On Tuesday Stephen Curry did not play for the Golden State Warriors when they traveled to Cleveland. On Friday Derrick Rose didn’t play in Cleveland either, and on Saturday All Star Center Al Horford was sidelined for the Cavs visit to Atlanta as well.
After being 6-6 this past Monday, the Cavaliers dropped each of those three games by 10, 39, and 27 points respectively. In the words of Martin Lawrence back in 2003, stuff just got real.
Real adversity that stared this Cavaliers team and coaching staff directly in the face with each of Joe Johnson’s game high 25 points last night. Each of Jeff Teague’s 14, Marvin Williams’ 12, as well as each of fifty-eight year-old Jerry Stackhouse’s 6.
It was that many Hawks who finished the night scoring 11 or more points for the game too, with 12 Hawks in total having scored, and this laugher was never close. Not exactly the performance you’re looking for after getting humiliated at home the previous night by 40.
If you are an organization that is trying to rebuild a team and culture after setting the record for the most ever consecutive losses in NBA history a season before, you cannot allow this recent trend of non-competitiveness continue. It has to stop. The Cavs are going to lose games this year because their talent isn’t really too good. They’ll probably lose a lot of them by season’s end, and that’s not the problem. In some ways losing right now is beneficial in a big picture sense, but the unwillingness to compete, fight, or try on a nightly basis isn’t. Things could get much worse here too if that doesn’t change quickly.
The Cavs head to Miami next on Tuesday, and they will in all likelihood get beat there too. I think it’s important for them to come out and fight though on Tuesday. Really important. The experience of actually being in a game and competing for a real chance to win against high quality NBA opponents is the experience that Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson need right now. Even if they do inevitably fall short. Losing by 30 doesn’t do anything for anybody, but losing to Miami by say 7 with a chance to win in the 3rd quarter or something could help. At least a little bit.
Following that trip to Miami, if the Cavaliers don’t get up off the canvas and offer some type of collective punch back here, they could wake up on February 17th when the Heat then invade the Q having lost somewhere around 9 or 10 of their next 12 games. Starting on Tuesday, the Cavaliers play Miami twice, Boston twice, the Knicks, Magic, Mavericks, Clippers, Sixers, and Pacers. On paper the Nets, who the Cavaliers beat once already, and the Bucks are probably their two best chances to win.
I know the Celtics are struggling, but they will be looking at their two game set with Cleveland as a great opportunity to get right quick. D’Antoni’s Knicks are floundering right now too, but they still employ a few guys the Cavaliers can’t cover at all. And if Dwight shows up in Cleveland the Cavaliers have no chance of covering him either.
But this isn’t about winning so much as it is about competing. I’m not at all disappointed in the fact that the Cavs lost to the Hawks last night specifically, I figured they would as soon as the schedule came out. It’s disappointing that they didn’t show up though. It wreaks of last season, stinks of zero progress. However small, the Cavaliers need to take steps forward this year, and it will be detrimental to the rebuild if they simply give up and fall directly on their faces every night. No matter how many ping pong balls they’re awarded for doing so.
What this rebuild is also about, beyond the idea of losing a bunch of times to better your draft position, is that there also needs to be a culture of competition created as well. Guys need to show up to work ready to put themselves out there and give effort. You can’t just roll over. You can’t follow up a 40-point loss with a 30-point loss. Even if Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson combined for 34 points and 7 rebounds in said loss, that’s still not helping anybody.
The veteran leaders have no real point on this team if they can’t step forward and try to redirect things right now. Antawn Jamison can’t follow a 1 for 10 game up with the 3 for 7 night he had on Saturday. Anthony Parker has to somehow give you more than 1 for 6 effort with 2 TO’s if you are going to start the guy. I know Kyrie Irving’s plus / minus was a minus infinity on Saturday, and I know he did turn it over seven times, but those guys are supposed to be here to help the kid out on night’s like that. Not go in the tank if their best player is struggling. Might as well call up Manny Harris and Christian Eyenga to take their places if that’s what’s going to happen.
They can turn this thing around immediately though. They almost don’t even need to win in order to do so either. Go play the Heat and lose by 5. Be within striking distance as late as possible, give Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson the chance to truly compete against the NBA’s elite. That’ll help move this thing forward even if they lose. The garbage they’ve been playing through during these last few games isn’t making anybody better.