Today, I want everyone to close their eyes.
Imagine a far off field full of fluffy pillows and rainbows.
But that field is surrounded by trenches filled with lava, crocodiles, landmines, and an occasional pit of loose legos.
That field is the playoffs, while the journey there is the trenches.
This is what the Cavs are dealing with right now. All of the infuriating steps painfully embedding lego-bits into the soft underbelly of your foot.
But when this team gets to the end goal, they'll have fought through all the hardships that will let them succeed once they get to the ultimate test.
This team was made to succeed, as long as they clamp down and put the effort in. While it's concerning that the players haven't been doing this consistently, and it's been absolutely to their own determent, it's all started with LeBron. LeBron was handed the keys to the kingdom the second he signed with the team, regardless of the fact that Blatt was named the coach of the team only a few weeks earlier. Once it became about winning the title this year, LeBron was the only one with the experience necessary to take the team to that level. And I think that one thing we can all agree on is that LeBron hasn't really been trying so far.
With all the theories out there that LBJ...
- has lost a step
- is horribly injured (which seems to be true given his current absence)
- hates Blatt (may be true)
- has an evil plan to kick this team in the groin one more time while he figures out his next true destination (BURN ALL THE JERSEYS)
... it's easy to get lost in the idea that LeBron just might not care about winning during the regular season.
Let's be frank, LeBron has played more minutes than just about any other player in the history of the NBA since 1979 in their first 10 seasons (KG fell behind LeBron by about 800 total minutes). Regardless of how superhuman he is, James likely needs to take some time off to get back to his normal level. Taking time off, whether it be his current injury absence or not hustling back on defense is most likely just preparation for the playoffs. Which brings me to my main point...
THE CAVS ARE IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE. STEP AWAY FROM THE DAMN LEDGE.
Even sitting at 19-19, behind the Bucks by half a game, the Cavs still have a 4.5-game lead on the next best teams in the East, the Pacers (who are missing Paul George for the entire season) and the Pistons (who are only in the playoffs right now because of an insane 9-1 run). There's still time to go on a run. And even if you don't, you just have to be slightly better than the Pacers, Pistons, and Heat. It shouldn't be hard.
Even with the Cavs struggles, they're still 9th in offensive rating, 23rd in defensive rating, and 16th in true shooting. They're working their way through a new system under Blatt and integrating essentially 9 of the 15 players on the team who have not played with one another or for the Cavs before this year (and of the 9 rotation guys, only the Kyrie-Tristan and LeBron-Miller tandems have ever played on a real team with one another). We actually should be grateful that the team is .500 so far, and with a schedule that is pretty much in the middle of the pack.
Not to mention for the last 8 games while LeBron's been out, the Cavs have essentially been trotting out a maximum of 7 legitimate NBA players as their rotation (Kyrie, Tristan, Love, Miller, Marion, Waiters (until the trade) and recently J.R. Smith). No wonder they've struggled!
- Kevin Love does not have to be re-signed and can be dealt in a sign-and-trade, especially if he cannot prove himself a worthy playoff caliber player.
- Brendan Haywood has a $12M non-guaranteed contract that can be dealt for at least one more major role-player.
- Dan Gilbert has expressed the willingness to spend as much money as necessary to bring this team a championship, regardless of the luxury tax.
- The salary cap is going to take some major jumps over the next couple years.
While there's always the possibility that none of them (aside from #4) pan out, there's plenty of wiggle room for the future. It might seem like this is a one-year trial that LeBron may decide to bail on if it looks like a disaster, there's plenty of ways to continue to improve the team.
Think about it. The 2007 Cavs roster that made the finals was starting ERIC SNOW. They had SASHA PAVLOVIC and IRA NEWBLE as key rotation guys. It could be waaaaaaay worse.
Hopefully LeBron returns to the rotation tonight and Marion should also be playing. Shumpert will be back within a month, which gives the squad a legitimate rotation of:
Kyrie - Delly
LeBron - Marion
Love - Thompson
That's just a bit better than trotting out Harris, Delly, and Haywood for 25+ minutes a night.
Stay calm for a bit longer. If the team is below .500 by the all-star break, I then give you permission to freak.
And without further ado, here's my haiku:
Patiently we wait
A team coming together
Just give it some time