is sought after, the Cavs’ coach expressed to ESPN’s McMenamin that his group needs to start walking the walk.
“I mean, if we’re going to speak out and talk, we got to back it up,” Lue said after the loss to the Spurs. “And, I mean, we didn’t do that tonight. We talked about it this morning. It could be healthy, but you’ve got to do something about it.”
Naturally, disappointment is all over the place in Cleveland. Despite their continued presence as one of the East’s higher seeds, stability is nonexistent.
Consequently, it is curious if changes are coming let alone “a” single change. Only time will tell as they say.
Without a doubt, the Cavs remain one of the league’s most stacked teams. That fact aside, talent means little unless unity is there. The losses piling up certainly insinuates that is not true as of now. Accordingly, whether the Eastern Conference ball club can reach greater heights may be largely determined by whether Lue’s tinkering pays off or not.