Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Cavs flirting with absurdly historic lows

OK, we admit it, we talked ourselves into the Cavs not being completely and utterly awful this season and, clearly, we were wrong.

We knew the team would struggle post-LeBron, but we didn’t know they could potentially become not only one of the worst teams in franchise history, but in NBA history as well:

  • Tuesday’s lost to Boston was the Cavs 22nd consecutive on the road, breaking the team record of 21.
  • The Cavs have also lost 18 consecutive overall and 28 of their last 29 games.
  • The Cavs can tie the franchise record for consecutive defeats in a season if they lose to Denver on Friday. If they can’t get past the Nuggets, the record will certainly be broken Sunday against Orlando.
  • The Cavs are a threat to break their franchise record for longest losing streak – 24 games – that was sent over the course of the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons.

But wait, it gets worse.

According to Sports Illustrated, the Cavs could finish the season last in both offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) and defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions). The Cavs are currently last on the offensive side, and next-to-last on the defensive side.

If the Cavs pull it off, they would join the 1986-87 Clippers and 1992-93 Mavericks as the only teams to hit that dubious achievement since the 1979-80 season (the start of the 3-point era).

In the process the Cavs have become a team that opponents worry about – because they don’t want to be the team that loses to the Cavs. Plus there are plenty of teams looking for payback for the beatings the Cavs put on them the past few years.

While the current team is playing as poorly as the 1981-82 squad that finished 15-67, they are no where near as dysfunctional. That Cavs team went through four coaches – Don Delaney (4-11), Bob Kloppenburg (0-3), Chuck Daly (9-32) and Bill Musselman (2-21) – was plagued by in-fighting and was owned by the infamous Ted Stepien.

Say what you will about Dan Gilbert and his fondness for Comic Sans, but he’s no Stepien (although Gilbert can’t be happy with the latest news from Forbes, which said the team’s value has dropped 26 percent since LeBron left). And we can only imagine what Stepien would have been like with access to a Twitter account.

In Cavs: From Fitch to Fratello, authors Joe Menzer and Burt Graeff detail some of the shenanigans from that lost season:

  • The Cavs traded both Mike Mitchell (an All Star from the previous season) to San Antonio and Bill Laimbeer to Detroit
  • Stepien tried to fire Daly while Stepien was in the midst of judging a lingerie show at a downtown club
  • Musselman wouldn’t use the office phones for fear of being overhead and spied on people during road trips
  • Stepien met with officials in Toronto and actually unveiled a logo for the Toronto Towers – the name the Cavs would take when he relocated them to Toronto

So while things are bad now, older Cavs fans now it could be far, far worse. That’s the one thing about Cleveland sports: when things go bad you can always find a team from the past that was worse.

As frustrating as the Cavs currently are, it’s actually better that they are horrible than a middle-of-the-road team. This team needs to take a beating for a couple of years and rebuild through the draft. With a little bit of luck, this down cycle will not last forever.

Don’t forget, it was only six years after that ’81-’82 season before the rebuilt Cavs were back as legitimate playoff contenders.

For more on the ’81-’82 Cavs team, check out Chris Tomasson’s piece at AOL Fanhouse: Will These Cavs Sink as Low as Old Cavs?

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