Amico: For Cavs, it’s only degrees of losing from here

Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could be lost for up to a month with an ankle sprain.

The Cavaliers are 2-12. They don’t have a lot of direction. There are 68 games remaining. It’s gonna be a long, long year.

There. Someone asked me to write about the Cavs. I just did.

But honestly, do you know what to make of Cleveland’s pro basketball team after 14 games? I sure don’t. All I know … well, at least suspect … is most of the men we see in uniform today won’t be here when the Cavs are winning again.

It may not take much for the Cavs to win again, either. It seems far away now, and it probably will be at least a couple of years before they start truly competing.

But what about a lineup next season that features Collin Sexton, Kevin Love and … Zion Williamson? Or how about that lineup and R.J. Barrett?

I think most Cavs fans would be thrilled with either dynamic Duke product.

Now, a lot can happen between now and the February trade deadline and a lot will. Some of the Cavs who are here today will be gone by then. Kyle Korver is about one phone call away from being traded. The Cavs are dreaming of a taker for J.R. Smith. They will listen to offers for Love and Tristan Thompson, and trust me, those calls are coming from the contenders.

CHANGE OF PLANS

At one time, and not long ago, the Cavs had hoped to compete. They wanted to see what former coach Tyronn Lue could get out of a possible starting five of Thompson, Love, Rodney Hood, George Hill and Smith or Cedi Osman.

Younger players such as Sexton, David Nwaba, Ante Zizic and the rest could be brought along slowly in reserve. Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson were the two players who fit into any plan.

But the plan to compete came to a crashing halt as soon as Love got injured — which actually was a surprise to no one.

One opposing executive told me right before the season, “The best place for the Cavs to go is down. I think they know that and they are counting on Kevin getting hurt.”

It sounds cruel, but it is a fact. Love suffers a major injury every season. Some of it is dumb luck. But those around the league will also tell you there is a lack of toughness involved.

Anyway, the Cavs’ plans have changed. Most people hate losing, but that’s where things stand. The coaches and players want to win. It’s the only shot Larry Drew and the assistants have at returning next season. They know odds strongly favor them being fired or not re-signed.

I would say team owner Dan Gilbert also prefers to win. It’s better for business. Anyone who doesn’t think so should take a quick trip to Quicken Loans Arena for a home game. The building is half-full. Or is it half-empty? And I can tell you writing about the Cavs barely moves the needle on this website anymore.

As one former general manager half-jokingly once told me, “Casual fans and celebrities with big money will pay to see a winner. Only losers come out to see a loser.”

But the Cavs have no choice but to continue losing as the younger players either develop or prove they aren’t worth keeping. I’d say the jury is still very much out on Osman. I’d give Sexton at least the rest of the season and next. I think he has promise as a scorer.

But the focus is on the older players. Love is hurt and everyone from Korver to Hill is banged up. Aside from Thompson, who has been outstanding in terms of effort and team pride, most of the veterans want to be somewhere else.

The Cavs’ mission now has to be moving those veterans, compiling assets and entertaining the willing losers for the next two or three years. It’s a tough basketball pill to swallow but that’s what is likely coming.

6 Comments on "Amico: For Cavs, it’s only degrees of losing from here"

  1. let’s not forget George Karl took a team that started 2-19 and went to the playoffs. look at 1st. time james left. team cannot draft.

  2. Sam, the line about the losers only showing up is a rough one and a reflection of a league-wide (and cultural) all-or-nothing mentality. It’s become a players’ mentality, an owners’, mentality, and it’s one that is reinforced by the media. I’m not blaming you for the guy’s cynical quote, but printing it seems to me part of the problem. Basketball offers as much excitement as any sport. But the NBA, unfortunately, has wedded itself to pop culture. And while I don’t think the fans who do attend games are losers (sadly, it has turned into a situation where only people with a lot of money can attend games, which is another problem), the league has pretty much adopted that type of outlook: “only ‘losers’ would actually want to watch decent teams play competitive games.”

  3. James E Powell | November 18, 2018 at 12:08 am |

    Totally agree with RF, above. There are 30 teams that need to sell tickets, draw viewers, and sell gear.

  4. Sam…..how about a 1 year review of the Altman/Gilbert combination. I agree with you there is no direction from the top. I would love to hear your evaluation of their moves since Griff was let go.

    Trust the process and hope for one of the two worse records.

  5. Not sure why Gilbert insists on hiring unproven guys all.. the.. time…

    And once a guy does prove himself, he’s replaced with a guy who hasnt.

    Not sure why all the quick judgements on Sexton. We knew he’d be raw and he’s barely played 15 games. To me in his flashes so far he looks like a junior Westbrook. Gets to the glass almost at will, and his push in transition will be big in the changing up tempo NBA. And that nice pull up J he already has will only get better. 15 games! He and Tristan are keepers, lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Other than that, the only solid conclusion that can be drawn from what we’ve seen so far is that the Cavs need to switch back to the blue and orange and white. Ive said it before, wine (maroon) is a tired, lethargic color. Its the color of death, blood. Visually the Cavs played with a whole new spirit in the orange and blue the other day. Those orange and blue Cavs teams of the past gave me energy as a fan. The maroon is more of a energy drainer. This is obviously the change of an era for the Cavaliers, if not orange and blue, a new look is definitely still needed.

    And last, one question for you Sam. Is George Hill completely untradable? Even if its for another similarly bad contract, maybe he fits a need somewhere else. Im not sure he’s an asset with this team, can you convince me he is?

  6. I go to games. I’m not a loser. It’s called supporting your team. Not sure why you felt the need to repeat that person’s quote. Totally unnecessary.

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