Random dribbles on the Cavaliers entering Monday’s game vs. the Pacers.
1. The good news about the NBA is there’s always another game. The bad news is some of the Cavs’ flaws were majorly exposed in the previous one vs. the host Wizards on Sunday. And this is the wrong time of year for that.
2. A lot of questions surround Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love and if they’re championship-level players — or just really good players. Irving and Love had an opportunity to prove themselves a little with LeBron James resting. They basically did the opposite of that.
3. This isn’t intended to trash either player. I thought both played like winners (when healthy) in last season’s playoffs. But that doesn’t seem to have carried over much. Their overall performances on Sunday make it fair to ask, hey man, how bad do you want it? Where’s the leadership? Where’s the resolve?
4. Yes, Irving finished with 28 points and six assists — a high number for him. But the Cavs were outscored by a whopping 22 points when he was on the floor. Love had another very pedestrian game with 12 points (4-of-11 shooting) and five rebounds. I don’t know much, but I can guarantee you that the Cavs didn’t trade for Love or sign him to a max contract because they thought he was “pedestrian.”
5. Mostly, this was an opportunity for both players to take a stand with James on the sidelines. They are, after all, two of the supposed Big Three. But they’re clearly second and third, and this was their chance to make a case for Nos. 1A and 1B. It was a chance for them to say: “Look, we love LeBron. But we’re pretty good, too. We can get it done without him sometimes, too.”
6. Tyronn Lue is taking some heat, and some of it is because of the performances of Irving and Love. But you can’t keep blaming the coaches. Lue is Irving’s fourth coach in just more than four years with the Cavs. Only Byron Scott lasted a full two seasons. The point guard is often referred to as “the coach on the floor.” So at some point, some of the blame for the Cavs’ failures have to be pinned on the guy with the ball in his hands.
7. Love hasn’t nearly been tough enough, either. It’s strange to say that about a power forward who averages 11.6 rebounds for his career. There’s no question Love is physically tough. There’s no question he’s remarkably skilled. And there’s no question he has yet to consistently put it all together during his time in Cleveland.
8. Another thing I never thought I’d write: I haven’t been overly impressed with Tristan Thompson lately. That truly is stunning, because he’s the one guy who always gives maximum effort and often keeps the Cavs alive via pure determination. But in the last four games, Thompson is averaging 3.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. The Cavs are paying all that money for that?
9. Lue on the loss: “I thought (Richard Jefferson) played hard. I thought (Timofey Mozgov) kept playing hard and playing tough. That’s about it.”
10. I’m in agreement with the coach.
11. Of course, J.R. Smith’s words were considerably stronger. “We can’t do that,” he said after Sunday’s loss. “If we’re serious about who we’re supposed to be then we can’t do this.”
12. Smith added: “If you lose a game like the other night to a team like Toronto and come out here and play the way we did and you had a lack of energy, maybe we shouldn’t be in this position.”
12. Overall, the Cavs (41-17) have just been too hit-or-miss when the roster suggests they should dominate. That’s the frustrating part. Most people would be thrilled with 41 wins at this point — unless they had LeBron, Kyrie, Love and six or seven other pretty doggone good players.
13. In the past week, the Cavs throttled the Thunder in Oklahoma City, came home and lost to the Pistons, blew a big lead in a “statement” game vs. the Raptors on the road, and then got embarrassed by the Wizards. They also beat the Hornets in there. See what I mean by hit or miss?
14. Also in the past week, I’ve seen new commercials featuring Love or Irving about 25 times apiece. No one has a problem with endorsements. I sure wouldn’t suggest pro athletes walk away from money because they aren’t living up to the hype. But lately, Irving and Love haven’t been.
15. The Cavs have three home games this week and a nice break. After the Pacers on Monday, they get the Wizards again on Friday and the Celtics on Saturday. That’s three days off between games. They owe one to each the Wizards and Celtics, as each beat the Cavs at The Q.
16. Friday is also “Miracle of Richfield” night. That team from 1975-76 played with great heart and gave great effort night after thankless night. These Cavs should pay close attention to that team. Because frankly, I’m starting to worry too many of these Cavs don’t understand what it will take to be celebrated 40 years from now.