Dribbles: Despite fuss, still time for Cavs

LeBron James and other NBA superstars hold their work for charities and youngsters near and dear to their hearts.

Random dribbles on the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have lost four straight and nine of 12 heading into Thursday’s home game vs. the Orlando Magic.

1. A lot has been said and written over the past few days about the Cavaliers, and some of it may even be true. But those who are foolish enough to write off LeBron James … well, go down that road at your own peril.

2. Every year since LeBron returned, the Cavs have looked like an absolute mess once or twice or three times a season. That’s pretty much where they are now.

3. But each time, they reached The Finals. Two years ago, they won the title. And of the previous three regular seasons, I’d pick the championship year of 2016 as the worst. That was the same year the Golden State Warriors finished 73-9.

4. Today, the Cavs are 26-17 and in third place in the Eastern Conference. They are seven games behind the first-place Boston Celtics, and four back of the Toronto Raptors.

5. Seven of the Cavs’ next 10 games are at home. Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving and the Celtics hit the West Coast for four games next week — when they will face the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers, Warriors and Denver Nuggets. Overall, six of the Celtics’ next 11 are on the road, with visits to the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards in there, as well.

6. Who knows how any of this will actually go — but the point is, if the Cavs just take care of business at The Q, the gap could close considerably.

7. Does this mean everything is well with the Cavs? No, most definitely not. Do they still have lots of work to do and could they use more help via trades or post-deadline buyout candidates? Without a doubt.

8. But before we get all worked up or start writing off James and the Cavs, we need to realize there is still about a half a season to go. So much can happen between now and the regular-season finale April 11, and so much will.

9. There are other things to consider. For one, Isaiah Thomas is playing, but he’s hardly all the way back. After missing the early season with a hip injury, it’s clear he doesn’t yet have his legs, or his lungs. He fared well in his first two games back, but a lot of that can be chalked up to adrenaline. Now, reality has set in and it’s understandable that Thomas is struggling to make shots.

10. And let’s face it, the Cavs played the Warriors a lot closer on MLK Day than any time during the Kyrie era. Go back and look it up.

11. Yes, the issues run deeper than Thomas finding his stride and this team’s refusal to play hard every night. Frankly, I don’t think the Cavs have the personnel to defend all that well. On top of that, the rotation has been downright perplexing.

12. J.R. Smith has not been aggressive nor good, yet he’s averaging 30 minutes a game. I don’t understand.

13. I’d be considerably less judgmental about Smith if he would just shoot the dang ball. Against the Warriors, he had at least three wide-open looks behind the 3-point line, and each time he passed to someone else. It’s throwing off the entire offense. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue wants Smith to shoot, Smith’s teammates want Smith to shoot and the fans are utterly begging Smith to shoot. So just put it up already.

14. If not, there is no reason for him to be out there. The Cavs have enough guys who can dribble and pass. Those aren’t Smith’s fortes (especially the dribbling part). And he hasn’t been good enough defensively to use that as a reason to keep him on the floor.

15. I spend way too much time writing about J.R., but his ineffectiveness has undoubtedly been a factor in the recent slide.

16. And don’t even get me started on why Channing Frye should be playing. That second unit is totally different and entirely more clunky without Frye’s ability to spread the defense and pull opposing big men away from the hoop.

17. Oh, and the Cavs were winning all the time when he played. Not because of Frye alone, obviously. But the threat of Frye’s shooting appeared to help the other reserves to play more freely.

18. This isn’t me trying to say the Cavs should bench Tristan Thompson. This is merely my way of wondering why they have gone away from something that was working so well.

19. Anyway, again, Frye or no Frye the Cavs need help. I’ve written about it before and will be posting another column about it shortly. They can get out of the East again as is. That said, it sure doesn’t look like they can beat the Warriors as is.

20. Still, again, there is plenty of time for all that. Right now, the Cavs just need to start winning with the hand they’ve been dealt and not let this thing spiral out of control. But for all the panic, my money is on them staying within striking distance in the East and making a deal or two between now and the deadline.

6 Comments on "Dribbles: Despite fuss, still time for Cavs"

  1. Fair points, but today matters too.

    Losing in the finals doesnt make lazy play and mailing it in in December and January okay. True ballers want to win every game.

    Playing the right way in December and January makes winning in the finals more likely.

    Id refer you to the most recent Draymond Green interview on NBA TV. He understands that winning a Championship is a process that starts in September. He put it into words really well. Early months in the season and what you do with them matter in a season the same way early quarters matter in a game. Its a cumulative process.

    We get it that the east isnt the strongest conference, and that the Cavs can maybe or even most likely get to the finals. But thats not the goal.

    When frustrated Cavs fans see the potential to reach the actual goal, whether through imploring our best player to get his mind right earlier than usual, or imploring management to retain potential for success, yes, even Championship post-LeBron (imagine, its easy if you try), they’re going to
    voice those desires with passion and emotion.

    Losing hurts, both today, and even in June.

    • Amen to all. One thing the Cavs seem to forget is history tells us it’s always one of the top two seeds who win the title. I think a No. 3 snuck in there once in the past 20 years. So you’re right — today definitely matters too. – Sam

  2. So very much to agree with you on in this dribbles. You hit RIGHT on all that’s happening with the team’s current demise.
    Your Numbers 12-15 –JR has let his confidence disappear & JR has become so ineffective when an open shot is too WIDE open, most often it’s dribble/pass or else JR-Swish becomes JR-miss. Any which way this goes down has become very disheartening. We all feel for him but IT HAS TO CHANGE if Cavs are to come out of this. (Additionally there has to be DEFENSIVE CHANGE IN THE PAINT with the first unit & that can come with a “Trade Tristan” for a REAL center-)

    Number 11 -rotation perplexing ! YES YES YES !
    Number 16-18 YES again ! Frye & the second unit was instrumental in the Bench bringing games back into the WIN column. Frye’s ability to space the floor is exactly what made the second unit great. Inserting TT destroyed much of the cutting/slicing to the basket & openness for kickback 3pt’s. Lue’s rotation changed a great chemistry they had into a very mediocre one. AND HE CONTINUES TO DO IT is the worst part ! I know they pay TT a lot of money & they think they NEED to see results from it, BUT IT AIN’T HAPPENING ! AND it’s become detrimental to the whole team, even the starters have gotten worse for it. (Same intermittent play for them too) Sometimes it seems as if you’re playing 4 on 5 & He’s just out there ?? ?? !

    First team- needs a trade for a Shooting guard, & a True center/rim protector/enforcer/shot-swatter/ & shooter (Like OKC’s Adams) (20pts last night & he puts it down IN the basket not off the glass)

    Second team- Needs for “Lue-ser” to re-insert FRYE & occasionally use Cedi some for energy to regain their chemistry ! D-wade/Frye/Green/KORVER/Cedi/ If they got a decent center Love could move back to Forward & Crowder could flex with Starters/& or bench. They’re NOT out of it yet, but Changes have to be made quickly.
    Thanks for the Great Dribbles.

  3. Good article. The Cavs struggles with young teams. I tuned into the game tonight in the second quarter the Cavs were up by 20 and I saw that LeBron played the entire 1st quarter and I knew at that point it would be a close game. Yes the rotations are troubling. JR get 30 mins and Cedi NONE. Lue did play 10 players but none were under 25. Lue plays the exact lineup no matter which team it is. Against young hungry teams the Cavs are worn out in the fourth.

  4. Bingo Flatball. Lue is a “LUE-SER” ! Yep, Cavs won, BUT…. A STRUGGLE just to watch.
    A couple of brief flashes of TT doing well but mostly ooops I missed the pass, oops I dropped the ball,
    OOOPS, I thought he was your guy, oops I ELBOWED HIM IN THE HEAD,,,,
    Lue still plays him ? and continues to plays him,,,, O did I mention Lue continues to play Him (& JR too)
    ????????????????? Where are Cedi, & Frye ???
    As hard as this is to watch it all dematerialize right before your eyes, I would trade LUE if I could even before TT/JR for causing it all to happen. AND THEN IN THE POSTGAME INTERVIEW….. DUH-“I DON”T KNOW” DUH “I don’t remember”….. Dense.
    Can you actually feel like you can call it A WIN, when you let the team WITH THE ABSOLUTE WORST RECORD IN THE NBA COME BACK ON YOU FROM A 23 POINT LEAD only to eek out a single point at the end?????
    I know it counts but it sure doesn’t give a any kind of warm fuzzy encouragement about the rest of the games ahead !

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