Storyline: Cleveland Cavaliers Turmoil?

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Multiple marquee Cleveland players spoke without attribution to cleveland.com, ESPN, and The Athletic after the loss to the Warriors, and league sources separately spoke to cleveland.com to describe a sullen and dour atmosphere on a team that a few short weeks ago was toasting in Napa, Calif. “Rotations are awful. IT (Isaiah Thomas) is so much worse than Kyrie defensively it’s insane,” said a league source. “There is not a great feeling anywhere. They need to limp into the All-Star break and get away from each other.”
4 days ago via ESPN

Thomas was also asked how LeBron James is handling the team’s latest adversity. “He’s one of the best leaders I’ve been around and you learn from that, you learn from a great player like him,” he said. “Collectively as a group it can’t be all on him. We have to all be a star in our role. Whatever role we have on this team, have to be a star in it, have to put your egos aside. They always say we go through this rough stretch, I don’t believe in that. That’s all mental.”

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said Friday that he addressed his “agendas” comment with his players. “I’m going to say this and we’re going to move forward because it’s over,” Lue said before the Cavs played the Indiana Pacers. “It’s not you’re guarding (Victor) Oladipo or I’m guarding Oladipo, we’re all guarding Oladipo. It’s a team thing. So ‘Oh my man didn’t score, but he scores.’ No, that’s not team basketball. We’ve got to get back to that helping the helper. A guy goes to help and then you help him.”

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue dropped what for him was a bombshell at the end of his post-game press conference when asked if he was concerned about the Cavs’ skid. They are 26-15 at the season’s midpoint. 3. “I never really get concerned,” Lue said. “We’ve got to be better. We know that. But until we play better defensively, I think offensively sharing the basketball, everyone on the same page, and if guys have agendas, we’ve got to get rid of our agendas and play the right way.”

Asked to explain, James said, “Just us trying to figure it out. It’s not for everybody. We came in here and talked about it and that’s what happens at times. Family’s not always about a bed of roses.” 18. James said his message to his teammates in the huddle was accountability. 19. “We’ve all got to be accountable for actions, accountable for how we play, how hard we play, what we’re doing for one another,” James said. “Plays that you should come up with, you should make, and when you’re losing, you tend to not want to make those plays or tend to let some plays get away from you. And we can’t afford that right now, the way we’re playing ball. So, just trying to hold everybody accountable and move on, which we did.”
1 week ago via ESPN

At best, LeBron James was brutally honest when assessing the Cavs struggles at shootaround Thursday. At worst, he was resigned. “I love our potential,” he said. “We have … this is just us during the regular season. It’s four years since I’ve been back and this has just been us. We have great months, we have not so good months, we have times when we’re not playing well, we’ve got times when we are playing well. This is just us. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at times. But potential is always there. We’re going to continue to get better every day, continue to learn from each other every day.”
1 week ago via ESPN

With his team reeling from six losses in their past nine games – including a 28-point blowout at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves this week – Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue opened Wednesday’s practice with an extensive film session to address his team’s defensive woes. Rather than splice up the video with specific plays, Lue showed the entirety of the Cavs’ poor first quarter against the Wolves, multiple sources told ESPN, calling attention to the lack of effort his team showed from the start as Minnesota opened up a 32-18 lead.
1 week ago via ESPN

What was Lue’s overall message after his team allowed 127 points for the second consecutive game? “We just got to play harder,” said Isaiah Thomas. “We’ve got to play harder on both ends, we’ve got to push the pace offensively, we’ve got to pressure up defensively and take teams out of what they want to do. Teams are doing whatever they want to us at that end of the floor. I think if we do that then that will be half the battle. We’ll fix things on offense, but defensively we’ve just got to play harder, be more physical, take away what teams want to do.”
1 week ago via ESPN

Lue reiterated that he would not be making any lineup changes – the slumping Jae Crowder and JR Smith will remain in the starting unit – but he did implore both players to be more aggressive when looking for their offensive opportunities. “I think with JR and Jae, they just can’t turn down shots. If you have shots, you got to take them,” Lue said. “It doesn’t matter if you miss 7-8 in a row. If that’s your shot, you got to take that shot. So Jae and JR passed up on a few (recently) that I wanted them to take.”
3 months ago via ESPN

Having lost four in a row and five of their past six games, Lue and his coaching staff have tried to turn things around schematically. Cavs superstar LeBron James, meanwhile, is not letting the losing streak affect him spiritually. “We’re definitely struggling right now, which is OK,” James said Friday. “I felt that we would struggle at some point throughout the season. I think it’s surprising to all of us that it’s happening right now, but hey, it is what it is and it’s exciting to see how we can turn this thing around.”
3 months ago via ESPN

It’s just the timing of the current slump and its severity — Cleveland lost its past three games by a combined 58 points — that is alarming. However, Lue would rather get the bad basketball out of the way now and build until April, rather than be as uneven as his teams have been in the past. “I think it makes us better,” Lue said. “I think going through it now early in the season, instead of going through it late when you want to hit your peak and playing great going into the playoffs. Right now, it’s a rough patch, but it’s no excuse. We have to be better and we will.”
3 months ago via ESPN

Love said that even before the team meeting, the Cavs started the week off right at James’ annual Halloween party. James dressed like Pennywise the clown from “It;” Love was WWE wrestler Sting, complete with red face paint; Thomas was Eazy-E from N.W.A.; Kyle Korver was Willy Wonka (the Johnny Depp version); Tristan Thompson was Khal Drogo from “Game of Thrones”; Dwyane Wade and his wife, Gabrielle Union, dressed up as Milli Vanilli; JR Smith was a Conehead; Channing Frye was Blankman; Jae Crowder was Prince Akeem from “Coming to America”; and rookie Cedi Osman wore a Freddy Krueger costume so intricate that it took him two hours to put it on and two hours to take it off. “I think it was good for us,” Love said. “I think it definitely lightened the mood and it was definitely a get-to-know-you moment with a lot of guys. … I think in some odd way it will definitely help us.”
3 months ago via ESPN

JR Smith was taken aback by Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue’s decision to start Dwyane Wade after he was initially told that Wade was brought in as a backup, Smith shared on an episode of the “Road Trippin'” podcast with teammates Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye. “Honestly, I was hurt, man,” Smith said on the podcast, which posted Friday. “I was really emotionally drained at that point. I got wind of it that it was going to go down, but I didn’t know. I was told he’s going to be great for the second unit. … It would be a great fit for the team, whatever, whatever. I’m like, ‘Awesome, let’s do it. One hundred percent. Out of all people, another person we’re going to just grab for damn-near nothing? For sure. Let’s do it.'”

“My first initial thought, it wasn’t even to be selfish because that’s not just who I am as a player and as a person,” Smith said. “I’m a one-track mind. It’s what I’ve always been. That’s just me. So when you tell me something, I look at it as gold. So when you tell me something else, literally a couple of days later, it’s like, ah, now I got to change my mind frame from where I was at the last three years to flip it back to me being the sixth man — a successful three years, an extremely successful three years, I mean, we’ve been to three straight Finals.
6 months ago via ESPN

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson said that Kyrie Irving’s search for a more stable situation by requesting a trade is understandable considering the state of the Cavs’ franchise. “I think Kyrie is a hyper-intelligent kid,” Jefferson said on the latest episode of his “Road Trippin'” podcast, released Monday. “Really, really smart. Doesn’t get enough credit for how smart he is, and I think seeing that the franchise is in flux, I think seeing (David Griffin) leave and the amount of coaches … I think Kyrie has had a much tougher time in this stretch of the organization than anyone ever wants to ever really fully (recognize).”

“I didn’t think we respected them tonight. I thought we thought we’d just mess around with the game until it was time to knuckle down. By that time, they already had confidence. That’s who we’ve been. That’s who we are. I hate it. These games like this come back and bite you, especially down the stretch when you’re trying to get some rest. Trying to hold on to that No. 1 seed and getting rest, and you come out and have a performance like this, it’s not good.”

Shumpert was glued to the bench in the second half — only rising to offer encouragement to his teammates during an otherwise miserable night. “No, I wasn’t trying to send a message,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said. Perhaps not. But it wouldn’t be the worst idea. Shumpert scored zero points on 0-of-1 from the field. He also grabbed one rebound and committed two turnovers in six unproductive minutes, as the Cavaliers were outscored by 12 points during his brutal stretch.

Asked after the victory over the Magic how he felt about the Cavs compared to a week ago, coach Tyronn Lue said, “I feel good about this team all the time. It’s like a soap opera, but I love this team. We know what we’re capable of doing. Even though we lost the Chicago game, for three quarters defensively we were great. Jimmy Butler and (Rajon) Rondo had a good game, but (Nikola) Mirotic hurt us more than anything. We’ve got to take him out of the game when we play them again. Defensively the effort is there, the multiple effort. We’re getting stops. I always feel good about this team. It could be this week, next week. You know how we are.”

Immediately after the game, James expressed remorse. “I have to do a better job of not showing up my teammates out on the floor. I had the right intentions in my mind, but I had the wrong intentions come out of my mouth,” James told Fox Sports Ohio on the court after the game ended. “I take full responsibility for that as the leader of the team. So I got to be a lot better at that and be able to keep that in-house in the locker room and when we’re watching film.” In the locker room, James expanded on his thoughts: “I was a little bit too demonstrative at that point in the game,” James said. “He worked hard for our team, he’s a big-time player … but the way it came out was — it didn’t look good on TV.”

Lue tried to make light of the situation in his postgame comments. He mentioned that both players were represented by Klutch Sports, founded by Paul, and said the blow up showed “we care about our defense.” “The game’s on the line, you want to win,” Lue said. “Paul George makes a tough shot, they get into it. That’s part of the game. You like to see that passion, and a lot of times take it out on the other team. They were both mad and frustrated, but that’s what you want to see. We wanted to win that game and it was a big play. Some miscommunication right there, but they got over it.”

By the time the visitor’s locker room opened inside the United Center following another loss — Cleveland’s fifth in the last seven games and 10th during a pitiful March — Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Deron Williams and James Jones were the only players remaining. That’s because the team meeting, which Kyrie Irving hinted at, had already taken place. “Every journey’s different,” Irving said. “When you’re in it, it absolutely sucks, when you’re in a rut like this. We’re taking steps forward. After the game we took a step forward.”

After the Cavs lost their ninth game in 15 tries Monday against the Spurs, 14-year vet James Jones spoke in the locker room, asking rhetorically what the players really wanted out of this season, a source told cleveland.com. These kinds of speeches are not unusual, especially at this point in the season with the playoffs fast approaching, but this kind of losing in March is rare for the Cavs. And it’s not what one would expect from a defending champion with this kind of talent.
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January 18, 2018 | 10:00 pm EST Update