Dante’s classic, The Inferno, is a poetic journey of hell and the people who reside there. If art does resemble life then the Cavaliers don’t need to read the book that was published in 1472. Instead, they can go the more simplistic route. Three steps into the hall bath and look in the mirror. Or, take the court, like they did on a Tuesday night in Orlando. Or, look in the mirror after they take the court. Or, take the court and score 43 points in the first quarter and then lose the lead and the game. Or, make journeyman Jonathon Simmons look like LeBron James.
Jonathon Simmons is one of those stories that propel NBA myths. He was not drafted, not one of the best 60 college players. He did it the hard, thankless, cheap hotels, cheap bus rides way. He completed multiple D-League tours. He was human though with a human’s tolerance level and was just about to give up on his dream. But then he got a call from the Spurs. And everything changed.
With San Antonio, Simmons was mostly a defender but he made shots when he had to, 45%. He signed an off-season deal with the Magic last summer and in 2017-18 Simmons has doubled his Spurs point production, averaging nearly 14 points. Because personnel is a factor in defensive performances, and because the Magic aren’t very good ball hawkers, Simmons defensive accomplishments have fallen off. But he is playing the most minutes of his career, doubling his shots, making at least one three point bomb per game. He should be a better rebounder and he turns the ball over a little too much but he’s shooting 49% on long twos. Still, he is a role player, PER 12.9. But the Cavs made him look like an All-Star.
In Dante’s poem, he is lost. He is attacked by beasts and begins his journey with another poet named Virgil into the nine circles of hell where he is a witness to the tormented and abused.
The first circle of Hell is Limbo. Limbo is where many wait before entering the true punishment of Hell. After passing through Limbo, there is the circle of Lust. Lust is for those who were motivated by flesh. Lust is followed by Gluttony, those who overindulged and were selfish. Next is Greed followed by Anger, Heresy and Violence. The Eighth Circle is Fraud. Trying to be what you are not. Tricking everyone. In Hell, frauds are tortured.
In life, they are tortured. The Eighth Circle is where the Cavs are lingering.
As Isaiah Thomas put it, “when adversity hits we go our separate ways.” Hmm. Nice way to repeat the obvious. How about this. They have quit on each other. Multiple divorces have been litigated in the locker room. It’s me. Not we. The Cavs are perpetrating fraud on the NBA public.
Consider: against the Magic they scored 43 points in the first quarter, and 9 points in the 4th quarter. Ty Lue didn’t coach the second half because of an illness. Yeah, these Cavs will make you sick. Particularly, their third quarter. The Magic started out the third 10-10. Simmons was the star, making nearly everything he put up, 7 out of 8 shots and a killer three to tie the score going into the 4th, 22 points in the quarter like he was Klay Thompson, part of a 19-2 run and 41 third quarter points without Aaron Gordon. Still, the Cavs didn’t have to panic. The Magic had not won back-to-back games in 88 days. Until Tuesday.
Everyone says the Cavaliers always do this. Really?
This time last year, the Cavs were 36-16, not 30-22 as they are this year. They were 7-5 their last 12 games at this same time, not 4-8. In February 2017, the Cavs were 9-2. In February 2018, they are 0-2. And they have the Timberwolves tonight in a back-to-back. Kat and Jimmy Butler. They play the Celtics on Sunday. Then the Thunder next week. After the All-Star break, they host the Spurs. It’s not going to get easier.
I wondered if the Cavs were this bad last season so I checked the numbers.
- Last season they were 2nd in three point shooting. This year they are 15th. (The Kyrie Effect)
- Last season they were 7th in defensive rebounding and 12th in total rebounding. This year they are 14th in defensive rebounding and 23rd in total rebounding. (The Kevin Love as Center Effect)
- Last season they were 16th in shooting defense. This year, they are 26th.
- Last season they were 18th in 3-point defense. This year they are 22nd.
- Last season they were 21st in defensive rating. This year they are 28th.
So yeah, they are worse in all the categories that matter and it is no longer a situation of outscoring teams. Kyrie is gone. They can’t outscore anyone. But as Brian Windhorst pointed out, that is the least of their problems. Chemistry maladjustment has wrung the oxygen out of their cells and they are limping to the All-Star break finish line. They just don’t like each other. They are frauds.
Like I said. The Eighth Circle of Hell.