Dribbles: Only change can save Cavs now

LeBron James and the Cavaliers were stunned by the Pacers in Game 1 of their first-round series Sunday.

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ shameful 148-124 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday afternoon.

1. A lot can be said and written and analyzed about the basketball disaster the Cavs are today. But no matter how you spin it, the bottom line is it just doesn’t make much sense.

2. This is a team with LeBron James, Kevin Love (when not sick) and a recovering and seemingly an improving Isaiah Thomas. This also a team with loads of veterans. Yet offensively, the Cavs aren’t nearly as sharp as you would expect.

4. And I write that after the Cavs scored 124 points and shot 52 percent from the field.

5. Still, the Cavs don’t really put a ton of pressure on opposing defenses. Lately, they don’t really move the ball all that well. They settle for too many 3-pointers. They throw lazy passes and spend a lot of time resorting to one-on-one.

6. They often look slow, out of sync and occasionally downright befuddled. And that’s just the offense.

7. Defensively, well that’s a whole different nightmare. The Cavs like to pretend it’s all about effort. It’s true that the issues sometimes result from a lack of determination. Teams at this level just don’t give up 148 points at home if they care.

8. Last time the Cavs gave up 148? How about Jan. 2, 1972 against the Philadelphia 76ers. That was their second season as a franchise. That team finished 23-59, and this team resembles a 20-something-win team today.

9. Anyway, say what you will be effort — this also has lots to do with personnel. Nobody on this roster is a true protector of the paint. Nobody can lock anyone down on the perimeter. Instead, the Cavs allow opposing guards to drive past them with the greatest of ease. After that happens, wide-open 3-pointers or dunks and layups result.

10. Translation: Good defense starts out top, and that is especially imperative when you have no one to defend at the hoop.

11. As for this game, well, it truly was nothing more than 48 minutes of garbage time. Thunder stars Paul George (36 points), Carmelo Anthony (29 points) and Russell Westbrook (23 points, a whopping 20 assists) did whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. The Cavs showed zero resistance — and that’s been a huge reason for the recent collapse.

12. Meanwhile, Thomas finished with 24 points and LeBron managed an uninspiring 18 — meaning he is still seven shy of joining the 30,000 club that everyone was talking about before the game.

13. Love, of course, was sick and managed to play just three minutes before departing for good. Perhaps he knew what was coming.

14. Anyway, back to the defense. When asked whether it’s effort of personnel, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue sort of hinted it’s more about personnel — though he didn’t give a firm response. “I think it’s tough for us one-on-one (to defend),” he said.

15. Lue added, “Look at the final score — you score 124 and still lose by 24, that’s tough to swallow.”

16. Given all that, is Lue considering lineup changes? “Not yet,” he said. ‘We gotta look at the film tomorrow.”

17. So it all can only mean that general manager Koby Altman and his team must rebuild around James. Other than LeBron, no one should be considered untouchable — and apparently, no one is.

18. As you’ve surely read by now, the Cavs are exploring a variety of deals. One apparently involves the Los Angeles Clippers and big center DeAndre Jordan (more details here). Another the Sacramento Kings and guard George Hill (more details here).

19. Expect to hear and read many more names linked to the Cavs (27-18) before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, as they very clearly need all the help they can get.

20. This isn’t a team that should be OK with the fact it’s only January. This isn’t a team that should think it can just flip on a switch and get back to The Finals. Right now, it is not that kind of team, and Saturday’s loss was just another disheartening example.

12 Comments on "Dribbles: Only change can save Cavs now"

  1. I think Cavs are trying to play players who they want to trade. Its not really working but only explanation I see. I would start Cedi at the point ( he played there most of his career) and Thompson. Thomas and JR to second unit. How did Cedi not get in until garbage time? Sam, do you know Cavs record with Calderon starting vs not?

    • Don McCormack Don McCormack | January 20, 2018 at 7:59 pm |

      Hey, Lil Joe.. I’m not Sam, but I do have the numbers you requested: When Calderon starts this season, the Cavaliers are 17-7. When he doesn’t start (or even play), the Cavaliers are 10-11…. thanks for reading!

  2. They can either hit the panic button and blow up this roster or wait it out like last year, play horrible for 2.5 months, and turn it on for the playoffs. I hope they blow up the roster, seriously. Last season was horrible and now they are doing the exact same thing, for what? The Brooklyn pick saving the franchise next season? Go get Kemba Walker and company, dump the culprits, and inject some life into this dying franchise!

  3. What’s the record when LeBron plays the entire first quarter. Tell me how does Cedi not get in a game when you give up 140 points. He plays defense. No KLove and the starting shooting guard takes 11 shots. One embarrassing loss after another without any adjustment from the coach. A team gives up 148 points at home and the coach says he has to look at the horror show again to make a decision. These past few games Lue doesnt look like a competent head coach. Just too many head-scratching decisions

  4. People stop talking about Cedi like he would make a difference. He has made ONE jump shot in the last 3 or 4 games he’s played in!!! He is an offensive disaster and you want to put him in a line-up with JR and Crowder and TT????

    • Cavs problem is on the defense. Some lack of effort, some lack of energy. An old team need some young kids to play hard for 10-15 mins per game so that the starters/vets can play fewer mins and have more energy for the fourth quarter. This is the oldest team in the league bringing more old players wont solve that problem. Young players are going to be disaster if they dont get playing time

  5. Don’t trade the Brooklyn pick. Don’t go all in on aging vets. Of course explore trades for PG, Boogey….

    Trade IT for Kemba now. Explore getting rid of TT, JR, and Shump. Look into see what it would cost for Bazemore, Noel, Bradley, and other young good aggressive defenders that are not anemic offensively.

    Set it up for next year with younger more athletic and very good Defenders with good hard-nosed attitudes. In the offseason, Loook into seeing what you can get for Kevin Love. Try again for Paul George and Boogie cousins in free agency. Pray that Brooklyn sucks and draft a good young stud

    and pray and beg and cross your fingers that LeBron gives it at least another year in Cleveland.

  6. Aurora Dizon | January 21, 2018 at 2:08 am |

    You want Lebron to control you again? He get controlled now by other teams.

  7. I agree. Make trades by getting rid of these awful salaries – TT/JR/Shump etc. But don’t trade for a player or two to get you to the promise land this year. Try to get players like Kemba/MKG/NanceJR/Portis that will help us moving forward. I don’t even care if we trade the Bkn pick. We had a lot of good draft picks last time he left including a couple of 1’s and it did not get us anywhere. Free agents are not coming to CLE. Just get younger & get rid of the crap on this team now.

  8. Martin Reese | January 21, 2018 at 11:43 am |

    I watched Houston beat Golden State. I noted that Capella while not a superstar defended the middle and rebounded. Chris Paul controlled tempo and could hold his own against the likes of Durant on switches. And they hit threes and they all defended even with Harden who we all know is a poor defender. Not Ariza was not there and Gordon had a horrendous shooting night. For the Cavs to get even close to that you would have to get DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams and George Hill. Cavs should look to move Crowder too. Paul George ate him up. He hasn’t really stopped anyone and that is what we expected him to do. Only untouchable is LeBron.

  9. Martin Reese | January 21, 2018 at 11:46 am |

    Cavs have a choice. Go down with the ship, LeBron leaves and rebuild or make wholesale changes now. They have to be careful to make changes that help in the short term and the long term. We have not even seen Zizic. Guess he is that far away. Key disappointment is still Crowder. Seems like he is a system guy.

  10. I went on a long vacation in Mexico, and the Cavs dug a hole for themselves. I hope, now that I am back, things will improve for the Cavs! That’s the only thing that can save this season, it seems.

    Winning is all that matters. When Lue ‘coached’ the Cavs to a championship, he was a brilliant coach! Now, he is the third biggest blunder by LeBron, after JR and TT, respectively. Even the decision to bring in Kevin Love (when the Cavs could bring in almost ANYone to play alongside LeBron) doesn’t seem so good now.

    So, Sam, who are we getting in trades? I have been hearing DeAndre, George Hill, Lue Williams, …… I wish I could also hear another name – Pop. We need a coach who can coach LeBron.

    All said and done, the Cavs need a leader in coaching/management. Both Altman and Lue are clueless when things go South.

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