These reconstructed Cavaliers are light years away from contending for an NBA title, a fact that showed itself Saturday night when they lost to the Toronto Raptors. In the latest loss, the Cavaliers allowed 110 points, an extraordinary total for a franchise with a brilliant defender like LeBron.
What we’ve discovered about this team is that the pieces don’t fit. A collection of stars – and LeBron, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are stars – guarantees nothing if the players can’t play as a team.
These Cavaliers have surely not looked like a team. They struggle to play solid defense, particularly on the interior; they’ve found no way to take advantage of the things Love does well; and they still wait for LeBron to play like LeBron.
“It starts with me, for sure,” LeBron said after the team’s loss Friday night to the Washington Wizards. “It’s something I’ll always work on, too. It trickles down to everyone else.”
Perhaps none of these struggles, including his, would be problems if coach David Blatt had the bench savvy that teams with star talent need. Blatt, a rookie in the NBA coaching biz, can’t determine the best moves to make when he’s matching Xs and Os with men with long NBA pedigrees.
Even if he had the Xs and Os down, Blatt has never had to coach talent like LeBron, Love and Irving. So what NBA fans see is a team that plays with no passion, a team that plays confused – a confusion that reflects the man who guides it.
Yet great players have willed a team to success even when their coach isn’t the most seasoned or cerebral leader. They can carry their teammates toward the ultimate prize and they don’t look as apathetic as LeBron did against the Wizards.
Perhaps how the Cavaliers and LeBron have played shouldn’t come as a surprise. LeBron had said the team would have its growing pains, but nobody figured those pains might feel like this.
Those pains do hurt. They hurt because Cavs fans had such glorious expectations. They counted on this Cavaliers team to do what none of the others had done: win an NBA title.
As the Cavaliers sit among the mediocre in the NBA Eastern Conference, no one in Cleveland can think about a championship. What fans would like to see mostly is a team that plays with heart or that reaches .500.
To get there, they will need to see more from King James, more from Kevin, more from Kyrie and, well, anything at all from the starry-eyed Blatt, a coach unprepared for his station.
For now, all fans can see is a team in disarray, a team trying to find its footing, a team growing. But growing into what is a question that fans would like an answer to.
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(Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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