If the 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers hadn’t already reached the level of being embarrassing to their fans, they sure did yesterday. I sent out this tweet prior to the game…
Jordan Farmer, Steve Blake, Robert Sacre, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly, Nick Young, Chris Kaman, and Kendall Marshall. Those eight players combined to beat down the Cavs on their home court and hand them their sixth loss in a row.
It was a bizarre and crazy game that saw Lakers players laying on the bench because of all the space for a lack of healthy players, a guy dropping a triple double with ruptured ear drum, and a fouled out player being allowed to stay in the game. Once you strip away all of that you realize that a team which said from the start that they would be in the playoffs is now a game back from the Boston Celtics who aren’t even trying to win basketball games.
I don’t even know where to start with this pathetic waste of a team. I’ve written multiple times this season that I like the talent that’s been amassed on the roster. It’s a team that should be right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. But a combination of bad coaching, bad defense, and selfish, lazy players has served to completely submarine this season. I would love to sit here and say that they should just fire Mike Brown and that would solve all the problems. But I don’t believe that it would and I wouldn’t want to reward this lazy anarchist group of players for quitting on their coach. In the same vein I’d like to trade away half of these guys to send a message. But unfortunately that’s probably what they want. They appear to all hate each other and hate the coaching staff. Well good news, guys, the fans are starting to hate all of you too.
The fans of Cleveland deserve so much better than what this team is giving. After sitting through watching this team lose on purpose for the past three years, accepting that it was all just part of the plan, this was supposed to be when things changed. Yet this feels worse than that 2010-11 team that lost 26 games in a row. After all we’ve been through as a fanbase, this is what we get? I hate this team.
Kyrie Irving is the star player on the team and many in the national media seem to feel sorry for him that he’s stuck on this dysfunctional Cavs team. Well here’s a news flash…he’s just as much a part of the problem. He plays no defense and appears to have no heart and drive to win. A great player doesn’t sit around and let this kind of a losing streak happen. A great player doesn’t get benched for the entire fourth quarter and most of the second half against a team that is picking up point guards off the street. You’re the number one freaking pick in the draft!!! A two-time All-Star!!! But you’re getting diced up by Jordan Farmar who hadn’t played in a month and has started a TOTAL of 30 games in his NBA career. It’s completely and utterly inexcusable. Can’t wait to watch this kid “represent” Cleveland at the All-Star game in a couple weeks.
I kinda actually feel bad for Chris Grant a little. He’s taking quite a bit of heat for the current state of the team and word around the league is that he’ll be fired at the end of the season. His moves aren’t perfect but they’re all defensible to some extent as I’ve written before. The idea behind building this team was that you go out and collect talent then hope either those player coalesce into a great team or you flip those talented players for one or two great players down the road. It’s not a perfect model but it’s worked before in places like Oklahoma City, Houston, LA (Clippers), and Boston. The problem for Grant and the Cavs is that the players he’s acquired seem to be totally deprived of anything resembling heart, leadership, or a desire to win. And furthering the problem, a superstar player hasn’t become available to trade for as they would have hoped. And that’s the crazy thing. As bad as this team is right now, if they were to trade something like Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and some picks for another legitimate star player we’d be back to talking playoffs again. But no player like that is available right now. And so we’re stuck. And it’s not like other teams probably even want any of the players on this roster given what they’re watching this season.
It’s been said of this team that “this is what happens when you spend three years tanking…players don’t know how to win!” That seems logical I guess on the surface but it’s not actually rooted in fact. Only Anderson Varejao and Alonzo Gee have been on the team for the previous three years of losing on purpose. Irving and Thompson are the only other players who have even been on the team for two years of losing. So that means that 11 of the 15 players on this team haven’t been with the franchise for multiple years of losing. Furthermore, guys like Varejao, Luol Deng, Earl Clark, Jarrett Jack, and CJ Miles have substantial playoff experience. So there are actually guys on the team who, by definition, “know how win.”
And beyond that, we’ve seen teams be “losers” for multiple seasons with young rosters and then be able to turn it around to become a winner again.
The Pacers held a losing record for four seasons before making the playoffs (even with a losing record) in 2010-11. They have progressed from losing in the first round, to losing in the semi’s, to losing in the conference finals, to this season where they hold the best record in the East.
The Warriors experienced Cavs-like levels of losing for four years with win totals of 29, 26, 36, and 23 from 2008-2012. Then they jumped up to 47 wins and a trip to the Western Conference Semifinals last season.
The Thunder, going back even to their Supersonics days, had their own four-year losing stretch in which they won only 35, 31, 20, and 23 games. After that stretch they won 50 in 2009-10 and you know where they’ve gone from there.
And then there’s the LA Clippers, losers for decades. From 2007-2011 they amasses win totals of 23, 19, 29, and 32. They followed that run of futility with what will likely be three straight trips to the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.
So maybe what we’ve learned from all this isn’t necessarily that you can go from being a perennial loser to the playoffs so much as that maybe we just need that fourth year of losing. But the point remains, the theory that if you lose for a few years the guys won’t know how to win is simply false. Which leads us back to the Cavs…
And no matter how much I try to find fault elsewhere I keep coming back to Mike Brown. He’s supposed to be a strong leader and a defensive genius. Yet the team is mutinying against him, showing a lack of leadership. And despite spending considerable time in the preseason bragging about how he coached great defensive teams with liabilities like Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall, this year’s team ranks 23rd in opponent points/game, 21st in opponent field goal percentage, and 27th in point differential. I bought into the idea of Mike Brown coming back because I believed in his ability to teach defense. It’s hard to say whether he’s failing with this team because he can’t figure it out or if the guys just aren’t trying. But Brown certainly doesn’t appear to be helping anything. Everyone looks worse under Brown this year than they have in the past. Kyrie has taken a step back from where he was last year. Dion hasn’t progressed much. Anthony Bennett was handled about as poorly as possible. Varejao isn’t producing as well as he did last year prior to his injury when he when he was putting up All-Star numbers. Deng hasn’t been particularly good either since coming over from Chicago, seeing a dip in both points and shooting percentage.
Brown keeps talking about and making lineup and rotation changes, including benching most of the starters for the entire fourth quarter against the Lakers. But all this seems to be about as effective as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Nothing Brown is doing is working and what’s more worrisome is that the team is getting worse, not better…and it’s happening fast. The Cavs have only 16 wins this season and only three of those have come against teams with winning records. Two of those were against the Nuggets who are only a game over .500. The Clippers were the other team. And they’ve had atrocious losses to bad teams like last night against the Lakers and the 44-point loss in Sacramento.
I don’t know what else can be done short of firing the head coach. I don’t know who you can trade to get anything even close to equal value. I don’t understand how firing the GM will really help. Above everything else it appears with this team that, despite what the players are saying, they have no desire to play for Mike Brown. And if that’s the case then he probably has to go. The season is a loss at this point. They can stop thinking about the playoffs. It’s not happening. I’d settle for them to just be watchable again.
Brown doesn’t appear to be working with this team. And if it’s not going to work then you might as well cut bait and move on. Because if this keeps up any longer Dan Gilbert is going to lose what little faithful Cavaliers fans he has left.
 People forget that before they won the title in 2008 the Celtics were a terrible basketball team in spite of having All-Star Paul Pierce still on the roster. They won 33 and 24 games in the two seasons prior to the title. After amassing all those losses and collecting assets they were able to flip all those miss-matching pieces for Kevin Garnet and Ray Allen.
 Turns out it’s actually hard to build a winning team in the NBA. Who knew?
 Deng isn’t a good three point shooter, only .331 for his career. Yet, for some reason he’s putting up 3.1 per game since coming to Cleveland. He shot only 62 in 23 games with the Bulls and he’s already shot 43 in 14 games with the Cavs. Here’s an idea…stop shooting so many three pointers.