No easy solution to what’s ailing Cavs
Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 103-84 drubbing at the hands of the host Sacramento Kings on Sunday:
1. Man, LeBron James or not, this just can’t happen. I don’t want to say the Cavs mailed it in, because I’m not sure that’s what happened. It just looks like without LeBron James, young stars such as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love don’t yet know how to win.
2. Granted, it takes time for teams to gel, and after a whole lot of newcomers in the offseason, the Cavs started two more Sunday: J.R. Smith and Timofey Movgoz. Nor did they have James, who remained sidelined with back and knee strains. But fans are getting tired of the excuses and empty promises. Just win a darn game. At the very least, give yourself a chance against a so-so opponent. Instead, this thing got ugly quickly.
3. Interestingly, Mozgov and Smith looked like the Cavs’ two best defenders — and they’ve been Cavs for less than a week. What’s that say about the other guys? Somehow, someway this team needs to be better defensively. I don’t know if it is a lack of effort or what. I don’t have the answers. But I see the problems, and Sunday was one of them.
4. I just get the sense that something is not right here. The Kings committed just four turnovers. And while Darren Collison is a nice point guard, we’re not talking Bob Cousy here. The Cavs simply applied no pressure.
5. And that was just the defense. Offensively, the Cavs attempted 78 field goals. Thirty-two of them were 3-pointers. Do the math, and you’ll see that 41 percent of the Cavs’ shots were from way, way out. Is that really the offense?
6. Now, I didn’t expect the Cavs to be super awesome right now. There are just too many new players, too many guys who’ve never won anything playing key roles, and a first-time NBA coach in David Blatt. I suspected it would be a little rocky, even with LeBron. But I sure thought they’d be better than 19-19, even without LeBron. He’s missed nine games. The Cavs have won one.
7. That means the Cavs are 18-11 with James. I suspect he alone will get them to 45 wins. In the East … oh, forget it. I’m getting way ahead of myself. The bottom line is the Cavs SHOULD be a better-than-50-win team. They SHOULD be a major threat in the playoffs. And they SHOULD be better than ever with the additions of Smith, Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and a healthy LeBron. I still think they’ll finish in the top four in the conference. I still believe they can win the Central Division. I still believe there is a lot of basketball to be played and a lot of time to make up ground. And I’m right. I just don’t believe it as much as I used to, and nights like Sunday are a big reason why.
8. Both Blatt and Irving talked about a lack of energy and intensity. Hey, it happens. This is an 82-game season. But I’d think not having LeBron would motivate guys to play harder. Instead, it too often looks as if some are just killing time until he returns.
9. Blatt said: "We are going through a lot of stuff right now. A lot of trials and tribulations, a lot of changes, a lot of adjustments on the fly."
10. The coach speaks the truth, but it’s his job to make it work. That’s why the Cavs brought him here. That’s not unfair or harsh. That’s just the reality of being a coach in this league. If his team doesn’t play with energy, he takes the blame. Right, wrong, whatever. That’s just the way it always works in sports.
11. Love finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Mozgov went for 14 and 12, respectively. Kyrie scored 21 and passed for seven assists. Those are all good numbers. But the Cavs need to learn how to turn them into winning numbers. Clearly, they have not yet.
12. There’s a possibility James could return for Tuesday’s game at Phoenix. I’m not sure he’s completely ready, but I’m not sure how much more the poor guy can bear to watch. Last thing this team needs is to be 20-23 or whatever in a week. Without LeBron, that’s entirely possible.
13. The Kings (16-21) shot 49 percent from the floor. DeMarcus Cousins (26 points, 13 rebounds) and Rudy Gay (23 points) were outstanding. Collison scored 16 and played Irving at least even. I think Kyrie has made huge strides in terms of team play and defense this season, but this was far from a banner night from him. It was too easy for Collison to get the Kings into their offense and drive to the basket.
14. As usual, I’ve probably rambled on long enough without really offering any solutions. I just know that fans deserve better in terms of effort. They’ve been through a lot the past four years. They shouldn’t have to watch their team just go in the tank time and time again. The Cavs need LeBron, and they need him fast. And that may be the most disappointing thing about all of this. They were supposed to be deeper and stronger and better. And they are. And they deserve more time — without a doubt. But it can’t continue to be put on hold. Eventually, and soon, things need to start to take shape, or this season might just slip away.