Still too soon to worry about Cavs, unless you're talkin' D
Unless you're talking about defense and energy, it's too soon to worry about the Cavs, writes Sam Amico
By SAM AMICO FS Ohio
Random opinions (and potentially a few facts) following the
Cavaliers' 94-79 loss to the 76ers on Friday:
• Before we even start, I should tell you my three main points. That way you can decide if it's worth your time. They are: 1. I don't think Mike Brown is an issue; 2. I don't think the offense is an issue; 3. I don't think the
Cavs' 2-4 start is an issue.
• Let me start with point No. 3, because if you're reading this, you're a fan. And fans love to wig out, man. But the Cavs have played six games. If you're freaking out now, you could suffer a stroke by December. So do something to calm yourself. Drink some herbal tea, watch a funny movie or maybe get a cat.
• The point is, this is a long, long season. I've always felt the first 10 or so games of the regular season are really just an extension of the preseason. Oh, I know: "Every game counts." That's especially true for a team like the Cavs, who are hoping to beat out a bunch of other teams for a playoff berth. But guess what? Friday certainly won't be the last time the Cavs lose a game everyone thinks they should win (including, perhaps, the opposing team).
• I've written this before, and I'll do it until you get the idea: The Cavs have played two games at home. They won both. They've played four games on the road. You know the outcome. The good news is they have 39 more to go at home (including tonight's rematch vs. the Sixers). The better is they have two less than that remaining on the road.
• Now, they won't win every home game. Nor will they lose every road game. At least, I'm fairly confident of that second part. Kinda, sorta.
• But forget all that for now. I'm not going to keep forecasting what their record might be. The bottom line is we're gonna be doing this until mid-April (and possibly beyond). That's more than five months from now. The NCAA tournament will have started and crowned a new national champion before the Cavs' regular-season concludes.
• Something else to consider: During Brown's first stint in Cleveland (2005-10), the Cavs never raced out of the gate. In those five years, the Cavs started 3-2, 3-2, 2-3, 3-2 and 3-2, respectively. Hardly eye-opening starts. Yet the last two teams won more than 60 games apiece.
• OK, on to the offense. Yes, it can be hideous at times. Yes, the Cavs settle for too many long jumpers. Yes, they look disjointed and unorganized on that part of the floor. Well, here's a newsflash: Offense ain't the problem. A lot of experts are saying it is. I'm not even close to convinced.
• When the Cavs led 28-14 at the end of the first quarter, it was because of their defense. They stayed in front of their man. They picked off passes. They pulled down rebounds. They were aggressive near the rim. Had they continued to do those things, they could've racked up 112 points -- and held the Sixers to 56 (14 points multiplied by four quarters).
• Now, that was an exaggeration to make a point. But you can see where I'm going with this. The Cavs lost because they quit defending and hustling. Were they tired? I doubt it. Did they become overconfident? Quite possibly. Is this a trend with this group? Sure seems like it.
• The Cavs have a bunch of new faces, but their nucleus is pretty much the same. Starters
Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and
Anderson Varejao all started last season. So did Alonzo Gee, now coming off the bench (behind Earl Clark). C.J. Miles, perhaps the Cavs' best player so far, was also a regular part of the rotation.
• That's six of your top 10 guys, with Clark, Andrew Bynum, Anthony Bennett and Jarrett Jack the key newcomers. Throw in Tyler Zeller, and it's seven of your top 11 who played a lot last year.
• I mention all that because the Cavs blew big leads and lost to what may have been considered "inferior" opponents too often last season. They've already lost to three teams (Charlotte, Milwaukee and Philadelphia) who are expected to finish worse than them this year.
• That, to me, screams of a lack of effort from similar people. And effort is exerted on defense. That's where it takes real focus, genuine determination. Offense is fun. Don't think so? Ask yourself which part of the game is more enjoyable when you play basketball. Now ask yourself how many times you've thought, "Man, I wish I would've just tried harder on offense."
• Back to my point. Mike Brown has a totally different strategy than former coach Byron Scott. Yet the same type of stuff keeps happening. That's on the players. And they need to figure out why. Actually, I'll just tell them: It's your defense, fellas.
• It's also the lack of energy and hustle on every possession in every facet of the game. As Miles indicated to reporters afterward, the Cavs are good, but they're not good enough to just lollygag for parts of the night and still expect to win.
• Also, the way I see it, the fact Irving isn't scoring as much is the result of a shooting slump -- not the result of the offense. Those spinning layups off the glass in traffic that almost always go in? They've been spinning the wrong way so far.
• Plus, Irving is a career 86 percent free-throw shooter. This year, he's at just less than 70 percent (16-23, .696). But yes, I'm sure someone will still blame Brown's offense for the fact Kyrie is struggling at the line.
• Finally, I will say this much: The Cavs need to blow somebody out of the gym. It looked like they were about to do it to the Timberwolves earlier this week -- but they ended up barely hanging on. It looked like they might do it to the Sixers, too. We all know what happened there.
• More important than that, of course, is for the Cavs to "protect the home court." If they're not going to beat mediocre teams like the Sixers on the road, by golly, they'd better do it at home. It's never too early to start that trend, either. As for everything else? Too soon to worry about. Sorry, but I can't think any other way right now. Not when we're a mere two weeks into a marathon of season.