Cavs pregame dribbles: Life without LeBron, for now

The Cavaliers will be without LeBron James for about two weeks due to lower back and knee strains.

David Richard/David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Tipoff: TWC Arena, Charlotte, N.C., 7 p.m.

Records: Cavaliers 18-14; Hornets 10-23.

TV: FOX Sports Ohio (Cavaliers Live pregame at 6:30 p.m.). Radio: WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM; Cavaliers Radio Network.

Projected Starters

Cavaliers: C Tristan Thompson; PF Kevin Love; SF Mike Miller; SG Matthew Dellavedova; PG Kyrie Irving.

Hornets: C Bismack Biyombo; PF Cody Zeller; SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist; SG Gerald Henderson; PG Kemba Walker.

Injury Report

Cavaliers: SF LeBron James (knee/back) out; C Anderson Varejao (Achilles) out; SF Shawn Marion (ankle) probable; PF Kevin Love (back) probable.

Hornets: C Al Jefferson (groin) out; SG Lance Stephenson (pelvic strain) out.

Dribbles

1. With LeBron James, the Cavaliers are 18-11. Without him, they’re 0-3. At some point, they’re going to need to win without him. Because after an MRI revealed strains to his lower back and knee, James is expected to miss about two weeks. That’s about nine or 10 games. And that Cavs sure can’t afford to be 18-24 when LeBron returns.

2. With LeBron, the Cavs are averaging 102.5 points per game. Without him, they’re averaging 92.7 points. With him, they’re shooting 46.5 percent. Without him, it’s a measly 38.2 percent.

3. James’ absence also impacts the Cavs defensively. No surprise there. With LeBron, the Cavs hold opponents to 99.2 ppg. Without him, it’s 102.7 ppg.

LeBron expected to miss two weeks with knee, back issues

4. So what’s it all mean? It means the other guys will have to buckle down find some resolve. On the bright side, Kyrie Irving has shown it all season. And the Cavs actually looked pretty good with Irving and Kevin Love leading the way in a close loss at Oklahoma City — the first game LeBron missed this season. In fact, the Cavs looked better in that game than they have in some wins WITH LeBron.

5. The Cavs have dropped three straight and four or five. I truly believe David Blatt is coaching for his job. I’ll have that column later — and a lot of how I write it will be determined by how the Cavs play tonight. Some folks this Blatt could be gone by mid-January if things don’t improve. I am joining that crowd. But again, I’ll write more about that within the next 24 hours, regardless of what happens against the Hornets.

6. If the Cavs play hard and play smart, they can still win — even without LeBron, even without Anderson Varejao. But it has to be more than just Kyrie. Love needs to come to life. Same goes for the always hot-and-cold Dion Waiters. When Love and Waiters are clicking, Irving has room to operate, and the Cavs are suddenly a team that can stay afloat.

7. I’m not so sure about continuing to start Matthew Dellavedova. He seems to have regressed. Shawn Marion doesn’t always make a major contribution as a starter, but he rarely hurts you. Delly is still a guy who can help you off the bench, but I’m not sure he should be starting — even with injuries.

8. The Cavs were embarrassingly bad in their home loss to the Bucks on New Year’s Eve. I know, I know. LeBron, Love and Marion (and Varejao) were all out. But most of the guys, aside from Irving and Tristan Thompson, just looked lost offensively. Like I said, this is when Blatt has to do his best coaching. It’s times like these for which the Cavs hired him. Go coach this team above the obstacles it is facing.