The NBA season has started and it’s quite an interesting one at that. Many fans were starting to speculate how stale the league was getting, with the never-ending Finals rivalry between the Warriors and the Cavs. Another concern prior to this season was if or if not the future of the league was in good hands. With standout young guys in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl Anthony-Towns, and Ben Simmons, I think it is safe to say that the future of the league looks pretty bright.
Into the Darkness
You know what doesn’t look too bright in the season, though? As the title of the article answers that question for you, it is the Cleveland Cavaliers and their sluggish start. A team that was expected to have a learning curve looks like they haven’t even reached the point of ascending.
They are currently 9th in the Eastern Conference, with a 5-6 record and 5-5 Eastern Conference record. The word ‘YIKES’ is very applicable to this scenario. Oh yeah, did I mention that they lost to the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets in the same week? I’ll say it again, ‘YIKES’.
I won’t give them too much of a hard time on the Knicks loss, because Kristaps Porzingis has been averaging 30 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, putting him into early MVP discussions. But the Nets? Many words other than ‘YIKES’ can be used for describing the Cavs’ efforts in that game, but ‘sloppy’ will have to do.
A Quick Glimmer of Hope
Now, don’t get me wrong, the Cavs looked quite impressive in their season opener at home vs the Celtics. Not only was this a huge preview on what to expect for the rest of the season, but this was also Kyrie Irving’s first time playing in Cleveland in another jersey. While the Cavs did show some rough defense and inconsistent offense in that game, they got the mission done and got the win. Would they have gotten the win if Gordon Hayward didn’t break his ankle early in the first quarter? My pride says yes, but reality slaps me in the face making me say no.
As a fan, I was pretty stoked. The Kyrie Irving drama was irritating me all summer and I was happy for the organization for starting off the season with a statement win. But I haven’t felt that stoked since that game, for reasons but most obvious is that they aren’t winning.
As a sports fan, I love some drama. However, when it is with a team I like and affecting them on the playing field/court, I do not like it. No sir.
The whole “who should be starting at the two-guard, Dwayne Wade or J.R. Smith?” debacle really told me that maybe things aren’t so smooth in the locker-room like LeBron says they are. Dwayne Wade made the big boy, mature move and elected himself to come off the bench. J.R. did seem pretty unhappy with his time on the bench, and rightfully so facing the fact that he started for the organization and has gotten a ring doing so.
I thought this would clear things up a bit, but sadly it didn’t. J.R. has looked quite bad. Shooting 17% from the 3-point line isn’t a good stat to have, especially when that is his go-to weapon. When J.R. is hot, it creates space on the floor for LeBron or other players to drive. This forces J.R.’s defender to either play help defense or stay out on the perimeter with J.R. When J.R. is this cold, defenders don’t have the urge to cover him around the arc, and that is what has been happening. Am I saying Dwayne Wade is a better 3 point shooter? Absolutely not. Wade is past his prime, but he is still more of an overall threat on offense than Smith.
What about their defense? J.R. can play defense when he wants to, and same with Wade. Consistency on that end of the floor is much desired, especially with how this season has gone so far.
The Cavs have had what seems to be a minor injury bug. Derrick Rose had and still is going to sit out of a couple of games already this season due to an ankle injury vs the Milwaukee Bucks. Rose has looked more aggressive this season than he has in awhile, but still not as slashing as his prime years with the Bulls. Nonetheless, he his playing some quality point-guard while Isaiah Thomas heals that hip.
Wade has also had to sit out a couple of games due to a minor knee injury. I’d like to say that his absence on the floor was the reason they lost to the Nets, but that wasn’t the case. All-round inefficient shooting and lack-luster defense is.
Tristan Thompson is out for a month at the least with a strained left calf. His tenacity in the paint and on the boards is a huge igniter to this team. To go a month without his physical abilities can dig this team even deeper into the hole, which indeed can lead to more worries .
Take a Deep Breath in…
We also have to realize that the Cavs still have one of, if not, the best player to play the game in LeBron James. Although he is mortal and can age like the rest of us humans, he did say to the media after dropping 57 points on the Washington Wizards that, “…this is the best I’ve felt in my career.”
Hmm, excuse me. WHAT? Did he just say he feels better than all the times he won rings with the Heat and the one with the Cavs? This man is a legend and if I were an opposing team, I know I wouldn’t rest easy after a quote like that.
Joking aside, LeBron is still playing at the highest level. He is averaging 28.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 9.1 assists per game. Talk about a solid stat-line. He can’t do it all, but he can do most. The 57 point game vs the Wizards exemplifies that he can still put the team on his back when it is necessary.
We still have to remember that there were a lot of new pieces added to this team in players such as Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon, Jeff Green, Jae Crowder, and Isaiah Thomas. They still need to work out the kinks, as any new players on new teams do. Isaiah Thomas, when healthy, can be a huge boost of offense for this team. Mix that with the spread game that Crowder and Love can play, with LeBron doing anything possible, this could be a potent offense no doubt.
Besides, the expectations are high and so is the rate of criticism. There will be growing pains, but it will most likely get worse before it gets better. All in all, the season is only 11 games young. This leaves a lot of room for improvement, or decline. I predict they pick it up when Thompson is back healthy. And when Thomas steps on the court, I see them heading to the Finals once again. Like the Cavaliers promote on social, it is ‘Believeland’. Anything is possible.