Latest posts by Steve Goldman (see all)
- Goldman: Cavs’ future will be in Altman’s hands - June 30, 2018
- Goldman: Time to simply appreciate, enjoy LeBron - May 6, 2018
- Goldman: Buckle up, roller-coaster ride about to begin - April 15, 2018
I love it when people say things like, “If LeBron James doesn’t come back to Cleveland, the Cavs have no chance of returning to the NBA Finals in the next 15 years.”
That is not an exact quote, but it’s close enough. And it’s heartening to know that we have people in our midst who can see into the future and tell us just what is going to happen. Got any tips for Thistledown?
First, let me say that I am not arguing that the team’s chances are not affected by James’ decision to come back or not. Of course they are. But titles have been won without him, and more titles will be won without him. Yes, there will be more work to do if he leaves, but it can be done. It isn’t impossible.
However, first things first. As of this writing, James has not left yet; he has only declined his player option, which we all knew would happen. Nothing new in that department. Yet. Now, that will change very soon, but either way, it is worth it to take a look at — well, let’s not say what went wrong in the 2017-18 Finals, but what could have or might have gone better.
When taking a good, honest look at the situation, there is one thing that stands out. Well, several things, really, but they all share a common theme. And it all goes back to when Kyrie Irving decided that he no longer wanted to play second fiddle to James, in effect forcing the Cavaliers to trade him.
Of course, to Cavs fans, that was a disappointment. But it is one of the things that happens in the NBA, and a team has to deal with it. Fresh off his promotion to general manager, Koby Altman dealt with it by trading the star point guard to Boston for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ first-round draft choice, which eventually turned into Collin Sexton.
Even though he was injured when he arrived, there was a lot of excitement around Thomas, who had just led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals. But — I was going to say that that blew up in the Cavs’ faces, but somehow that doesn’t seem appropriate. An explosion would have been welcome. What happened was — well, not much. Mostly a lot of open paths to the hoop in what was a very bad fit. Crowder also didn’t do as well as had been hoped. Zizic and Sexton are still here.
Give Altman and the Cavaliers credit for not waiting for an impossible situation to fix itself. It didn’t take long before Thomas and Crowder, along with Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Derrick Rose and a second-round pick, were shipped out. Enter Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr. and George Hill.
Again, these moves were met with a lot of excitement around town. Three of the four new arrivals looked to be key pieces to a possible rebuild around LeBron, while Hill was a strong veteran who filled the need at point guard.
Look at that situation now. Not after the beginning, when dividends seemed to be coming in, but now, after the playoffs — the main purpose — are finished. Hill provided much-needed veteran presence, and proved valuable in the postseason. But Clarkson and Hood were reduced to very minor roles. Nance finished the year in the main rotation, but first had to rebound from a demotion out of it after the playoffs began. Things still are hopeful for him, but he definitely has aspects of his game on which to work.
Yes, there were many things one can point to that could have gone better. But to me, in the time comprising the opening tip of the season and ending with the loss in Game 4 of the Finals, the biggest disappointment was the level of collective performance by the talent received in the deal for Irving, as well as the aforementioned midseason deals.
Maybe it is unrealistic to expect more from the four players brought in in midyear. Maybe more time will help to change the outlook for them, no matter what James decides. I would have thought that about one-third the regular season plus playoffs would have been long enough to allow the new additions to better blend with the holdovers. Maybe that was wrong. We will know more as time goes by.
One thing is for certain, though, and that is that a lot of the team’s chances for future success depends on the performance of the GM. It’s too early to judge Altman on what has transpired so far, and things might look very different in the near future.
However, the early prognosis doesn’t look very good.