Following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 118-108 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday, multiple players acknowledged growing discontent and a strong sense of concern that unlike past seasons, the team does not have the capability to fix the problems that ail their current team to get back on a championship track.
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Several prominent players, speaking on a condition of anonymity to ESPN, Cleveland.com and The Athletic, expressed doubt that the problems — an aging roster, defensively-challenged personnel and a glut of redundant role players — could simply be worked out through patience and a chance to coalesce when fully healthy.
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.”
There are questions as to whether the pieces put in place by owner Dan Gilbert’s new front office team, headed by general manager Koby Altman, fit together — regardless of opponent — and whether the Cavs will make a trade by the Feb. 8 deadline. (A league source countered that the team would certainly “try” to make a move.)
After an uneven start to his comeback from a torn labrum in his right hip, Isaiah Thomas says that his apparent regression his last couple games is not surprising. “I knew it was going to be like this,” the Cleveland Cavaliers point guard said after practice Sunday. “I have no legs. So it’s going to take some time to get it back, even when I played well those first two games I told Coach (Tyronn) Lue it didn’t feel right. It was kind of fool’s gold.”
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.”
Brian Robb: Cavs blow 22-point lead and lose to Pacers 97-95. They have dropped 7 of 9 overall and are now seven games back of the Celtics in the East standings with 40 games to play.
LeBron James stepped on the baseline trying to score what could’ve been the game winner. He caught a desperation pass from Kevin Love inside of 1.4 seconds to go and fired a 3-pointer that hit the rim.
Scott Agness: LeBron is at the Cavs’ TV courtside position checking out the review for himself, swearing that he didn’t step on the baseline. Pacers’ ball, 2.3 seconds left.
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.”
“The biggest thing that I see we’re not doing, we’re not playing for each other right now, offensively and defensively,” Lue said. “Defensively everybody’s on an island playing defense by themselves. Offensively it’s a lot of one-on-one, no ball movement.”
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.”
James said he hopes personal agendas have not torn down the Cavs, who recorded a franchise record-tying 13-game winning streak in November and early December. 6. “At this point, three and a half, four years in this thing and we … I hope not. I don’t know. I don’t have one. I just want to win,” James said. “I just like playing ball the right way, getting guys involved and winning the game.”
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.”
Kevin Love expects Lue to explain what he meant, especially after the Cavs were forced to answer so many questions about his comment. 13. “We’ve got a lot of vets on this team, if there are agendas, I don’t see it,” Love said. “But I’m sure whoever he’s speaking of or speaking to with that, he’ll address it, as we usually do.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
Rick Noland: LeBron: “No energy. The effort was pretty bad”
Jordan Zirm: LeBron says he doesn’t want to “single anyone out” when it comes to the Cavs lack of effort, which is an interesting way to put that
Rick Noland: Frye: “We overall have got to play better. We suck right now. Right now”
Jordan Zirm: Tyronn Lue spent the time out yelling at Kevin Love and making a lot of angry hand gestures. He is visibly upset
Dave McMenamin: Kevin Love will not return due to an illness, per the Cavs. He has been in the locker room since subbing out early in the 3rd Q.
Jordan Zirm: Kevin Love just ripped his jersey in half after picking up his third foul. and it didn’t look like it took much effort
Judging by the bags under coach Tyronn Lue’s eyes, not everyone is taking the Cleveland Cavaliers’ early season slide lightly. “Look at me,” Lue said before the morning shootaround prior to Friday night’s game against the Washington Wizards. “I ain’t slept in days.”
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.”
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.”
Off to a 3-4 start and struggling to live up to the standard set en route to three straight Eastern Conference titles, the Cleveland Cavaliers held an air-it-out meeting with the entire team prior to practice Tuesday. LeBron James was a “vocal” participant in the meeting, a source present on Tuesday told ESPN, but he was not the lone voice. “Most everyone spoke,” the source added. “Was very productive.”
Team meetings are nothing new for NBA teams, the Cavs especially. During their championship season in 2015-16, they had several players-only talks as early as November. But with James off to his worst personal start to a season since the Cavs went 2-5 his rookie year, Cleveland trying to incorporate eight new players added from last season’s NBA Finals team and the group already having to juggle several injuries on top of Isaiah Thomas’ injured hip, it was time.
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.”
Josh Lewenberg: Cavs didnt lose 4th game until Dec 1 last season. They’re 3-4 with losses to Magic/Nets/Pelicans/Knicks (combined record of 114-214 last yr)
Rick Noland: LJ on starts: “It’s been costing us the game. It’s the starting unit. We’ve got to figure it out someway, somehow. Guys are scoring at will”
Dave McMenamin: Ty Lue calls the loss “unacceptable.”
Vincent Goodwill: Talked to a league exec today and he said the earlier start to the season has led to some funky team performances. Hence Cavs-NY, no shock
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.
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).”
Richard Jefferson: He’s the No. 1 pick right after LeBron (left for Miami in 2010), then he has three different coaches, then LeBron comes back, now there’s trade rumors, now it’s ‘LeBron’s leaving.’ It’s like at some point in time, anybody would want some sort of stability.”
As USA TODAY Sports reported earlier in the week, LeBron James is frustrated by Cleveland’s quiet offseason and the departure of two of the team’s top front-office executives, general manager David Griffin and vice president of basketball operations Trent Redden, before the draft and free agency.
Further exacerbating James’ frustration is the Cavs were close to making a deal for then-Chicago Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler the day Gilbert decided to mutually part ways with Griffin and Redden, two people familiar with negotiations told USA TODAY Sports. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the negotiations.
While the NBA’s free-agency frenzy kicked off Friday night, signaling the official start of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ mission to return to a championship level, the team’s biggest star is remaining hands-off as he watches the action unfold. LeBron James is not actively recruiting on behalf of the Cavs as the franchise zeroes in on its top free-agent targets, a league source told ESPN on Saturday.
The choice by James to be a bystander comes at a fragile time for the team, which is navigating free agency without a general manager in place after parting ways with David Griffin nearly two weeks ago. Assistant GM Koby Altman has been elevated to the de facto interim GM while Cleveland continues to negotiate with Chauncey Billups to accept a position to run the front office.
“We shouldn’t be shocked after we fired our head coach when we were in first place in the middle of the season,” Jefferson said Tuesday, referring to David Blatt’s dismissal in January 2016. “Still, it’s surprising.”
Jefferson expressed confidence in Griffin’s future prospects of becoming a general manager once again, comparing him to one of Major League Baseball’s brightest executives who achieved unthinkable success with both the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. “He’s the Theo Epstein of basketball,” Jefferson said of Griffin. “He ended the curse. Not just for a team, but for an entire city.”
Josh Lewenberg: In one of the worst collapses I’ve seen, Cavs blow a 26-point 4th-quarter lead and lose to the Hawks in OT. They’re now 12-13 since All-Star
Dave McMenamin: Hawks’ P.A. announcer as we head to overtime: “A lot of people went home! Guess who stayed …” ATL was down 26 and now we’re in OT.
AJ Neuharth-Keusch: LeBron has played 216 minutes (43.2 per game) in five games this month. Not ideal.
After a frustrating loss against the short-handed Atlanta Hawks Friday night, a game that could’ve pushed the Cleveland Cavaliers closer to clinching the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, Iman Shumpert went back out on the court to hoist extra shots and collect his thoughts.
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.
“Just defensively get back to being a stopper,” Lue said of what he needed from the enigmatic shooting guard. “Of course, it wasn’t Shump’s fault. Just something we were trying to different and it didn’t work either. He’s OK.”
One Cavs source told ESPN it was the “most embarrassing loss of the season by a lot.” Another told ESPN, “I saw it coming,” when he got wind of the Hawks sitting their marquee guys. Yet another told ESPN of the Cavs’ up-and-down nature, “I don’t get it. I don’t f—ing get it.”
“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.”
After a frustrating loss against the short-handed Atlanta Hawks Friday night, a game that could’ve pushed the Cleveland Cavaliers closer to clinching the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, Iman Shumpert went back out on the court to hoist extra shots and collect his thoughts. To cap his postgame workout session — which consisted of midrange jumpers and 3-pointers from all around the arc — he sprinted up and down the Quicken Loans Arena floor. After all, he didn’t get to do much of that during the 114-100 loss.
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.
Brian Windhorst: “People who were involved in the game couldn’t believe what LeBron James said to Ty Lue when Ty tried to calm him down and then couldn’t believe what Tristan said back to him. This guy has played played against LeBron a lot and he was like, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen anything like that with a LeBron teammate.'”
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.”
Pressed on his soap opera remark, Lue said, “Why do I think it is? It’s just who we are. We love the drama.”
When James was asked about the tension after the Pacers’ game, he said, “We’re a brotherhood who only wants to get better and do what’s right for the team. So someone had something to say and it’s for the better of the team and that’s healthy and we need that.” 14. Three victories help the situation, Irving said, but he doesn’t want triumphs over the 76ers, Pacers and Magic to cover up the Cavs’ mistakes.
James blamed the poor execution on a lack of practice. The Cavs played 12 road games in March, making it difficult for Lue to schedule workouts while making rest for his players a priority. “We haven’t practiced anything, especially late-game situations,” James said. “I can’t remember the last time we had a late-game situation.”
LeBron James apologized to Tristan Thompson, who was still fuming after a screaming match during a timeout with his world-famous teammate. Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith both made quick exits before speaking with reporters, and coach Tyronn Lue did everything he could to re-direct pointed fingers at him. “My fault,” Lue said. “Blame it on me.”
Moments after Cavs forward Kevin Love hit a key 3-pointer for a four-point lead with 26 seconds left, euphoria on the Cavs’ bench was zapped when James and Thompson went back and forth. James yelled at Thompson as they were walking to the bench and waved off coach Tyronn Lue when he attempted to calm James’ down. Thompson snapped back at James, exchanging words in the huddle throughout a timeout.
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.”
Rick Noland: LJ on blowup with TT: “I apologized. It’s cool.”
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.”
Chris Fedor: As Kevin Love completely ignores the shouting match and says, “Come on! One stop! One stop!” twitter.com/AlexKennedyNBA…
Rick Noland: Lue on TT/LJ spat: “That shows you we care about our defense. … They both were made and frustrated, which you want to see”
Chris Fedor: #Cavs Kyrie Irving left the locker room without speaking to the media.
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.” When asked to clarify what he meant by that, Irving declined to share details. “Just in a way that a team should take a step forward when we’re in a rut,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Jessica Camerato: Ty Lue said Cavs have to watch for how hard the Sixers compete.
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.”
When asked to clarify what he meant by that, Irving declined to share details. “Just in a way that a team should take a step forward when we’re in a rut,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Jason Lloyd: LeBron is in no mood tonight. No postgame icing session, beat Ty Lue out of locker room to address reporters. That’s a first
The Cavs’ slide continues, and the best anyone can say about them right now is March is almost over. Cleveland fell to the Chicago Bulls 99-93 on Thursday night in a game in which LeBron James passed Shaquille O’Neal (28,596 points) for seventh place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Now is not a time for the Cavs to celebrate personal accolades. James said the milestone “means absolutely nothing right now.” It’s time to put out a dumpster fire that consumed them this month.
Chuck Garfien: LeBron said Rondo kept breaking down their D. Part of the Cavs gameplan was to take Mirotic out of his comfort zone. “We didn’t do it.”
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.
Neither LeBron James nor Kyrie Irving barked at teammates in the locker room, the source said, though the source confirmed what Irving said Monday — that the losing and the travel have frayed nerves. And yet, as the Cavs get set to play the Chicago Bulls tonight, they find themselves tied for first with the Celtics, who lost Wednesday to Milwaukee.
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January 18, 2018 | 10:00 pm EST Update
The Pistons will seek a disabled-player exception for forward Jon Leuer, who has played just nine games this season after suffering an ankle injury on Oct. 31. The DPE is a provision that allows teams to get a break in their salary-cap numbers in the event of a catastrophic injury.
Leuer missed 34 games and was projected to be a major part of the Pistons’ rotation. Since the injury he has been limited to light shooting, but because of complications, he has had fluid injections in the ankle joint and is considering season-ending surgery.
Jared Weiss: Stevens on Kyrie All-Star start: He certainly deserve it. He’s had a great year and I hope Al makes it as well. Those guys deserve all the accolades.
Steve Bulpett: Brad Stevens to Kevin McHale in the hallway after combined 44 turnovers in 89-80 loss to Philly: “I hope you found a way to make that sound interesting.” McHale, who worked the game for TNT, laughs and replies, “I didn’t.”