Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller.
Cleveland Cavaliers fans should be repeating those four names over and over again — especially after losses like the 113-93 hammer job delivered Sunday by the Los Angeles Lakers.
That’s because Irving, Thompson, Waiters and Zeller are the future. They’re the second- and first-year guys whom the Cavs are counting on heavily today — and likely will still be counting on in two years.
Everyone else on the current roster? Well, it’s hard to say.
I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to the Cavs hanging onto starting small forward Alonzo Gee. As I’ve mentioned before, Gee is officially in his fourth NBA season, but when you consider actual NBA experience, it’s more like his second.
But back to Irving, Thompson, Waiters and Zeller.
They combined for 46 (or one less than half) of the Cavs’ points Sunday. They combined for 16 of the Cavs’ 39 rebounds. They passed for 11 of the team’s 24 assists.
Basically, those guys are half the team. Clearly, Irving (15 points, seven assists) is the greatest of the sum of those parts.
But the other three count for a lot, too.
At least, they do when you’re talking about where this team is headed. And, honestly, I don’t see how anyone can get too stressed when you look at it that way.
The Cavs (9-30) just don’t have the experience to win now. So let’s keep things in perspective.
Let’s consider the ultra-talented Lakers entered the game as the NBA’s only team winless in January, and that coach Mike D’Antoni said beforehand they planned to use Sunday as a day for atonement.
The Lakers were home, two of their three best players (Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash) are in their 30s and the Cavs beat the Lakers at The Q last month. So even being in this game would have been a basketball miracle for the Cavs.
And for the for the most part, they weren’t in it.
The Cavs never led, and although they cut the deficit to nine points in the second quarter, it was back to 14 before you could spell K-O-B-E.
Given the circumstances, is that really such a huge surprise?
People talk about how the Cavs need to improve in the areas of interior defense, overall ball movement, and finding a consistent second scoring option behind Irving.
Yeah, well, no kidding. What do you think this season is about?
It’s a trial run, a chance to allow the four youngest guns to develop their games, to see if anyone around them is worth keeping in the long run.
You don’t make the playoffs (or come anywhere close) when you go through the year with that type of philosophy.
Now, I’m not trying to make excuses here. It’s clear the Cavs have a plan. What’s not clear is the execution of it.
But no one ought to hide their head in the mud if the Cavs fail to slay a team as talented and suddenly desperate as the Lakers. No one should be all panicky if the Cavs get blown out once in a while. No one should cry to the heavens and demand answers on why the Cavs keep blowing fourth-quarter leads.
Instead, the Cavs and their fans merely need to stay the course, forge ahead with their strategy for building the team.
It’s not gonna be painless, kids. But it is the only option. It is also the best option.
The Cavs have a long way to go, and Sunday was just the latest example of that. They’re bad right now.
But they have four good starting points in Irving, Thompson, Waiters and Zeller.
Watching them grow needs to be the focus right now. Anything beyond that (trades, the draft, free agency) is just gravy.