Dribbles: Cavs’ struggles coincide with LeBron’s dip

LeBron James and the Cavaliers had an ugly January to forget.

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ unsightly 91-89 win over the visiting Miami Heat on Wednesday.

1. LeBron James had a January to forget and not surprisingly, so did the Cavaliers.

2. For the month, James’ numbers were down in nearly every category that matters. His scoring dropped by a whopping four points — from 27.5 in December to 23.5 in January. He averaged nearly 30 points per game (29.6) in November.

3. He still shot 51 percent from the floor in January, which is still plenty good. But in the 36 games before January, he was hitting at a 56-percent clip.

4. This doesn’t take into account his 8-of-21 performance Wednesday — when he went 1-of-6 on 3-pointers.

5. James started the season hot on threes, making 43 percent in November and 36 percent in December. In January, it was 23 percent.

6. Or how about free throws? James connected on 81 percent in November; and just 67 percent in January. He went 7-of-11 from the line in a close game Wednesday.

7. There’s more. LeBron’s rebounding numbers dipped from 8.7 per game in November to 8.2 in December to 7.0 in January. He averaged a remarkable 10.3 assists in November … but nearly three per game less (7.5) this past month.

8. Now, in LeBron’s defense, he sets the bar awfully high and a lot of players would kill for his January stats. But the Cavs were a disastrous 6-8 for the month, and you can’t help but wonder if their 33-year-old superstar is feeling worn out.

9. James’ answers were a bit sharper than usual after the game. He repeatedly said, “I do me. I can’t really remember the question that lead to it. It was just obvious LeBron was irritated.

10. He also more or less brushed off a question that asked if he’s happy if January is behind him — implying that he only looks ahead and doesn’t really worry about the past.

11. LeBron has played a lot of basketball. He’s played from October until June each of the past seven seasons, his teams appearing in the Finals seven straight times. While he’s taken off games to rest here and there, he’s almost never missed extended time. He has logged heavy minutes and played in the Olympics.

12. He’s been out there for all 50 games this season and is averaging 37.0 minutes — only slightly down from the 37.8 he logged last year.

13. Is all of this reason to worry? Probably not yet. But suddenly, February has become a critical month for both LeBron and the Cavs.

14. That’s especially the case when you consider Kevin Love is unofficially expected to miss six-to-eight weeks with a broken left hand. He could be sidelined for not just February, but all of March, too. LeBron will have to carry an even bigger load.

15. Plus, Isaiah Thomas has been up and mostly down, as January was his first month of the season, his first month as a member of the Cavaliers. While James scored 24 points and grabbed 11 boards Wednesday, Thomas had 13 points on a miserable 2-of-15 shooting.

16. Thomas on January: “It was definitely my preseason. … My legs are not there and it’s obvious.”

17. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue gave Thomas a pass. “He’s our starter, what else are we going to do?” Lue said. “He’s our starting point guard. I told him there’s going to be times like this. The only way he can shoot the basketball better, get his timing better, is by playing. I feel comfortable with Isaiah on the court once he gets himself going, gets his legs. It’s just going to take some time.”

17. As for the team overall, Dwyane Wade¬†offered an honest answer. “I’m happy January is over,” he said. “Move on to February, which hopefully is a better month. In this league, you have to have a short memory.”

18. Of course, all of this came after a win, but it was an ugly win, at home, against a team that just couldn’t shoot straight. The Heat finished a miserable 3-of-28 (or 11 percent) on threes.

19. For more on the actual game, check out my other story: Cavaliers’ victory dominated by lowlights.

20. Finally, February is also the month of the NBA trade deadline. That’s Feb. 8, or a week from Thursday, to be exact. They will also explore the buyout market both before and after that day.

21. Phoenix Suns center Greg Monroe agreed to a contract buyout Wednesday, and the Cavs will certainly consider Monroe once he clears waivers. If nothing else, they could try to sign him simply to keep the Boston Celtics from doing so.

22. Other than that, Cavs general manager Koby Altman and his staff will work the phones and look for a deal. It’s hard to envision them making one that will make a difference — but you never know. One thing is certain, and it became clearer than ever in January. The Cavs’ star player could use some help and probably a bit of a rest, too.

3 Comments on "Dribbles: Cavs’ struggles coincide with LeBron’s dip"

  1. I’m not really impressed with Altman at this point. The Cavs need more than a center like Monroe. However that’s better than the nothing we have now. This team is extremely medium sized and extremely small at the pg. Need Deandre Jordan yesterday and a SG that can shoot.

    I’ve asked this before and I’m assuming b/c it’s so beyond silly that no one has replied but I’ll try again. What if the Cavaliers asked. Just asked LeBron behind closed doors (maybe they already have) if he wants to be traded? The Cavs could get quite a haul at this point and a huge jump on a rebuild. What with two first rounders already they could or should get some quality players out of what looks like a very good draft.

    Either that or they have to go all out now as this team is incapable of competing with the upper teams of the east. Not just the Celtics, but the Raptors and even the Pacers, Bucks and a dark horse Heat could easily squeeze them in the 1st round.

    Just an IMHO and I’m not trying to react to get a like on facebook.

  2. I was 100% against the Boston trade from the beginning. Anyone who thinks that Thomas or Crowder had any value at all are complete morons. Boston dumped their unwanted garbage on us and attached a pick to it. Cavs should have never accepted that deal as it was… and they should’ve demanded that Boston take Tristan Thompson with Iriving, in exchange for Horford plus either Brown or Tatum…. I wanted no part of Thomas or Crowder in that deal. The worst part is that our team plays so much better without Thomas. We should’ve held onto Irivng and made him sit out until the trade deadline. We could deal him this week and take the best offer…. but instead we are forced to basicallt flip everything we received in that awful deal, in hopes that the nets pick will at least get us a player who doesnt hurt our team in return. In addition, now that we learned the hard way that Thomas and Crowder do not fit in here, we are also forced to try and include them in that same deal. Holding onto Irving and waiting for the deadline would have been so much easier. Altman had no business accepting that Boston trade. Now he basically has 1 week left to try and right this horrible f##kup. Thanks, Koby! The sad part is that we, the fans, all knew that Thomas and Crowder were garbage. So why couldn’t he see it?

    • Ben, quite a bit of what you say has merit. I, too, would have preferred another avenue, with a better deal out west possibly. After last nights performance(out west) in Portland, some deal that would have included Lillard/McCollum would have for certain delighted–50 Pts in 3 quarters ! Wow.
      What I believe you may have not given enough consideration is Crowder & Thomas garbage thing.
      For sure as of now, there’s no Kyrie there in that trade. But the whole way Thomas has been brought in has NOT been good for the team nor for HIM. It is clear the term “His Legs” are not 100% is being used a lot. Find a different way to get his LEGS, Then let him play.
      COACHING IS THE PROBLEM !
      There has apparently been the same approach used for Thomas as there has been for the TEAM AS A WHOLE–PROBLEM. COACHING: NO GAME PLAN REALLY, just let’s make it up as we go along & see how Lebron saves us.(LUE) This SAME mentality has also been the problem for CROWDER. He seems LOST because he IS. He came from a team that actually has a Coach that game plans and PRACTICES, has set plays where you are to DO certain functions at certain times. Here, Lue has generality scheme plans that apparently says in vague terms what he hopes will happen, NOT SPECIFIC ENOUGH!
      On top of that, the Team does not practice, (maybe they do a little now-too little too late) So Crowder has NOT until now had real opportunity to know what his role actually IS. Should I stand over here & watch Lebron dribble out the clock, drive, kickout –what about ball movement??? Are Thomas & Crowder to blame here, some ! But Lack of GOOD COACHING IS A BIG PART OF THE PROBLEM. You say that they don’t fit here, Possibly, but how do we really know if they haven’t been given PROPER DIRECTION. This whole team has NOT been given PROPER DIRECTION.
      Post game comments indicate Lue “DOESN’T KNOW” why they lost…. “ahh, I don’t know” “We’ve just got to play better”, We don’t need to practice, We don’t need to change the lineup, We just need to play better” ????
      I mean, almost 2 MONTHS to figure out Frye needs to be in the lineup ? From a Winning streak, You completely blow up the bench team chemistry & can’t see why & stubborn enough not to go back to it for 2 months, you come out flat in the 3rd quarter, & you have to be outscored 12-2 by DETROIT second string before you call a timeout ?? Koby isn’t the ONLY ONE that’s blind here. LUE-ser.

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