In night of great hype, LeBron and Cavs fall flat
CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ 95-90 season-opening loss (yes, loss) to the visiting New York Knicks:
1. It was one of 82 games. The Cavs deserve time to gel. So let’s not panic. In fact, if you’re a Cavs fan, you don’t even need to be concerned. One game. It was awful. Now let it go.
2. OK, remember that. Now let’s talk about the game.
3. LeBron James stunk. OK, he stunk for LeBron James. He went 5-of-15 shooting (17 points) and committed a whopping EIGHT turnovers. He also got abused by Knicks star Carmelo Anthony (25 points) when it meant the most.
4. And let’s be honest here: The Knicks are terrible. They were playing on the second night of a back-to-back. On Wednesday, they trailed the Chicago Bulls by 35 points, at home. The Knicks are bad and they beat the Cavs. What’s that say?
5. You can’t make too excuses if you’re the Cavs. Except for maybe this: It’s way early. And maybe the Cavs now know they have to do more than just show up. They have to play smart, play together and just stinkin’ relax a little. Everyone looked frantic with the ball.
6. A lot will be made of LeBron’s lousy game. But let’s not overdo it. As my mom texted me after: "Give the guy a break. He just had a baby." Actually his wife had the baby, but you get the idea.
7. More than that, though, I think LeBron just had a bad game on the worst possible night. He hasn’t played a game in 10 days. He couldn’t shoot, he couldn’t pass and every dribble seemed like a chore. He also looked nervous after all the buildup/atmosphere of his Cleveland return. So, there you have it, kids. LeBron is human.
8. I thought both Kevin Love (19 points, game-high 14 rebounds) and especially, Kyrie Irving (22 points, seven assists) were terrific. Both played their buns off and made few mistakes. So two of the Big Three were really good. I never thought it’d be the biggest of those three (LeBron) who was bad.
9. Again, this isn’t intended to pile on LeBron. It’s just sort of working out that way. But a lot of things went wrong here. You can probably point a finger at coach David Blatt, too. His substitution patterns were a bit perplexing — although you can’t blame the man for trying to find some sort of solution/spark. He got none.
10. Love missed a big 3-pointer with a minute left and the Cavs trailing 88-85. That could’ve tied it and shifted the momentum. Instead, the Knicks scored on a floater by J.R. Smith on the next possession, and later on a dagger from Carmelo. That one was a toughie in the corner, right over LeBron.
11. As terrible as the Knicks are under first-year coach Derek Fisher, they still have Anthony and Smith (11 points). Those two can score on anyone, anywhere, anytime — and they sure buried some biggies (and the Cavs) on this night.
12. I also saw and said some things that caught me by surprise. For instance, I saw Anderson Varejao (10 points) get completely out-hustled under the boards a couple times. I also wished Dion Waiters (10 points) would’ve taken a few more shots. And Tristan Thompson, who I’ve been praising all preseason and training camp, was basically invisible with six points and two rebounds.
13. In fact, the Cavs only beat the Knicks by a 35-33 count on the boards. Rebunding should the Cavs’ No. 1 weapon. But only Love did it. Varejao only grabbed four — or one less than Irving, the point guard.
13. Overall, though, the Cavs just looked like a team of mostly new players. And guess what? That’s what they are. At times, they over-passed. At other times, they didn’t pass enough. And they spent a lot of the game standing around seemingly waiting on the other star to take over. Kyrie was about the only one who almost did.
14. That said, the great thing about the NBA is you always have another game. The Cavs’ next one comes Friday (or tonight for some of you) at Chicago. The Bulls are expected to be the No. 1 challenger in the East. If the Cavs can win there, everyone will forget all about this stink job.
15. And don’t let anyone tell you differently — this was indeed a total stink job by the Cavs. It’s mostly on the two guys who they brought in to save the franchise: LeBron and David Blatt. Both looked completely overwhelmed, and not quite up for the huge stage. But guess what? I predict the Cavs are going to be just fine. And I wouldn’t want to be the Bulls facing LeBron after a night like this. So if you’re a Cavs fan, just enjoy your day. This will get a whole lot better. I promise.