CLEVELAND — These are the darkest days for the Cavaliers.
About the only thing worse than losing to Detroit at home, which the Cavs did by a 111-104 count Wednesday, is losing to Sacramento and Minnesota at home. The Cavs did that, too.
So it’d be easy to sit here and rip the Cavs. They probably deserve it. Not just for this loss, but for their entire body of disappointing work … again.
Losing to the Pistons at home is bad. Blowing a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter at Indiana the previous night is worse.
It can safely be said the Cavs (24-54) are a miserable mess … again.
The Cavs have been maddening, at times downright unlikeable. And they’ve been all of it with or without Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters, or anyone else expected to lead this team through its so-called process.
Half the time, of course, this hardly seems like a process that will actually lead to anything but an abundance of Ping Pong balls in the draft lottery.
Half the time, you can’t help but wonder if the Cavs are desperately trying to sell the fans something that’s not there. After all, anyone can say they’re going to be good six years from now.
And half the time, you probably want to scream in the direction of owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Chris Grant. You probably want to say, “Enough is enough! Just win already!”
All of that would make sense.
With the way the Cavs have collapsed lately, they certainly leave themselves open to fan outrage and demands for answers. They’re certainly on the crude end of both.
So naturally, here is where I give the Cavs credit for not listening. Oh, they hear you and respect your opinions. They know their basketball clock is about to expire. They have to be in the playoff conversation at this time next year. Period.
But as much as it may seem like it, as much sense as it would make, I’m here to tell you not to blow up everything. Not yet. It’s much too soon.
Despite some backlash from media and fans, the Cavs must stay the course. They have a plan in place. They have to see it through.
And yes, that plan includes dark days like these.
Everyone has to go through them. You know the old saying about not reaching the top until you’ve hit rock bottom?
Well, with three straight last-place finishes in the Central Division (a franchise first), the Cavs have pretty much bottomed out.
Respecting the blueprint
The Cavs are awful defensively, perhaps the worst in that department this league has seen in quite some time.
They do the exact opposite of what anyone involved with pro sports would consider closing the game.
They’re young, disjointed, and downright bad.
You know it, I know it and yes, they know it. It cannot be argued.
What can be debated is where the Cavs go from here.
Do they fire coach Byron Scott? Do they work out some sort of trade that erases their available salary-cap space and depletes them of assets? Do they keep playing the lottery thinking that, hey, they’re bound to strike gold sometime in the next decade?
I say no, no and double no.
I say the Cavs stick to what they set out to do. I say they don’t panic, they don’t allow themselves to be swayed by media and fans, they don’t gut the team.
Why? Because they’re slowly doing what they intended.
Land an All-Star caliber point guard in a league that’s pretty much dominated by the position? Check that off the list, because the Cavs have Irving.
Find a capable big to team with said point guard? Again, it appears the Cavs have met that strategy with the emergence of power forward Tristan Thompson.
Obtain a shooting guard who can really fill it up? I give you rookie Dion Waiters.
Today, those guys aren’t working well together. If they do, it’s only for short stretches. Usually, it’s not even for an entire game.
But that really is beside the point.
No one can expect a team loaded with starters in their first or second seasons to light up the league. No one can expect a bench whose longest-tenured player arrived before the season to be the NBA’s most cohesive unit.
No can expect Scott to cook a gourmet meal when all he has to work with are some jelly beans, some wheat bread, a steak knife and no oven.
Actually, plenty of people expect that. But it’s not going to happen. Especially not now, when the Cavs are playing out the string with one eye on the off-season.
That’s not a criticism. That’s human nature. That’s not what Gilbert, Grant or Scott want, but guess what? It’s totally out of their control.
The Cavs have the building blocks. They have the right idea. They have the plan.
Now all they need to do is keep on keepin’ on. It sounds ludicrous, I know. No one wants to watch this.
But in order for this to end, the Cavs can’t afford to hit the reset button. That will get them nowhere but more of the same.
Their next step has to come quickly, yes. But you don’t go forward by moving back. Just ask the Cleveland Browns.
So the priority for the Cavs this offseason has to be drowning out the noise — and marching on with what they originally set out to do.
That may be the most difficult move, but even in times like these, it’s the only one that makes sense. It’s the only real chance they have.