Random dribbles on the Cavaliers, who have lost two straight on their Western swing and are defending as poorly as ever.
1. It’s easy to wonder if the Cavs will ever get the defense straightened out. Coach Tyronn Lue and his staff know where the problems are — and have been unable to fix them. So either the plan is flawed or every player who has played for Lue this season just happens to be a lousy defender.
2. FYI: I’m leaning toward the plan being flawed.
3. It’s always amazed me that modern-day coaching staffs have like 18 assistants and can’t figure out a way to get a really good team to play great. Sometimes, the Cavs can’t even play really good. Sometimes, they’re bad. Sometimes, it makes you wonder if this team has just taken on the laid-back “the regular season doesn’t matter” approach of the coach and frankly, their star player.
4. But the Cavs are gonna “regular season doesn’t matter” themselves right out of homecourt advantage in the first round.
5. It’s not all Lue’s fault. Some of it is on the players. Some of it is on LeBron James — at least defensively. When one of his teammates gets beat, James often refuses to slide over to help. In his defense, he will do it in the playoffs. But it’s obvious he won’t get too involved defensively until then.
6. That said, James is so remarkable on offense that you can’t afford to take him out or ask him to change. He will really get after on D on certain possessions. And again, he’s always locked in during the postseason. But it can be frustrating to watch if you’re a Cavs fan.
7. And don’t even get me started on J.R. Smith. I’ve given up. Lue is going to start Smith and play him. End of discussion.
8. Anyway, back to the defense. The Cavs get killed on the basic pick-and-roll. It happens against everyone from the mighty Warriors to the lowly Nets. It starts with Lue and his staff. If they have a flaw, it’s moving on from stuff that isn’t getting the job done (such as Smith). Why? I honestly have no clue.
9. Yes, I understand the Cavs are without some key pieces — Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and now Rodney Hood and Cedi Osman, too. And I don’t care. Because no matter who has been in uniform, the issues have been the same.
10. Granted, Love is clearly missed on offense after the trades. The Cavs need him more than ever. He will be a true second scorer behind James. Most of the other new guys are streaky. They can score, but can’t be counted on to be a reliable second option. Once Love returns from his broken hand, he will be No. 2 in the offense, period. It’s a role he should fill admirably.
11. Still, you’re getting nothing from Smith, and you’re getting nothing from him way too often. There are about five options at shooting guard — Smith, Hood, Jordan Clarkson, Kyle Korver and Osman (when healthy). Of those five, who do you think should be on the floor the least?
12. As I wrote the other day, the Cavs also need to sign a big man. It doesn’t have to be a franchise-altering move, and that’s good, because none are out there. But signing an Andrew Bogut or a Roy Hibbert on a trial basis sure can’t hurt. Or heck, let’s see more of what Ante Zizic can do, even when Thompson returns.
13. Zizic is probably more skilled than Thompson offensively, though Thompson has more big-game experience and is a better defender. It may not be a bad idea to try Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. on the floor at the same time. Or even Nance Jr. and Zizic, or Thompson and Zizic.
14. The Cavs (38-28) are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the Pacers and a half-game ahead of the Wizards. That makes no sense. This team is better than that. It should be, anyway. If I’m the coach I’m asking why my team is underachieving. Then I’m considering scrapping what hasn’t been working and trying to get it right. Sticking with the same thing over and over has hardly been a solution.