From Our View, Cavs Have To Move Irving

The news that Kyrie Irving asked Cavaliers management to trade him after the 2016-17 season ended, with a trip to the NBA Finals, by the way, is a bit old now, and the emotion can be removed somewhat.

We hear a lot of local people, media and fans alike, suggest that Irving and LeBron James sit down together and hash out their differences and then play together for this season, take the Cavs to another conference championship, and a possible NBA title.

If it were only that simple.

This is basketball we are talking about, a sports that relies on talent certainly, but also trust and teamwork.

It is difficult to achieve success if four players are pulling in one direction, while the fifth man on the court is looking for something different.

NBA history is full of examples of this.

The Detroit Pistons, led by Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, and Rasheed Wallace probably didn’t have the best talent in the league, but they played as one, and won a title.

Heck, the Cavs in 2014-15 had James, Irving, and Kevin Love, but it wasn’t until they dealt for JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov, and moved Dion Waiters, that they started to win.

What happens the first time Irving misses a key shot, or fails to pass to an open teammate, or allows his man to get an easy look?

Of course, his commitment to the team will be questioned, and not only by outsiders, but within the locker room.

It’s that kind of stuff that tears a team apart from the inside, and would make Tyronn Lue’s job extremely difficult.

This is especially true since results have come out saying the players on the roster are taking sides, and the vast majority don’t understand why a player would want to leave a team that has been to three straight Finals.

As for what GM Koby Altman can get in return, he will not get a player as talented as Irving is on offense, so what he has to do is construct a team that will win in a different way.

He can get a point guard who is a better defender and better playmaker than Irving.  Remember how James and Matthew Dellavedova would play off of each other?  Maybe you can get someone who can do that in the deal.

You also can create a deeper roster, one that will play better with James off of the floor, which would in turn allow #23 to play less minutes.

Less minutes during the regular season would mean a fresher LeBron in the playoffs, and we all know he can control a game by himself.

A better defender means you don’t have to score as many points to win games, and some of the scoring slack can be picked up by Love, Smith (who had a tough season with injuries a year ago), and newcomer Derrick Rose.

A deeper bench means you won’t have the drought that Cleveland had in the Finals, where when James came out of the game, leads vanished quicker than our money at the Jack Casino.

Moving Irving is Altman’s best chance to reshape the Cavs’ roster, giving the team a better chance to compete at a championship level for the next three to four years, assuming James stays on the roster.

Right now, there is a lot of age on the team, and a deal would allow the wine and gold to get younger and more athletic.

However, it would take more than a meeting of the minds for Kyrie Irving to stay in Cleveland.  The trust is gone, and that would be difficult to repair.

JK

 

 

 

The Transformation Of JR Smith

It has been said many times that no player on the Cleveland Cavaliers have had to sacrifice more than Kevin Love.

Love was a star in Minnesota, the guy the entire offense ran through.  He was a high scorer too, averaging over 26 points per game twice in his Timberwolf days.

With the Cavs, Love became a “third wheel” behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.  His scoring dropping to around 16 points in Cleveland, before climbing to 19 this season.

Many people say Love became a glorified stretch four, a spot up three point shooter.

That’s crazy, of course, but we guess people figured he was going to continue to average 26 points a game with the Cavs, which would be almost impossible.

However, another member of the wine and gold has sacrificed greatly, and it largely goes unnoticed.

When GM David Griffin made the three way deal early in 2016 with Oklahoma City and New York, it was thought Griffin had his eye on Iman Shumpert, a wing defender, who was also athletic enough to run the floor.

Smith was regarded as a throw in on the deal, a player put in to balance the salary cap ramifications, basically (it was said at the time) if you want Shumpert, you have to take Smith.

JR’s reputation was that of a troublemaker.  He has tremendous talent.  He was sixth man of the year in 2012-13 when he averaged 18.1 points for the Knicks, a season in which New York won their division and lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

As the Knicks fortunes went south, so did Smith’s concentration.  He liked the NYC nightlife, his scoring average and shooting percentage dropped, and the Knicks management wanted to unload him.

His reputation on the court was that he never met a shot he didn’t like, and fired the ball up at times to make his coaches grimace.

We remember NBA writers saying at the time of the trade, that when JR is on a good team, he is fully engaged, which will help him with the Cavs, they were a team ready to make a title run.

In game one of the Eastern Conference finals vs. Atlanta, Smith stole home court from the Hawks with an incredible shooting display, scoring 28 points by hitting 8 of 12 from beyond the three point line.

Smith can still knock down shots, but he is the guy Tyronn Lue turns to in stopping the opponents best wing scorer.  He did a great job on Paul George in the first round, and gave DeMar DeRozan fits in the conference semifinals.

He had a thumb injury which required surgery this season so his scoring average dropped to under 10 per night (8.6) and his three point shooting fell from 40% to 35.1%.

But he is still a key member of the Cavs because of his defensive prowess, and it doesn’t hurt that fans around northeast Ohio love him.  People here don’t care about your past, they judge you on how you treat them.

His emotional reaction to winning the NBA title on Father’s Day a year ago is something we will never forget.  He thanked his dad for always standing by him.

So, while Love has certainly subdued his game in order to win, don’t forget how JR Smith has went from a player considered undisciplined to one his coach trusts to do a great job on defense against the top scorers in the NBA.

Sacrifice and unselfishness.  Lue and LeBron James always talk about it and Smith is a grand example of what they mean.

JK

Is Kyrie’s Passing The Key To Cavs’ Success?

There is no question that the best player on the roster of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and for that matter, the entire NBA is LeBron James.

However, you can a very good case that when Kyrie Irving plays at a superstar level, that’s when Cleveland becomes one of the best teams in the league.

The Cavs got off to a tremendous start in 2016-17, heading into the new year with a 25-7 record.

Irving was very efficient in those months, scoring around 24 points per game and taking around 18-19 shots on average.

In December, the wine and gold went 12-4, their best month of the season, and Irving was incredible, averaging 23.2 points and 7.8 assists per game.

In one seven game stretch toward the end of the month, the 25-year-old had 10 or more assists five times, while scoring over 20 points in the same number of games.

However, January saw the beginning of the malaise that has enveloped the Cavs for the last three months.  The team went 7-8 during the first month of the year, and while Irving averaged 25 points per game during those 15 games, his assists numbers dropped to 5.2, and only two games with more than seven dimes.

His shots per game increased as well, going from around 18.5 in November and December to almost 21 in January.

The Cavaliers’ ship righted itself in February going 9-2, and coincidentally, Irving became more of a passer again, averaging 7.1 assists a night (six games with more than five), although the shots were up again at a little over 21 a game.

Kyrie didn’t shoot well from the three point line in February, making just 32% of his long range shots.  He was close to 40% up to that point.

Then came March, the worst month record wise for the Cavs since James returned to the team at 7-10.

Irving’s scoring was up (27.0) and his shooting was very good (almost 50% from the floor and 44% from long range), but his assists totals were down to under five per contest (4.8).

The former first overall pick had six games where he had more than five assists during March, and the Cavs went 5-1 in those games.  That means when Irving had less than five, Cleveland went 2-9.

Now, there can be many reasons for Irving’s assist totals to be down, one of them logically being his teammates not making as many shots as they were earlier in the year.

When you lose JR Smith for 10 weeks and Kevin Love for five, two of the Cavaliers’ better shooters, your assist totals could take a dive.  And there is no question, Irving tried to pick up the scoring slack from the absence of those two players.

However, in watching the games, the ball movement that was a trademark early in the season is no longer there.  There is simply too much isolation ball, and too much dribbling by Cleveland players.

We would also like to see Deron Williams be the playmaker when he and Irving are in the game together.  Williams seems to be deferring to Irving, dribbling the ball across the time line and then giving it to Kyrie right away, instead of letting Irving be the scorer in that lineup.

Perhaps Irving should be more particular as to when he needs to carry the entire burden of the offense, and spend time earlier in games getting the other players going.  Outside of the “Big Three” (and the Cavs do that with Love in the first quarter), the rest of the team is struggling.

Maybe getting them some good early looks will get them into a good rhythm.

But it is clear when Kyrie Irving’s assist numbers are up, the Cleveland Cavaliers win more often.

Another thing to look at for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

JK

 

What Needs To Be Done To Fix Cavs’ D

The Cleveland Cavaliers either have a huge problem or they are deceiving the rest of the NBA.

They haven’t played solid defense for most of the season, but over the last few weeks, the ease at which opponents are scoring has become alarming.  Allowing over 125 points is becoming a regular occurrence.

We feel there are several factors at work here, some of which can be fixed prior to the beginning of the NBA playoffs, and some that may not be able to be repaired.

The first problem is familiarity.  Since JR Smith was injured around the holidays, Cleveland’s roster has been in flux.  Kyle Korver, Derrick Williams, Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut, and Larry Sanders have all been brought in, and Smith and Kevin Love missed significant time with injuries.

Those things, coupled with the lack of practice time NBA teams, particularly older ones, get during the regular season, make defensive rotations difficult to assimilate, and that shows in games.

There are many nights where the wine and gold look like they just met in a pick up game on the playground.  Really, they pretty much did.

The second problem is the defensive schemes are very vanilla, and this is by design because Tyronn Lue and his staff aren’t showing anything for the playoffs.  For the most part, the Cavs aren’t blitzing the pick and roll, and aren’t trapping point guards to force the ball out of his hands.

We are sure this will be done once the post-season starts.  Think back to the Boston game early in March and last night’s contest vs. Washington.  The Cavaliers pretty much guarded both Isaiah Thomas and John Wall straight up.  That won’t be the case in a playoff series.

It looks ugly now, but why show either potential opponent your cards before you have to.

However, we can call into question Lue’s playing rotations.  He has a deep roster, but still insists on playing LeBron James 38-40 minutes per game.  With the playoffs beckoning, why not reduce that to around 32 per night.

He also has too many lineups on the floor with glaring deficiencies.  For example, a group without Love and Tristan Thompson, which results in opponents getting second and third shot chances.

We see too many group on the floor without a solid defender besides James.  It is his job to make sure there are at least two or maybe three players who can guard someone on the floor at all times.

He has cut back on the playing time of Derrick Williams, an young, active guy who has shown signs he can guard someone.  Which is exactly what the Cavs need right now.

We know Cleveland wants to go into the playoffs healthy, but a big problem defensively is allowing dribble penetration out front.  Kyrie Irving isn’t fighting through picks and isn’t staying in front of his man.

If you know the game, this leads to the interior defenders having to pick those men up, leaving their man open, or leading to ball rotation for an open three point look.  You can’t have that in the playoffs.

Speaking of interior defense, all of the minutes and guarding on the perimeter seem to have taken a toll on Thompson, whose defense has slipped as the season has progressed.

His ability to guard smaller men away from the basket on switches was a key to last year’s title run.

The regular season games are winding down, meaning fixing the problem soon is critical to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

If they play defense like they have over the last month or so, they simply will not win the Eastern Conference again.  Let’s hope our theory on being secretive about their plans is correct.

JK

 

 

Cavs’ Defensive Issues Are Due To All The Changes.

Our initial reaction after the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night was they looked like they had never played with each other before.

Which, of course, is true.

Think about it, Derrick Williams has been with the team for about three weeks, Deron Williams about two.  Kyle Korver has been with the wine and gold since early January (he didn’t play on Thursday), so he’s never been on the floor as a teammate of JR Smith, who missed two and a half months with a thumb injury.

This presents a problem offensively, as Deron Williams learns where the rest of the players like to get the ball so they can score.

And as great as LeBron James is, and as much as he studies his teammates as well as opponents (remember how he told us we watched tape of Korver to see where he likes to catch the ball), even he admitted last night how tough this year has been with all the comings and goings due to roster moves and injuries.

There have been too many games recently where the James and Kyrie Irving are scoring almost half of the Cavs’ points.

Anyone still want to tell us how Kevin Love isn’t important to this team?

Love is a guy who is scoring more than 20 points per game, and in addition to that, is a huge factor on the defensive boards.  Anyone else notice the increasing amount of offensive rebounds the Cavaliers are giving up?

It is even a bigger problem defensively.  On that side of the ball, there is a great deal of trust, knowing you can pass an opponent off to another member of the Cavs, but you have to know they are going to be there.

Think about what Tyronn Lue has had to do on the fly.

He got Korver basically to replace Smith when he went down, and although Korver isn’t a horrible defender, he tries to hide his lack of quickness with knowing where to be, he isn’t as good a defender as Smith, who emerged last year as very good on that end of the floor.

Love isn’t an elite defender, but he is better than most people think, but replacing him in the starting lineup with Channing Frye is a large drop off in defense.  The wine and gold’s defensive rating takes a huge hit when Frye is on the floor.

Another issue with Love being out is that it has taken a toll on the Cavs’ chief interior defender, Tristan Thompson.

Thompson seems to be getting worn down as the season has progressed, having to battle opposing big men basically by himself over the past few weeks.

No doubt this was the biggest reason Andrew Bogut was signed, and also that it appears Larry Sanders will be inked to a deal in the coming week.

Smith is back now, and hopefully Korver’s foot won’t cause him to miss too many more games.

Love should back soon as well, perhaps in about 2 weeks.

Getting everyone back, and getting some extra practice time before the playoffs begin could be the biggest remedy for the defensive issues the team has had.

They need to play and practice together to get the trust back on the defensive end of the floor.  That should greatly decrease the glaring breakdowns when the opponents have the ball.

With all of the shuffling on who is and isn’t available on a nightly basis, something is going to suffer, and it’s usually defense.

When that improves, this team will be very difficult to beat.

JK

 

Cavs’ Injuries Adding To Difficult March Slate

Since the beginning of the calendar year, the Cleveland Cavaliers seem to have been beset by injuries, which makes people nervous about the prospect to repeating as NBA champions.

It started with JR Smith’s thumb, which has him out until what looks like the middle of March.  The question with this malady is will Smith have enough time to round back into shape, more of that meaning will his outside shooting be up to standard come playoff time in the middle of April.

Smith’s shooting and defense were of tremendous importance in the run to the title a year ago, so the seriousness of this injuries cannot be understated.

Then came the Kevin Love situation.  First it was his back, which caused him to miss a few games, and now comes the revelation that the all-star forward has some knee problems, and it would not be surprising if he needs to miss about 3-4 weeks of action, which would put him out until the middle of March too.

And we haven’t even mentioned Iman Shumpert’s sprained ankle, which has put him out for a week, and at this point, it would be in the Cavs’ best interest to keep the guard out of action until after the All Star break.

With these injuries to key players, it is kind of amazing the wine and gold are still sitting at 37-16 and with the best record in the Eastern Conference by two games over Boston.

While no injuries are timely, these comes at a particularly bad time because the schedule is very heavy with road games in March.

After a road game tonight and a game vs. Indiana at The Q tomorrow, the Cavaliers start the post break slate with three home games.

Then, starting on March 1st, seven of the next eight games are on the road, and included in that span are games against Boston, Atlanta, Houston, and a home/road back to back against Miami.

It doesn’t get any easier after that.  Following two home games against Detroit and Utah, Tyronn Lue’s squad goes back out west for games with the Clippers, Lakers, and Nuggets, then stopping in Charlotte before heading home.

At the very least, that portion of the trip could be concerned with getting Love and Smith back in the groove for the playoffs.

Besides all of the schedule and injury problems, remember that the trading deadline takes place next week, and it wouldn’t be a shock if GM David Griffin makes some sort of a move at the deadline to bolster the Cavs for the stretch run.

That puts Lue squarely in the middle as the guy who has to bring this all together, and he needs to do it while still winning games.

Over the past three years, and we include the year David Blatt was in charge, the Cavs have done a great job integrating new players into their culture, a tribute to both the coaching staff and the team’s leader, LeBron James.

Look at how quickly Derrick Williams has seemed to fit in being here not even a week.

Tristan Thompson summed it up the other night when he said the Cavaliers bring in guys who do one thing really well, and allow them to do what they do best.

The biggest thing is getting everyone in full gear when the playoffs start in the middle of April.

There isn’t any evidence to suggest this organization can’t do just that.

JK

 

Changes, Injuries Hurting Cavs Right Now

The Cleveland Cavaliers still sit at the top of the NBA’s Eastern Conference standings at 30-12, but they’ve hit a little bit of a slump.

They have split their last eight games, six of those coming on a long trip that spanned from Brooklyn to Golden State.

It appears the changes that have occurred to the roster have caught up a bit to Tyronn Lue and the guys in wine and gold.

First, they lost JR Smith to a thumb injury that will keep him out of the lineup until the middle of March at the earliest.  That led Lue to replace him with DeAndre Liggins, but he is not a very good outside shooter, and the league figured that out pretty quickly.

That forced Lue to start Iman Shumpert in Smith’s usual spot, which takes away from the defense on the second unit.

For example, Lue started newly acquired Kyle Korver, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, and Liggins with LeBron James at the start of the second and fourth quarters, and San Antonio went on runs both times.

Getting Korver is another change for Lue to handle.  He doesn’t seem to know exactly how he fits right now, mostly because of the very little practice time the team has had since he arrived.

Perhaps the best thing to do is to start Korver in Smith’s spot and put everyone back in their accustomed spots, the way it was early in the year when the Cavs were rolling.

Another complication has been nagging injuries to two of the “Big Three”, an ankle problem for Kyrie Irving and a back issue for Kevin Love.

Irving is shooting the three ball like he did two years ago, and his assist numbers are the highest since before James returned to the team.

In the seven games right before he hurt his ankle vs. Boston, Irving averaged 24 points and 10 assists per game with slightly less than three turnovers.

Since returning to the lineup, he has played eight games.  His scoring is fine at 23.5 points, but his assists are down to 4.5 and his turnovers are over three per night.

He just hasn’t found the groove he was in before the ankle issue.

Love’s back has been bothering him since the New Orleans game the day after New Year’s, and his production has dropping off dramatically.

He has scored over 20 points just once in that span and hasn’t shot over 50% in a game since the Cavaliers beat the Lakers on December 17th.

Besides the back issues, it seems like the Cavs have gotten away from getting Love touches near the basket, as he is relying more and more on three point shots.

In last night’s loss to the Spurs, Love took 15 total shots, 11 of those from behind the arc.

The team needs a healthy Kevin Love to succeed, but the lack of depth at the #4 and #5 spots in the lineup make it tough for that to happen.

We know James has lobbied for a back up point guard, but right now, the weakness that needs to be addressed is interior defense, which hasn’t been good as of late, and really the only player who can be counted on the contribute there is Tristan Thompson.

GM David Griffin needs to get another big, and the sooner the better.

We have faith that Lue will get the rotations down quickly and when Korver is more acclimated to the team, the Cavs will start playing well again soon.

We know what this team is capable of, and the talent is certainly there.  They are simply going through a period where a lot of players are nicked up and others have had to change their roles.

Lue and Griffin have earned the trust that they will take care of this.  With three home games following Monday’s game in New Orleans, and then five out of the next six on the road, it might be time to right the ship.

JK

 

 

Griffin Is Cavs’ Not So Secret Weapon

Cavaliers’ GM David Griffin must be a magician.  There isn’t any other explanation for the moves he makes to improve his basketball team.

Over the summer, when the Chicago Bulls signed Dwyane Wade as a free agent, Griffin slid in and took Mike Dunleavy off their hands to add to the wine and gold’s array of shooters.

Dunleavy, now 36 years old, saw his three point shooting numbers (the main reason the Cavs wanted him) decline from around 40% over the last five years, to 35% this year.

Tyronn Lue lost confidence in the veteran and over the last couple of weeks, he barely saw any time on the court, partially because he was battling an ankle injury.

Add in JR Smith being lost to the team until March with a broken thumb, and you needed to add another outside shooter to back up point guard and a serviceable big man to the list of needs for the defending champions.

So, what does Griffin do?  He deals for one of the best three point shooters in history in Kyle Korver, and moves Dunleavy in the deal along with Mo Williams, who isn’t even playing right now.

He swapped his first round pick in 2017 to Portland to get back the Cavs’ first rounder in ’18 to get around the rule you can’t trade first rounders in consecutive years, so he could deal his first pick in 2019 to the Hawks as part of the deal.

The Cavs payroll and luxury tax bill actually goes down with this trade, and it allow Cleveland to add a player, probably a point guard, because they now have an open roster spot.

Talk about a win-win scenario.

As for Korver, yes he has declined since he was an all-star in 2015, when he averaged 12.1 points per night and shot a league high 49.2% from behind the arc.  He’s averaging 9.5 points and shooting 41% from three point range this year.

But remember this.  When the Cavs played Atlanta in the playoffs each of the last two seasons, David Blatt and Lue made it a priority to keep Korver under control.  They felt he was the Hawks’ game changer.

And now he plays for the Cavaliers.

Korver will turn 36 in March, thus joining the veteran bench club with Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye, and he was averaging 28 minutes per night with Atlanta.

We would expect those minutes will be reduced here, and perhaps with less of a workload, Korver’s shooting efficiency will return to the levels he attained from 2011-12 through 2014-15, when the lowest he shot from distance was 43.5%.

He is hitting almost 50% of his shots from 16 feet to the three point line, and knocking down 52% of his threes from the corner.

The guy can flat out shoot the rock.  And with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving’s ability to breakdown defenses and get to the hole, well, we all saw the results last May and June.

With the open roster spot, we would anticipate a complimentary move from Griffin to add a veteran back up point guard soon.

Kay Felder has shown flashes, but we will repeat, when you a competing for a title, you can’t expect a rookie to be a major contributor.  Felder looks like he can play, and will see more time next year and years to come, but Lue doesn’t want to have to rely on him in a playoff situation.

The Cavs are sailing right now at 27-8, the top record in the Eastern Conference.  But David Griffin sees the bigger picture.  He saw a way to improve this team and went out and got it done.

That’s what the great GMs in sports do.  They are proactive, not reactive.  Because if you are the latter, when you make a move, it might be too late.

JK

 

 

Cavs’ Injuries Open Up Opportunity For McRae

The Cleveland Cavaliers are having players dropping like flies in the past week, and the best thing about that is that it is happening now, instead of March or April, right before the playoffs start.

Already playing one man short because of the Mo Williams situation, the wine and gold played the last two games without Kevin Love, who will be back (hopefully) on Friday, and then Chris Andersen blew out his ACL in practice.

Then they lost JR Smith to a broken thumb during Tuesday overtime victory in Milwaukee, and Smith will be out about 4-6 weeks, so he should be back around the beginning of February.

We have maintained since the beginning of training camp that the opening night roster would not be the same as the players who will take the floor for the first playoff game in April.

Mostly because we couldn’t see Tyronn Lue going into the post-season with a rookie back up point guard or using Iman Shumpert as Kyrie Irving’s replacement for about 12 minutes per night.

Teams trying to repeat as champions can’t use rookies in key roles.

The bright side of these injuries is it will give some players who haven’t been getting a lot of time on the floor an opportunity to either contribute or show Lue and GM David Griffin they can’t be counted on for the playoffs.

Mike Dunleavy has had a slow start to the regular season, perhaps trying to fit in to his new teammates.  With the injuries, he has started to get more playing time, and is starting to knock down shots.  He’s hit 46% of his three point shots over the last five games.

Dunleavy’s spot on the roster probably wasn’t in question, but it is good to see him getting more comfortable in the wine and gold.

The biggest opportunity with the players being out is in front of Jordan McRae, who seems to have played his way into Lue’s doghouse.

We had high hopes for McRae coming into training camp as a possible replacement in the rotation for Matthew Dellavedova.  Our bet is that Lue wants McRae to play like the rest of the team, that is to say move the ball on offense and play solid defense.

McRae came into a close game against Memphis (Cavs were down by five) last week.  He immediately shot the first three times he touched the ball, and within a couple of minutes, the Grizzlies’ lead shot up to 12.

Not the impression you want to make when you finally get some playing time.

McRae shoots the ball the same number of times as Dunleavy per game, and with a lot less minutes.

The young man would be better off putting a little more DeAndre Liggins into his game.  Liggins has gained time and passed McRae in Lue’s eyes because of his ability to defend.

We understand that McRae is a scorer, that’s how he got to the NBA from the D-League.  But in the NBA, playing time is distributed based on being able to defend.  And that’s what McRae needs to show the coaching staff.

If McRae doesn’t impress the staff, he could be released with contracts become guaranteed or moved with either Andersen’s or Williams’ contract for a piece the Cavs need.

The opportunity is there for Jordan McRae, it’s up to him what he does with it.

JK

 

 

Cavs Allow Fans Some Relaxation

Usually for a Cleveland sports fan, there is worry, concern, and angst in following your team.

Maybe the lack of that worries you, because you are a product of following sports in northeast Ohio, but this NBA basketball has an odd sense of calm to it.

Right now, the Cavaliers are off to a great start, winning 13 of their first 15 games, and already are four games ahead in the loss column in the NBA Eastern Conference standing.

Barring any sort of health related problems, probably the next time any basketball fan will have any concern is when the playoffs get underway, and even then, perhaps not until the Eastern Conference finals.

That’s how good this Cavs team is, and winning that title last spring and experiencing that run together has freed them up to play seemingly even better to this point in the season.

A full training camp with Tyronn Lue has the wine and gold ticking like a Swiss watch.  Kevin Love, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, is playing like he did with the Timberwolves, averaging more than 20 points per night and grabbing more than 10 rebounds.

The other thing that has to strike fans is the closeness of this group and the fun they seem to have together.

They attended the Indians’ post-season games together, they have an annual Halloween party, they stopped off to watch the Ohio State-Michigan game a few days ago.

Maybe all of that is done because LeBron James says it needs to happen, but the rest of the squad is following their leader, and that has to help when it comes down to crunch time in games.  They trust each other and they trust their coach.

Yes, LeBron is playing more minutes than we all expected, but Lue has told us the plan is to give James more rest when the schedule gets heavy in January and February.  His minutes will go down then, and there will probably be some days off as well.

There is no doubt or handwringing from the fans and sports talk hosts around town.  The Cavs won, so we believe in what they tell us.

Outside of the game they lost in Indiana when James sat out, this team rolls on even if they are missing some of it’s cogs.

Channing Frye has tragically missed time due to deaths in his family.  JR Smith missed some games with a sprained ankle.  Last Sunday, both Frye and Iman Shumpert were out, the Cavs still won on the road.

Lue has also made everyone a part of the early success.  Rookie Kay Felder has contributed.  Jordan McRae has seen more time lately and played the entire fourth quarter of a game against Washington that was still in doubt.

Sunday, without Frye and Smith in a slump, Lue turned to veteran James Jones, who came in and knocked down two three pointers.

It is true that the Cavs have been home a lot thus far (10 of their 15 games have been at Quicken Loans Arena), so the schedule will get a little tougher coming up.  However, that still doesn’t provide great concern.

And by the way, let the media keep chasing Golden State and the continuously preening Warriors.  The Cavaliers will keep quietly going about their business, which is winning.

While their fans just sit back and enjoy the ride.

JK