The reality of the NBA season is beginning to set in with the Cavaliers.
It has found a home in LeBron James’ eye and back, Kyle Korver’s foot, Iman Shumpert’s knee and the team’s overall psyche. These are the dog days of the season, and the Cavs are hurtin’ for certain.
They lack energy. They lack determination. They lack wins. And even their own coach has said they look slow.
“Teams just look so much faster than we are,” Tyronn Lue told reporters after Monday’s 103-74 loss at San Antonio.
James took a shot to the back from Spurs big man David Lee in that game. James didn’t return. He said he’s fine and will play Thursday at Chicago. But that doesn’t mean the Cavs superstar is 100 percent. It just means he’s willing to gut it out.
After all, the Cavs (47-26) need victories.
They trail Boston by a half game with nine to go for the Cavs, eight for the Celtics. One of those takes place Wednesday, April 5, between the Cavs and Celtics, in Boston.
But before that, the Cavs need to get themselves right.
The next four games will offer a grand opportunity. All come against struggling opponents, and three (Philadelphia, Indiana and Orlando) come at home.
It’s amazing the ills that can be cured with three home games against three wretched teams. By this time next week, we could all be talking about how the Cavs are playing oh-so-great and rolling into Boston.
In reality, it would mostly be a result of the schedule, as it so often is.
The Cavs aren’t a great road team in the regular season. They never have been in LeBron, Act II. This year, they’re 19-18 on the road.
Well, 12 of 17 games in March have been away from home, a stretch that forced them to play in all four time zones in a short amount of time. All this while trying to incorporate new players, overcome the aforementioned bruises and bumps, and convince someone, anyone to play some stinking defense.
“It’s a delicate time right now for our team,” James said after Monday’s loss.
Delicate because the Cavs can’t seem to pull it together now that all the pieces are in place. Delicate because they haven’t had much time to practice, much time in Cleveland, many games in front of the home fans.
These aren’t excuses. This is the way the NBA season always goes. There’s a time to build up, a time to break down, a time to dance, a time to mourn, a time for everything, turn, turn, turn.
The Cavs are in a tough spot right now, as Lue is deciding whether to keep playing the starters so they can feel what it’s like to win again — or rest them so they’re ready to roll when the games actually mean something.
Either way, March cannot end fast enough for the defending champs.
They may not look ready for the real thing, but man, they probably can’t wait for it to get here.