LeBron James has been the master of playing dead. But the 2018 Cavaliers may not be playing dead — they may be legitimately without a pulse.
Ty Lue thinks they’re the best team in the East — or at least will be. Why?
“Because we’ve got the best player in the world,” he said on Jan 15, via Cleveland.com.
That sort of entitlement is exactly what will sink this Cavaliers team. They’re the best because they’re using recipe that has worked before. This year, however, the ingredients are vastly different. They can’t possibly expect to get the same result. The expectation of success seems to have left the Cleveland’s roster in a state of complacency.
When LeBron and his general manager build a team, there are always growing pains. The assembly of talent is relatively easy in the NBA when LeBron is on a team. The implementation and assimilation of that talent is the challenging part.
With the Miami Heat, LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh took some time to feel each other out. With the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and LeBron had to get used to one another. Maybe they never clicked — but they played well enough to win an NBA championship.
The idea has been simple: Throw talent around LeBron and he’ll figure it out. Lue basically admitted as much.
This latest chapter of LeBron’s career is different. The Cavaliers have assembled a new cast with Love and LeBron at the forefront. Behind them, the Cavaliers have washed up stars like Wade, Jeff Green, J.R. Smith and Derrick Rose. Tristan Thompson hasn’t been himself, and is embroiled in trade rumors. Jae Crowder, who was the picture of efficiency on the Celtics, is having his second worst season of his career shooting the ball from the field (39.7 percent) and the 3-point line (30.2 percent).
And then there’s Isaiah Thomas, who hasn’t been the player he was for the Celtics last year. Through five games, Thomas is averaging half as many points as he was in Boston. He’s chucking up bad shots, and his shooting percentages are suffering with a 36.1 percentage from the field and a 23.3 percentage from the 3-point line. He’s beginning to get how to work with LeBron — but he doesn’t look physically explosive in the way he did with the Celtics. A hip injury like Thomas’ may look like an ACL injury in football — players often don’t come back in full force in their first season back. It takes time.
Thomas was supposed to complete the “Big 3.” Instead, his return seems to have only encouraged greater disfunction and doubt within the organization. They were waiting for him to be the missing ingredient. That hasn’t worked out.
“I never really get concerned,” Lue said on Jan. 12, via Cleveland.com. “We’ve got to be better. We know that. But until we play better defensively, I think offensively sharing the basketball, everyone on the same page, and if guys have agendas, we’ve got to get rid of our agendas and play the right way.”
The Cavaliers players responded to Lue’s remarks by losing to the Golden State Warriors on Monday night, and then using an anonymous press conference to leverage management to make a deal to bring in more talent at the trade deadline.
Talk about entitled.
Admittedly, they’re right. Their roster, which is the NBA’s oldest, is not built to beat the Warriors. To some degree, they’re lacking talent. But it’s more that they’re lacking backbone. They’re lacking energy. They’re lacking pride in the team they’ve got.
What self-respecting roster looks around their locker room and decides they’re not good enough?
They want to win. But no one is doing anything about it. They’re waiting for someone else to do it for them. That’s why this team is failing. And that’s why they won’t turn things around, why they won’t win the Eastern Conference Finals and why the Boston Celtics will face the Warriors in the NBA Finals.