So far for LeBron & Co., the Cavs’ struggles are real
Random dribbles from the visiting Cavaliers’ 91-78 embarrassment of a loss Friday to the Washington Wizards:
1. One week after riding a four-game winning streak and looking like they were putting it all together, the Cavs have lost three straight. And they’ve been mostly bad in doing it. They don’t mix, they don’t match, they don’t mesh, and as coach David Blatt said, they’re in the dark.
2. Based on my Twitter account, a lot of fans and media members have the answers. But it’s never that simple. Blatt can’t find a steady rotation and the guys he does play aren’t giving him many reasons for hope. Here’s a note to the players: The coach will play you if you produce and the team wins.
3. The occasional struggles of LeBron James are real, as he shot 8 of 21 from the floor and committed several silly turnovers. James is the main man on this team and even in this league. His team will go how he goes. When LeBron doesn’t look good, no one does. Hopefully for the Cavs, that will change in time. But right now, it’s precisely the way it is — even with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on the team.
4. There is no way this version of the Cavaliers should ever score less than 100 points. No way. The Cavs missed a ton of open shots in DC on Friday, no doubt. There’s not a whole lot you can do about that. But 78 points is also the result of a lack of ball movement and hustle plays.
5. I also didn’t like how the Cavs pouted when things didn’t go their way. That to me is another sign of a team that still has some growing up to do. Not a big deal at this stage, but it needs to change.
6. LeBron on the Cavs’ body language (his wasn’t great, either): "It’s not good for us as we’re trying to push forward. It’s something we have to work on. We understand that. It starts with me for sure. It’s something I always work on and trickles down to everyone else."
7. On the bright side, LeBron isn’t usually someone who says something just to say it. He tries to put it into practice. That’s why he owns two championships.
8. That said, James doesn’t look as explosive as he has in recent seasons. I’ve seen him pass on several of those chase-down block attempts and instead just let the offensive player drive to the basket. Personally, I think James’ back is still bugging him. I was told early in the season that LeBron is about "85-90 percent." I haven’t heard anything about it since. So I truly am just guessing — but something is a little different about the guy.
9. Again, we are also just three weeks into the season, so none of the above is a big deal. Sorry. It’s just not. But you can panic if you want. I know some of you really enjoy it. I prefer to watch the Cavs, write about them, then shrug my shoulders and go eat tacos regardless of the outcome.
10. Now, if you’re the actual coach of the Cavs, you may have a different approach. And Blatt does. "I’m concerned about everything right now. Every single thing," he said. "This is the same team a week ago was scoring 120 points a game. We’re not a different group of people and we’re not a different team. We’re just playing in the dark right now."
11. James and Kyrie Irving each finished with 22 points. I love Kyrie’s game, but I’m still not sure if he makes winning plays. He does sometimes, and other times, he just looks great — but I’m not sure he’s actually helping the team win. That’s not to rip the guy or call him a loser. But you can tell guys such as James and Shawn Marion have played on basketball’s biggest stage, and guys such as Irving and Dion Waiters have not.
12. Of course, the same Cavs fans who were screaming TANK THE SEASON for the past three years are now wondering why the holdovers and younger players don’t yet have a winning mindset.
13. Blatt on the lack of hustle plays I mentioned earlier: "There were a lot of balls on the floor. Especially when you’re struggling — I don’t want to say you’ve got to kill yourself, but you have to do whatever it takes to get balls like that to gain a little bit of ground, and we did not."
14. Kevin Love looks lost and the Cavs look lost with him. Love is a huge part of this, and during the four-game winning streak, he was huge. On Friday, he took just eight shots, scored just eight points, and went for less than 10 for the first time since December 2012.
15. Love on the evening: "We get stagnant at some points. When the other team scores on us we might hang our heads and then slow down. When we play with pace we’re a lot better. … When we play for each other, when we actually set screens and roll hard, it usually frees up a shot or a great look on the inside or we swing it to the other side and get a lot of ball movement. We just need to get the defense honest and when we do that we’re able to score more points."
16. Read: Sometimes, it really seems like the Cavs (5-6) have a long ways to go.
17. And good luck with all that, because the East-leading Toronto Raptors are coming to town Saturday night. The Wizards (8-3) are really good and poised to challenge for the conference title. The Raptors (10-2) look even better.