Young Cavs Need to Toughen Up, Get Some Grit

The Cleveland Cavaliers opened their trip out west with good feelings.  They started their new acquisition, two-time all-star Luol Deng, and defeated the Utah Jazz.

However, things took a sharp turn south as the Sacramento Kings, a team with a similar record as Cleveland’s, hammered the wine and gold.  The 44 point loss was the largest margin of defeat in the NBA this season.

During the game, the Cavs’ young guards, Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters seemed upset at being taken out of the game by head coach Mike Brown.  Whether they were dismayed by the fact their team was getting shredded or because they were losing playing time is up for debate.  Whatever the reason, it seems like there is a problem behind the scenes.

Yes, the Cavaliers are a relatively young basketball team, but the only rookie getting regular playing time is free agent Matthew Dellavedova, a gritty, energy type of player. 

The rest of the team is in their second or third years in the league, so they’ve been around long enough to know the NBA.  And they do have veterans like Anderson Varejao, Jarrett Jack, and now Deng, along with a veteran coaching staff to tell them the work that is needed on a daily basis to win in the league.

So, why isn’t it taking? 

The Cavs look disinterested in too many games, and they get blown out far too frequently for a team that has four top five picks in the draft on the roster. 

It doesn’t seem like the players are learning from the experience.  A loss like the one to the Kings shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone in the organization.

When Jack signed with the Cavs last summer, he made a statement about how there are two types of players, those who love the lifestyle and those who love the game. 

Right now, it looks like the young players with the Cavaliers are more about the former, and it spells trouble for the franchise unless that changes.

Look, every player likes to win.  The crowds are with you and it makes it easy to show up at the gym every day to practice.

What are needed for this organization to move forward are players who hate to lose.  Those men are stung by every loss, and they will do anything to prevent defeat.

Our contention is that Michael Jordan’s greatest attribute as a player was his competitive streak.  The man simply hated to lose at anything.  Most of the great players in any sport have the same trait. 

It doesn’t appear that the Cavaliers have many players who have the “competitiveness” gene.  They are happy to be professional basketball players, but they don’t want to do whatever it takes to win basketball games.

You would like to think the veterans on the team could communicate this to Irving, Waiters, and the rest, but it hasn’t taken yet and the season is almost halfway through.  GM Chris Grant added another veteran voice in bringing Deng over.

Hopefully, bringing a guy who has been on playoff teams the past few years makes a difference.

That’s the risk of having a team made up of a majority of young players.  Sometimes, they learn to win together like the Cavs of the 80’s with Brad Daugherty, Ron Harper, and Mark Price.

These Cavs need to develop some toughness and grit.  If winning doesn’t start soon then Grant will need to make changes with the roster to bring in players who are sick of losing.

The time to make the playoffs is now and the time to start demanding victories is also now.  The players need to get on board or move elsewhere.

 JK

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