LeBron James isn’t happy with the way things are going in 2017 and calling out everyone including the GM was predictable as James frustration at losing to the Pelicans had him foaming at the mouth, as it should. The Pelicans aren’t even in the playoff hunt in the West, they have a losing record, they have a great player in Anthony Davis who didn’t even play last night. His replacement, Terrence Jones, dropped 36 on the Cavs disinterested defense. He even blocked a dunk by James and he said afterwards the standard cliche about wanting to help his team win. But rest assured, the James block will be his career highlight.
The Pels have a good player in Jrue Holiday but the Cavs turned him into Steph Curry. Holiday dropped 33 and had 10 assists. The Pelicans without Davis aren’t special but on a Monday night they carved up the Cavs defense…oops my bad. The Cavs played zero defense. The Pels had a 22 point lead. This is the same Pelicans team that lost to Brooklyn and who, when they played the Cavs earlier in the month, only scored 82 points.
But not last night.
The Pelicans scored 35 points in the first quarter. 35 points in the second quarter. 30 points in the fourth quarter. Their second half defense was just as bad as the Cavs defense but by then they were already in a groove with a huge lead so they didn’t have to be stressed until the game got close late.
“We’re not very good right now. A lot of it is energy and effort.” LeBron James could only add the not playing hard critique onto a dreadful performance. Yes, this happens in the NBA and to teams in January. Tired, they go through the motions but this is a pattern in 2017.
The Pelicans score 124 points. Cavs lose. The Spurs score 118 points. Cavs lose. The Warriors score 126 points. Cavs lose. It skews the other way too. The Blazers score 102 points. Cavs lose. The Jazz score 100 points. The Cavs lose. The Bulls score 106 points the Cavs lose.
LeBron called out GM David Griffin when he said he hopes the Cavs (management) are taking this slide seriously. “I ain’t got no problem with the front office. I told [Griffin] to his face so it ain’t like I’m telling y’all to put it on record. We need a f______ playmaker. What if Ky goes down? For two weeks? What if I went down for three weeks?”
January won’t be over until next week. Since January 2nd the Cavs are 5-6.
- Points Scored: 105.8
- Points Given Up: 108.5
- Assists: 25.9
- Rebounds: 46.2
- Field Goal Percentage: 43.4%
- Field Goal Percentage Defense: 47.2%
- Three Point Percentage: 34.3%
- Three Point Defense: 37.1%
But is this just the boredom of a defending champion?
The Warriors were an anomaly last season becoming the greatest regular season team after winning a title. Most teams get drawn in by the dullness of a long schedule and another 40 more games left to play. In the Cavs case they lost J.R. Smith, one of their trusted scorers and energy players and they brought in Kyle Korver who has never been a defensive stopper.
LeBron does this from time to time. On more than one occasion last season LeBron questioned his teammates toughness. He seemed to imply it was a character issue, suggesting a certain group of his teammates were not tough men. They were missing something essential inside. They had a soft soul.
In this moment, the Cavs don’t know who they are. That will take a while in these, the dog days, of NBA life. This part of the season was never going to be about being exceptional but racking up wins, getting better, being accountable and holding everything together until after the All-Star break. The only problem with that prescription? The Cavs are not getting wins and losing is a bad habit.
The one valid point LeBron has is history. He’s been on teams that went to the NBA Finals and lost. He knows how they are supposed to respond when they return. That behavior is missing in the short term. It will return.
LeBron hopes so. But at the same time he lacks clarity when he says “We are a top heavy team.” Yes, they are, but his awareness, in that exchange with reporters, was myopic. They are top heavy in salaries and so they can’t add more talent. That is how the system stays honest. Pay three max salaries and you can only bring in average talent. What kind of playmaker does he want? Matthew Dellavedova who the Cavs let walk to Milwaukee?
The second greatest leader in the NBA behind Chris Paul found it an appropriate time to jam up his teammates who are not as proven or accomplished.
“No disrespect to DeAndre (Liggins) and to Kay (Felder), you think we can rely on them to help us win a playoff game right now? And it’s no disrespect to them.”
Whenever someone says no disrespect, they are about to disrespect someone. LeBron cleaned it up a little. “We are telling Kay to be a back up point guard to a f_____ superstar right now, instead of being a back up point guard to a guy that’s proven in the league.”
What is burning James is that there were low priced quality big men and back up points this past off-season. The Cavs could have traded for Lakers back up Lou Williams who is on a friendly deal and given the Lakers some of the Cavs young talent to assist in their rebuilding. Right now, for the Cavs, the tail is wagging the dog.
As is constantly referenced, LeBron isn’t in a fight with the Warriors or Steph Curry. He is fighting his legacy. When it seems desperate, he becomes desperate. It is always situational. The Cavaliers do find a way but LeBron can’t let it go.
“I’ll be 33 in the winter and I ain’t got time to waste.”
photo via llananba