Jan. 31, 2017
Making Sense of 'Frustration' in Cleveland
The defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t had the greatest start to 2017. They’re 5-7 since the calendars turned over and have embarrassing losses to a Pelicans team without Anthony Davis and the Sacramento Kings. They lost to the Spurs in OT and were ran off the court in Oakland the last time they saw the Warriors. LeBron has every right to be angry. The edge the Cavs played with last year seems to have dulled. There’s an air of complacency whenever I watch the Cavs play and for good reason. No matter what happens, the Cavs will be Eastern Conference Champions once again, but a triumph over the Spurs or Warriors looks doubtful. This should anger LeBron, but he doesn’t need to aim it at the front office.
The fragile relationship between LeBron and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is well documented. When LeBron took his talents to South Beach, Gilbert wrote a scorched earth style letter that trashed LeBron and boldly claimed Cleveland would win a championship before the exiled King. That didn’t happen. The two obviously mended the bridge as LeBron returned to his throne in Northeast Ohio, but only on the grounds that the Cavs would be open to spending big according to sources in the media. That promise has been kept and the Cavs have raised a banner in the process. But now it’s no longer good enough and it simply doesn’t make sense to me.
Say what you want about Gilbert, but he’s opened the checkbook as promised. General Manger David Griffin is reportedly always on the phone looking to make a deal. Apparently, this is no longer good enough for LeBron. How? When LeBron campaigned on social media to get Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith taken care of, the Cavs cut the check. They gave Kevin Love his money. When David Blatt had run his course, he was fired and Tyrone Lue was given the head coaching job. The Cavs have spent into the luxury tax every year since LeBron’s return. They’re fulfilled their end of the bargain. The real problem is what’s happening on the court and not in the front office.
As previously mentioned, the edge the Cavs once played with is gone. Over the last eight games, the Cavs have averaged 15 turnovers per game. They’re missing free throws to the point where they’re only making 70% of them since the New Year. Their defense has fallen flat as well. They’re allowing 8.5 more points per game than the did in the first 36 games and are fouling at a higher clip as well. Lastly, the attitude isn’t there anymore. Go back and watch the NBA Finals and look at how they played the Warriors. They crashed the glass, played tough defense, attacked the paint with reckless abandon and everyone stepped up. I see a Cavs team that is just going through the motions now. I see a team that’s content and fine with what they have.
LeBron sees these things as well, but he’s aiming his frustrations in the wrong direction. He’ll need to look inward to find a way to lead his team back to the hungry bunch they were a year ago. Allegedly being frustrated at the Cavs spending won’t change anything. It has to start with the players already wearing Cleveland across their chest.