The Cleveland Cavaliers are in need of a jolt to their senses. After a stretch in which the wine and gold went 18-1 and looked every bit like a trip to their fourth straight NBA Finals was assured, they have looked, well, terrible.
The entire roster is responsible too, from coach Tyronn Lue, to all the players, and yes, that includes LeBron James.
We watched yesterday’s debacle against Oklahoma City and noticed several disturbing things.
The first was the terrible defensive concepts the Cavs use. There is no help concepts being used, they don’t force offensive players into help, and they play underneath the pick and roll more often than not.
We have watched basketball for a long time and we have never seen a player without the ball score. Yet, the Cavaliers consistently stay connected to the man they are supposed to be guarding, while the player with the ball is going to the basket.
This happens time and time again.
In the first half, Isaiah Thomas was guarding Russell Westbrook on the wing and Jae Crowder was near the paint to lend help. Instead, Thomas allowed Westbrook to go baseline for an uncontested lay up.
That’s horrific team defense.
Lue seems to be so passive, which is fine when the team is winning, but this team needs a spark.
In the first half, Thomas went to the basket and was fouled, which wasn’t called. That’s fine, referees miss calls. The very next play, Thomas was called for a touch foul defending Westbrook, who missed a jump shot.
In that situation, Lue has to challenge the official verbally. He has to defend his player, particularly when the contact was more severe against Thomas.
Later in the first half, Thomas was called for palming the ball, which we don’t believe has been called in the NBA since the 70’s, right in front of the coach. We would have had to have been restrained at that point.
Although we used Thomas in both examples, this isn’t about him. He pretty much says nothing when James is mugged going to the basket on a nightly basis.
When Lue took over as coach, his first move was to quicken the pace. He wanted the team to play faster. However, this squad is the oldest team in the NBA.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t talented, in fact, we still maintain they can win the NBA title…this year. But they need to slow the game down, particularly against younger teams who like to run the floor.
They have issues in transition, so they need to get good shots, which may not always be a shot within five seconds of the possession, so they can guard against opponents racing back up the floor.
Another problem may be the coach’s loyalty and how it affects the roster. Players know who should be playing, and don’t think for a minute they know how well Channing Frye played earlier this year, and wonder why he is out of the rotation.
The same thing happened a year ago to Derrick Williams, who played well in February last year, and then vanished.
The difference is Williams just joined the team. Frye has been here for more than two seasons, and is a veteran presence.
There is no question in our head that is a factor in the disconnect.
Cavs’ management can’t keep firing coaches at the first sign of trouble, but the best coaches recognize when the status quo isn’t working and a change has to be made.
Right now, the wine and gold need a new defensive philosophy and a more aggressive stance from their coach.
Let’s hope Lue can see the same thing.