We believe if you look up the term “a season in flux”, the picture that will accompany the definition will be that of the 2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers.
It started in training camp when LeBron James was nursing a sprained ankle and missed virtually the entire exhibition season.
That cost the team valuable on-court chemistry time with all the new faces brought in during the off-season.
When the season opened, Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon, and to a lesser extent, Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic never shared the court with The King.
After a slow start (5-7), Rose and Tristan Thompson got hurt, so Calderon went into the starting lineup, and the wine and gold had their best stretch of the season, winning 18 of 19 games, with the second unit led by Dwyane Wade and Kyle Korver making a huge impact.
Thompson came back first and then Isaiah Thomas returned to the floor, and things got out of whack, with the Cavs struggling in January (6-8) and particularly on defensive end of the floor.
Kevin Love then broke his hand, and Tyronn Lue started giving Osman more playing time, so there was another period of adjustment.
Really, the only constants in terms of good quality play to this point in the season were James and Green. The rest of the team either missed time with injuries or were up and down in terms of quality of play.
Next came the big move at the trade deadline when GM Koby Altman traded off half the roster, bringing in some youth with Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Rodney Hood, as well as veteran point guard George Hill.
To this point, Hood and Hill still don’t look comfortable playing with James, and while the former has missed time recently with a back problem, Hill played his 16th game with LeBron last night.
When the Cavaliers went on a west coast trip, the players starting dropping one by one, as they finished the trip without Thompson, Nance, Osman, Hood, Korver, as well as Love.
That meant John Holland and London Perrantes, whose names James may or may not know (we are kidding, we think) were getting time.
Now, Love returns to the lineup, but the squad is missing their head coach, as Lue is taking time away from the team to take care of a medical issue that has plagued him over the past few months.
Thompson and Nance are said to be close to returning, possibly this week, and Osman and Hood should be back in another week, causing more combinations of players that probably haven’t spent much time on the floor together.
All this with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
Is it possible that the Cavaliers will finally get some continuity just as the playoffs are set to begin? It very well may be.
And the experience the younger players have gained with all of the injuries in the second half of the season will give Lue many options to go to depending on what the opposition is doing?
Getting Lue healthy is a key too. There is no question in our mind that when we aren’t feeling well, you aren’t thinking clearly.
This is not a guarantee of another appearance in The Finals. There are a lot of teams in the East that can cause a problem, and no question, Toronto is an excellent basketball team with plenty of playoff experience.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the injured guys came back next week, and the Cavs had three weeks of being able to play with the same players? We are sure everyone in the organization has that thought.