So much for the air-clearing team meeting.
The Cavs are going through a period of adjustment with eight new players, four of whom (Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade and Jeff Green) play a ton of minutes along with James. Isaiah Thomas is working his way back from a hip injury and, on Wednesday night, Tristan Thompson left the arena on crutches with a strained left calf.
The Cavs can, at least, say that they were in this one, trailing by only six points with 3:11 left. Besides, it’s only November. The team that has gone to three straight NBA Finals isn’t likely to rank near the bottom of the NBA defensively all season, right?
Asked if he found anything to feel good about, James had a succinct “hm-mmm” and a quick shake of his head. After losing to the Knicks on Sunday, James had been philosophical, saying, “What is this? October? I’m not about to go crazy over it right now. It’s too long of a season and I’ve been a part of this too many times so, I’m the wrong guy to ask. I’m too positive right now.” On Wednesday, the positive takeaway was, “It’s a new month. It’s a new month.”
But the result was frustratingly October-like and the 3-5 team is now distressingly near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
“We can’t sustain effort for 48 minutes,” James said in a series of clipped answers to reporters’ questions. Asked how to solve that, he admitted, “I don’t know. Get in better shape. Be more mindful of what’s going on. There’s a lot of things you can do.”
Like, get to know one another and get healthy. The Cavs have eight new players and rely on four — Rose, Crowder, Wade and Green — for a ton of minutes. In addition to injuries to Thomas and Thompson, Rose has been in and out of the lineup with a sprained ankle. As a result, the team has used five different starting lineups in eight games.
And there’s James himself. He missed most of training camp with a sprained ankle on the day that Wade joined the Cavs. “This was probably the worst training camp for me in my career because of the injury,” James said. “I didn’t get an opportunity to do the things that I like to do and with the summer that I had, I kind of had a setback.”
Before Wednesday’s game, Coach Tyronn Lue attributed the struggles to chemistry issues. “Off the court we’ve got great chemistry, great bond,” he said. “Just, on the court we just got to be better. Like, talking, communicating, enjoying the game together. Having fun. … Right now guys are not having fun.”
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