Cavs seeing their season slipping away
Don’t believe us? Just ask Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown or anyone affiliated with the team.
When the Cavs were able to turn an immature, injured and malcontented Andrew Bynum into the talented Luol Deng on Jan. 7, the deal left many fans believing that the Cavs, while maybe not turning the corner on the season, were at least ready to occupy a better place in the NBA landscape.
The believe was strengthened when the Cavs went a respectable 3-2 on Deng’s first road trip with the team and returned home with a renewed sense that the playoffs were a possibility in the weak Eastern Conference.
Then the past eight days happened.
The Cavs completed a disappointing homestand with just one win in five tries (including a six-point quarter against Phoenix), leaving Brown to question the team’s toughness
“Our competitive spirit is non-existent,” Brown said after Tuesday’s loss to New Orleans. “We’ve talked about this all year. We’ve got to compete for 48 minutes or close to it. We didn’t do it.”
Even the players are wondering just what the heck is going on.
“We’ve got to figure this out, and we’ve got to figure it out quick,” Tristan Thompson said after the loss to Phoenix. “We can’t have games like that, especially at home. It’s embarrassing to us, to the fans and the organization to come out like that. We have to take it personal. If we don’t, we’ll have more situations like this.”
“We’ve got guys who are going to have a great career in the NBA that can play, but we have to get together and do it as a team,” Deng said after the loss to Chicago. “A lot of times out there, especially tonight, there’s a lot of individual effort and we have to change that mindset to doing it together.”
Things have gotten so bad the General Manager Chris Grant made his once-every-four-years appearance (that was not trade related) before the media on Wednesday to address the situation.
“We’re all accountable for it, including myself,” Grant said. “It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing. The fans deserve better. The lack of effort is just not acceptable. It’s not who we are or who we want to be.”
Grant brings up an interesting point with his comment about how “it’s not who we are” because it is hard to know right now just what this Cavs team is.
Brown has a reputation for being a defensive coach, but the Cavs are in the bottom half of the league in points allowed, opponents’ field goal percentage, and right in the middle of opponents’ three-point percentage. Not bad, but certainly not good enough to identify this as a defensive team.
Offensively, the Cavs are 24th in scoring, next-to-last in field goal percentage, are middle-of-the-pack in three-point shooting percentage, 22nd in free-throw percentage and 29th in points per shot. It seems hard to believe that the Cavs would be that bad on offense with players like Kyrie Irving, Deng and Dion Waiters on the team, but there you have it.
The Cavs are currently in a four-year stretch of bad basketball, the likes of which we haven’t seen in Cleveland since the Ted Stepien days.
From 1980 through 1984, the Cavs only won at a .287 clip while going through six head coaches. The current Cavs are playing .291 basketball since the start of the 2010-11 season, but mercifully are just on their second head coach.
It made sense that those Stepien teams were so bad, though, as they were led by poor coaches, had an incompetent front office and a roster that included such players as Mike Bratz, Chad Kinch and Jeff Cook.
It’s harder to understand why the current Cavs team is struggling so much, though, as they have allegedly the best owner in town, a strong front office and a roster that includes four players taken in the Top 4 of the NBA Draft – including two No. 1 overall selections.
It’s even more difficult to see the Cavs being able to do anything significant to turn the season around. They already made their big move with the Deng trade; any additional moves would most likely be selling off players or, at best, moving pieces of equal value that wouldn’t really give the team a push.
Because they play in the East, the Cavs are going to be in the playoff race, as it were, for the rest of the season. We’ve seen Cavs teams in the past rally from a bad start to make a surprising playoff push. If that is going to happen this year, it will come about because something finally clicks with the players currently on the roster. Deng has only been with the team 10 games and is still finding his role, some of the young players may continue (start?) to mature their games, and Tuesday night’s effort by rookie Anthony Bennett may be the start of his emergence as a member of the rotation. (Hey, it’s possible!)
But if things don’t change between now and the end of the season, Grant and Brown may face the kind of accountability that didn’t seem possible when the season started just a few months ago.
(Photo courtesy of The Plain Dealer)