Sexton’s struggles, and how his teammates responded to them, led to head coach Larry Drew addressing that with players. “I actually pulled some guys to the side when we were in Orlando,” Drew said. “That was my exact point — having to be patient with a 19-year-old kid.”
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Thompson said he wasn’t one of the players Drew talked to in Orlando. JR Smith wouldn’t confirm one way or the other, but dropped a hint that he was. “It gets frustrating sometimes in the moment, but you have to take a quick flashback and understand he’s still 19 years old,” Smith told cleveland.com. “He’s a young player and he’s going to go through the same situations I was in. For me, I have to look at it I have to be that guy I didn’t have who is trying to push me to be better and make sure I’m on the right path. He’s definitely on his way there. It’s obviously going to take time.”
It’s becoming increasingly clear that when you hear a Cavs veteran talk about younger players not knowing their role, or knowing how to win, or what to do on the court, they mean Sexton. Throughout the organization, the line on Sexton is that he does not “know how to play.” He doesn’t know how to defend the pick and roll. He doesn’t know how to set up teammates as a point guard. He’s playing 25 minutes a night, averaging 11.1 points and 2.2 assists (2.1 turnovers) and is shooting 22 percent from 3-point range. Against the Hornets, he had as many points (four) as fouls. He had no chance against Tony Parker.
His vision to get teammates involved is lacking, as he has just 20 assists in nine games. He takes an inordinate amount of 2s. He plays out of control, committing 19 turnovers. While he crouches down in his defensive stance, Sexton still doesn’t understand how to guard, especially the pick and roll. Nor does he get the nuances of being a quality team defender. George Hill has offered to mentor the teenager, teach him how to play defense. But Sexton has, to this point, rebuffed that. While teammates don’t think he’s a bad kid and recognize he’s trying his best in an extremely tough situation, they are also growing frustrated with Sexton because he doesn’t show anger or disappointment following losses.
Whether he chooses to admit it or not, Smith was informed, along with his people, that his spot in the rotation was dicey prior to training camp. A logjam on the wing and new organizational goals, with player development at the center, made the preseason incredibly important for him. But hip and elbow issues derailed his chances of earning that spot.
The argument for playing him is he’s a veteran, one of the few guys, according to others in the locker room, that knows what he’s doing. He may not always be in the right place, but he at least recognizes where he should be.
Smith has a tendency to “say the right things but not back them up,” one member of the organization told cleveland.com.
The Cavs are no longer just tussling with their opponent. But also the disharmony that has started to contaminate a group that entered this season with the best intentions. “Team is in a very weird place right now,” JR Smith said following his return to the rotation in Cleveland’s 126-94 loss to the Hornets. You can say that again. “We have to figure it out, whether it’s a players-only meeting or coaches or front office meeting or whatever it is, we have to figure it out and let everyone know what their individual role is and what to expect,” Smith said.
George Hill has offered to mentor the teenager, teach him how to play defense. But Sexton has, to this point, rebuffed that. While teammates don’t think he’s a bad kid and recognize he’s trying his best in an extremely tough situation, they are also growing frustrated with Sexton because he doesn’t show anger or disappointment following losses.
Chants of Smith’s name echoed through the mostly-vacated arena late in the fourth quarter, as fans wanted Smith to get some playing time. It never happened. Smith was one of two players not to see action. Channing Frye was the other.
On Tuesday, ESPN reported Smith considered taking a leave because he was informed he’d no longer be playing in the wake of Lue’s firing Sunday. Both Smith and several members of the Cavs’ organization denied that report, insisting instead that it was Altman who made the offer to leave to Smith. “To come from where I came from, from pretty much nothing to Cleveland and the way the city embraced me, the fans embraced me, the relationship I have with them, I can’t do that to them,” Smith said.
But a few days ago, after seeing some questionable body language from Smith, Altman sat down with the mercurial shooting guard and asked him if he wanted to stay with the team or take a leave of absence. Smith opted to stay. “It’s a tough situation as a veteran and I totally understand that,” Drew said. “I’m very glad he decided to stick around. I had no knowledge about what his options were, but yes, I’m very happy that he did make that decision to stay with the team.”
ESPN reported that Smith, upset over being told he was out of the rotation for the second time in seven games, considered leaving the team. A Cavs front-office official denied the report.
While that situation plays out, the Cavs had to manage another issue on the team Tuesday with veteran guard JR Smith. For the second time this season, Smith was informed he would be removed from the rotation and not receive guaranteed playing time, sources said. Smith was upset by the news and considered taking some time away from the team, sources said. Smith decided to stay for the time being, but he didn’t play in Tuesday night’s 136-114 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
Marla Ridenour: #Cavs acting coach Larry Drew “ very disappointed” has not received a restructured contract. Cavs said it’s possible could bring in someone, he would go back to to associate HC. “ I would never quit.”
Tom Withers: Drew says he will “remain professional” and does not plan to quit. He has been told it’s possible team may bring someone in and he would remain as assistant. #Cavs
Marla Ridenour: #Cavs Drew said this is different than last season when Lue was out with health issues. Knew then Lue would be back. “This is almost the whole season.”
Rick Noland: Drew said he and Miller have talked to Cavs, and said team would be willing to let him go back to bench if someone else is hired as interim coach. “If that happens, I’m fine with that. My contract is over in July”
Cayleigh Griffin: “I have to get guys in the right frame of mind. We have to take those 6 losses and sweep them under the rug.” – Coach Drew on changing the team’s mentality moving forward
Joe Vardon: Larry Drew said he’s ‘very disappointed’ the Cavs have not yet given him the new contract he wants to be interim coach
The reasons for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ dismissal of Tyronn Lue are numerous. Near the top of the list: general manager Koby Altman believing this group – an unusual mixture of veterans and young players – needed a new voice. In the short term, that’s Larry Drew.
Drew led the team through practice on Monday afternoon. He used an unusual tactic – a 3 on 0 drill that turns into full-court 13 on 0 that demands organization, communication and attention to detail — to stimulate the team. It’s no coincidence those areas are considered weak points during the horrific start.
The blame game has already started. In the past few days, it was reported that LeBron and Tyronn Lue never wanted to trade Kyrie Irving even if the Nets pick were included (in August, a league sourced told me that James and Lue “cooled” on the deal after learning the extent of Isaiah Thomas’s health concerns), and that LeBron wanted the Cavs to acquire DeAndre Jordan, not the collection of misfits they ended up acquiring at the trade deadline.
Cleveland was getting a three-time champion, a future first ballot Basketball Hall of Famer, a shooting guard who could fill in some of the scoring void created after the Kyrie Irving trade — for the low, low price of a veteran’s minimum contract worth $2.3 million. For a luxury tax-laden team like the Cavs, it felt like divine intervention. But the blessed union took a turn for the worse almost immediately, according to sources. First, when bringing on Wade meant needing to trade away popular locker room presence Richard Jefferson to create an open roster spot. Then, when Wade balked at Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue’s plan to bring him off the bench. Wade, insisting he was more comfortable playing the starting role he had filled his entire 15-year NBA career, started the Cavs’ first three games and struggled mightily, shooting 7-for-25 from the field. After a blowout loss to the Orlando Magic in the third game, Wade approached Lue about coming off the bench, as Lue initially suggested. JR Smith, displaced by Wade’s addition, was plugged back into the starting unit, but the damage was done: The demotion affected Smith mentally, and his on-court production dipped.
Mary Schmitt Boyer/Jodie Valade: LeBron James on the adversity the Cavs have faced, and could still face, this season: “I’ll be available, so we got a chance.”
The injuries are a worthy excuse, as everyone from five-time All-Star Kevin Love (left hand; expected back later this month) to new addition Rodney Hood (back; day to day), Cedi Osman (left hip; two weeks) and Tristan Thompson (right ankle; multiple games) remain out. It’s the kind of ill-timed rash of injuries that muddies these all-important waters, with James fully admitting that conclusions about the revamped Cavs are hard to reach in times like these. “Listen, at the end of the day you’ve got to (play with) whoever you’ve got out on the floor,” James said afterward. “You want to get the most out of whoever’s playing, but sometimes you just can’t overcome this many injuries that we have.” James was then asked if it’s hard to figure out if the Cavs are heading in the right direction. “You don’t know,” he answered. “I mean, you don’t know.”
The same stubborn side to which [Isaiah Thomas] owed his success worked against him at times, sources said, when he would question workouts or want to push harder rather than follow the program. After Thomas finally played his first game with the Cavs on Jan. 2 and entered the postgame locker room at Quicken Loans Arena, the team presented the game ball to Cavs physical therapist George Sibel — and not to Thomas — in a tongue-in-cheek gesture of appreciation for managing Thomas through his rehab. A significant part of Sibel’s time with Thomas became handling the guard’s sometimes-prickly personality as much as strengthening the injured hip.
The Cavs were aware of the challenge when they made the trade. Not that Irving was without warts — this was a guy who between playoff rounds last spring became so distant from teammates he wouldn’t engage in conversation at practice, according to sources, leaving team officials perplexed as to what could be bothering him. The book on Thomas was that at times he grated on teammates and coaches. There was a reason the Cavs were Thomas’ fourth team in seven years. Not that this is unusual in the NBA. But Thomas consistently has been an overachiever and consistently outplayed his contracts, two typically desired attributes in a league in which talent trumps all. Yet teams kept moving on from him.
And the struggles became more acute as Irving and the Celtics excelled. The grumbling got louder as the Cavs’ losses piled up. James privately began to complain about how other all-time greats in the tail end of their primes played for franchises that added Hall of Fame-level talent to support their championship aspirations. The Chicago Bulls got Dennis Rodman for Michael Jordan. The Los Angeles Lakers got Pau Gasol for Kobe Bryant. The San Antonio Spurs got Kawhi Leonard for Tim Duncan. The All-Star whom the Cavs got for James wasn’t impressing him. Or other players on the team. As one team source put it, when asked about Thomas in the week leading up to the trade deadline: “I’m all for an underdog story, but you usually expect some humility to be a part of that story.”
LeBron James has nearly 36 million followers on Instagram, so there is a fair chance you saw his footage of him on roller skates Sunday, skating along with Jeff Green. […] In Green’s case, he will miss his third game out of the last four tonight because of lower back soreness. He was held out of Saturday’s loss to Denver and on Saturday was also ruled out for tonight’s game against the Pistons. In between, he went skating?
Cavs staff, in talking with cleveland.com, said while the appearance of Green on roller skates at a time when he can’t play because of a back injury is not a great look, the team’s intent was to keep Green out of games for a period of five days to rest his body from the rigors of NBA court battles. Roller skating should not be equated with the pounding the body takes during a game, they said. Green’s back is improving — he was moving and shooting well during the team’s shootaround this morning.
Smith would not say whether he believed the act deserved a suspension or not. “It’s not really my call,” Smith said. “More than anything, I talked to my teammates about it, everybody seemed cool. We moved on from it as a team, so whether it warranted a suspension or not, that’s not my job. I’m just here to play basketball.”
But not here to watch basketball, apparently. Smith didn’t bother to tune into the loss to the Sixers when he was suspended. “I didn’t watch the game,” Smith said. “When I’m not a part of the game, it’s hard for me to watch — and that’s whether I’m watching somebody else or watching my team. I don’t watch basketball in my spare time.” Smith also said he did not have any specific conversation with Damon Jones in the days that have passed.
LeBron James took a similar tact when asked on Saturday if he attempted to broker and peace between Smith and Jones. “Ain’t got nothing to do with me,” James said. “No. Momma told me a long time ago to mind your business. Stay out of grown folks’ business that ain’t got nothing to do with me. That’s what I did.”
Marla Ridenour: J.R. Smith on social media reaction to his soup-throwing incident: “Some of them were actually pretty funny. I understand that everything I do is going to have a meme or whatever behind it.” #Cavs
Chris Fedor: When #Cavs JR Smith was asked about whether this was a buildup of his terrible season or something that happened in the moment, Smith said, “I have an idea of what I want to say, but I’m not going to say it, so I’m going to leave that as it is.”
Without knowing many details, it’s worth noting Jones certainly talks enough to irritate people. Kevin Love joked (I think) during All-Star weekend that he’d love nothing more than for the Heat’s Wayne Ellington to this year break Jones’ Miami franchise record for 3-pointers in a single season. “I don’t know if there is anybody who likes to listen to his own voice more than Damon Jones,” Love joked (I think) in Los Angeles. “I wouldn’t say he’s my favorite guy to talk about, and I’ll just leave it at that.”
Even if Love was (maybe) joking, it’s clear just from being around this team that Jones has a tendency to aggravate. That isn’t to excuse Smith, but to try to paint the entire picture without details of the incident. Regardless, the Cavs have already acted as judge and jury and handed out their sentence. Jones and Tyronn Lue are extremely close, and Lue has helped launch Jones’ coaching career by bringing him on staff and permitting him to coach the Cavs’ summer league team in Las Vegas.
Cleveland Cavaliers guard JR Smith earned his one-game suspension from the team Thursday by throwing a bowl of soup at assistant coach Damon Jones, multiple sources with knowledge of the incident told ESPN.
Damon Jones, a former Cavs player, has been back with Cleveland since 2014 and worked his way up from an assistant coach with the Canton Charge, the Cavs’ G League affiliate, to the Cavs where he is a trusted voice for head coach Tyronn Lue. JR Smith will return to practice Friday, according to Lue, and resume his starting shooting guard spot Saturday when the Cavs host the Denver Nuggets.
While the Cavs were struggling in late December through early January, LeBron James questioned Koby Altman’s absentee status on a long Cleveland road trip, team sources told ESPN. It was a big difference from David Griffin, who was in constant communication with James in their three seasons in Cleveland together. Altman had his reasons, however. For one, he and his fiancée welcomed the birth of their first child, who experienced health complications, and Altman was there for his family as a father. Also, unlike in years past, the Cavs had two first-round draft picks to prepare for in the 2018 NBA draft. Altman’s scouting duties were more involved than Griffin’s were in the past. The fact that Altman went to James prior to the trade deadline for a sit-down meeting to loop in his superstar about the potential deals the Cavs would swing, as earlier reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, was seen as progress.
Kevin Love left the arena early after feeling sick during an embarrassing 148-124 loss to the Thunder on ABC’s Saturday prime-time game on Jan. 20, and missed practice the following day. That led to a tumultuous team meeting when the Cavs convened for practice the following Monday, prompted by Isaiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade — two teammates Love was playing with for the first time. The confrontation began after Tyronn Lue brought the team in to start practice and Love didn’t offer up anything about his status. Several team sources told ESPN they believe the meeting never would have occurred the way it did had Love provided an explanation. There were still lingering feelings, sources told ESPN, from how Love handled a loss in Chicago last March when he fouled out midway through the fourth quarter and immediately retreated to the locker room, rather than remain on the bench in support of his team. Jefferson ran to the back to bring him back out, but the damage was done.
Kevin Love said the Cavaliers’ blowing up of their locker room last week was necessary. “Yeah, I think that was pretty apparent,” Love said at All-Star Saturday in Los Angeles. Love was selected as an All-Star this season, but cannot play due to a broken bone in his left hand.
Manny Navarro: Love on if there was a rift between him and D-Wade during Cavs struggles: “If there was a lot of friction, I didn’t see it. I think there were a number of guys that used Ty Lue as a sounding board and wanted to bounce ideas off him and D-Wade happened to be one of those guys.”
Kevin Love, a week removed from Cleveland’s overhaul with several weeks left in his recovery from a broken hand, says the Cavaliers have found “joy” again and that his return won’t pose a problem with the team’s newfound chemistry. “We have a lot of selfless guys added, young guys who are playing extremely hard,” Love said Friday in an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump. “I think you’ve seen that in the last two games in wins over Boston and OKC. So we just to continue to keep playing hard.”
“Finding an identity with our team — we never found that,” Love said. “And even with guys coming back from injury or inserting different guys into the lineup and finding different lineups that work together on the floor. We never quite found that. So we feel like the new players … it’s going to take a little bit of time. But hopefully as in years past — you know, we’ve had a little bit of chaos every time the new year comes around; we thrive under chaos — but we’ll find a way to make it work once April rolls around and hopefully have a big run.”
As things started heading south for the Cavs in January, Dwyane Wade was an instigator in the infamous team meeting Jan. 22, hours before they flew to San Antonio. Yes, Thomas was upset that Kevin Love went home with an illness before a 24-point loss to Oklahoma City had concluded on Jan. 20, and that he was not at practice the following day. But, sources said, it was Wade who first made an issue of it on Monday, challenging Lue to disclose where Love had been. Numerous players verbally attacked Love, who eventually explained his absence as part of a wide-ranging, heated discussion in which virtually no one was immune from criticism.
Did Isaiah Thomas inspire this move with his outspoken ways in these past few weeks? Amick: In a word, yes. The locker room dynamic was not healthy, and Thomas’ penchant for speaking his mind about the inner turmoil only made matters worse. Add in the fact that he struggled during his 15-game stay and the Cavs were more than happy to send him to the exits. There is a strong sense from Thomas’ side that James was among those who wanted to see him go – a claim that is refuted by James’ associates. Either way, Thomas now gets a better pathway to his own free agency this summer while the Cavs can get to work repairing their well-chronicled chemistry problems.
Coach Tyronn Lue was succinct and direct in his rebuttal to point guard Isaiah Thomas’ critique that the Cleveland Cavaliers are suffering this season because of their failure to execute in-game adjustments effectively. “That’s not true,” Lue said before Cleveland’s 140-138 overtime win against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday. When a reporter repeated that it was Thomas’ words he was quoting, not his own, Lue doubled down. “Yeah,” he said. “Well, that’s not true.”
Wednesday is Thomas’ 29th birthday. The Cavs organization posted a tribute photo in honor of their point guard to their official Instagram account which has approximately 5.9 million followers.
The team decided to turn the comments off on the post, however, in an attempt to keep the spirit of the post about positivity and shield Thomas from some of the ire of fans looking to leave negative comments after seeing the Cavs drop 13 of their last 19 games since Christmas Day. “No Haters Hours (typically 9-5, M-F) allowed on Birthdays at all,” a Cavs spokesman said, offering a tongue-in-cheek explanation of the decision to turn off the comments on the post.
The Cavs also posted the birthday message to their official Twitter account, which has approximately 3.1 million followers. Disabling comments is not allowed on Twitter. Many of the comments were derisive and referenced Thomas’ reported role in the Cavs’ explosive team meeting several weeks ago when the seven-year veteran called out forward Kevin Love for leaving a game early because of an illness.
Following yet another disheartening loss by the Cleveland Cavaliers, 116-98 to an Orlando Magic team tied for the worst record in the Eastern Conference, LeBron James said he will not waive his no-trade clause ahead of Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. “I’m here for the long haul,” James said. “I’m here for this season right now, [to] try to figure out ways we can still compete. I couldn’t give up on my teammates like that. I couldn’t do that. I just couldn’t do it. We put too much into the game every single day. We go out and prepare. Win, lose or draw, at the end of the day, we’re all brothers, and we understand that. I owe it to my teammates to finish this season out no matter how it ends up. I would never waive my no-trade clause.”
Marla Ridenour: #Cavs @Dwyane Wade after loss to Magic: “Right now we don’t have that joy that we need. It’s easy for our soul to get snatched from us when teams start making shots.”
Marla Ridenour: More @Dwyane Wade: “This is one of the first times I’ve experienced something like this in my 15 years and I’ve won 15 games before. But with a team this talented, with a team of veterans like this, you don’t expect … the way you’re losing games is kind of mind-boggling.” #Cavs
LeBron James confirmed he will not waive his no-trade clause by Thursday’s deadline and expressed his commitment to the Cavs for the rest of this season. “I’m here for the long haul,” James said after a 116-98 loss to the Orlando Magic.
LeBron James: “I’m here for this season right now, try to figure out ways we can still compete. I couldn’t give up on my teammates like that. I couldn’t do that. I just couldn’t do it. I owe it to my teammates to finish this season out no matter how it ends up. I would never waive my no-trade clause.”
There has been no indication publicly that Gilbert wants to trade James, and a team official said last month James was the one player the Cavs absolutely would not deal.
Chris Fedor: #Cavs offensive rating since Kevin Love’s injury: 95.4. With how bad the defense is going to continue to be because of personnel, they can’t cope with that kind of offense.
Dave McMenamin: “When adversity hits, we go our separate ways” – Isaiah Thomas
Josh Robbins: Final: Magic 116, Cavaliers 98. Jonathon Simmons: career-high 34 points. LeBron James: 25 pts., 10 rebs., 5 assts. Magic: 53% on FGAs. Cavs: 43% on FGAs.
J. Michael Falgoust: Jonathan Simmons on shredding Cleveland for 34p tonight: “The lane was open for me.” ….What an understatement #CavsMagic
The gap between LeBron James and the Cavaliers is widening. As the losses mount and the team’s uninspired efforts persist, July 1 and the start of free agency hangs over this franchise as a day of reckoning. How did we get here? How did James’ storybook return to Cleveland spoil so quickly? Less than four years ago, James was proclaiming “I’m back!” to a packed football stadium on the University of Akron’s campus as fireworks illuminated the night sky. Now this union is in danger of collapsing again. The root of the problems can be traced back to two key issues: David Griffin’s removal as general manager and Kyrie Irving’s subsequent trade to the Boston Celtics.
For the past seven months, the Cavs have been noticeably pivoting away from James’ recommendations. He was vocal both publicly and privately in wanting Griffin to return as GM. Instead, owner Dan Gilbert replaced him days before the draft with Koby Altman, the inexperienced 35-year-old who is widely regarded as not ready for the mammoth task in front of him.
James recruited Jamal Crawford last summer to come to Cleveland, but instead they ignored him and signed rookie Cedi Osman. James told the Cavs not to trade Irving regardless of how disgruntled he appeared. Irving was under team control for two more years, and James was adamant he had no leverage. “Bring him to camp,” James told the Cavs. He was confident he could repair whatever damage Irving felt was done to their relationship. But Irving made clear to Gilbert and the Cavaliers he wanted out of Cleveland because he did not want to play another minute with James, one source told The Athletic. Given how close Irving and James were to the ends of their contracts, the Cavs chose to move Irving while they believed he still had peak value.
The pivot away from James’ wishes has been noticeable, particularly since this is a franchise that since losing him in 2010 has been willing to do — and spend — whatever was necessary to get him back and keep him happy. James and Gilbert have no relationship. Neither do James and Altman, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told The Athletic. Whereas Griffin would consult with James and keep him informed of major roster decisions, that is no longer happening. James doesn’t trust this front office, and there is no communication now between management and star player. It perhaps played a role in James yelling and cursing at multiple front office executives during the now-famous team meeting a couple of weeks ago that began with players questioning Kevin Love’s absence from a recent practice. Multiple sources confirmed James cursed toward at least two team executives during the heated meeting.
Six years ago, Altman was an assistant coach in the Ivy League. Now he has vaulted from third chair in the Cavs’ front office last season to the man in charge. While the Cavs insist Altman’s duties are no different from Griffin’s job before him, up and down the roster and throughout the organization, the belief is unanimous that Altman is the front man and Gilbert is in full control.
Derrick Williams on the Cavs: They’re just missing the toughness. They’re missing energy and excitement. LeBron will bring that but he can’t do it all himself. There will always be five men on the court. That was a little bit of what I brought to the team last season. I brought energy, effort, efficiency. Right now it feels like there is a little bit of coasting, to be honest. It’s a long season but you can’t get bored of winning. LeBron will never get that way but you never know with other players.
Michael Lee: LeBron James’ got no worries
This probably shouldn’t be surprising given the history between LeBron James and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, but it is nonetheless notable as the Cavs try to find their way out of a dark place. In a Monday appearance on the Lowe Post, ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski said that he believes the root of all of Cleveland’s dysfunction is the dysfunctional relationship between LeBron and Gilbert. And that that has amplified all of their existing problems, causing cliques to form that divide what’s supposed to be a united locker room.
Adrian Wojnarowski: “I think the LeBron James dynamic with Dan Gilbert issues sort of set the tone in the organization for others to square off. When the two most powerful people in the organization (do it), I think it opens the door for others to have that. The best player and the owner, that sets a tone. I think it only serves to amplify the other issues there. You have a lot of taking of sides, you have a lot of cliques. The guys who’ve been there, the guys who just came in. Certainly what’s gone on with players and coaches and there being a disconnect there. I think it goes back to the Kyrie-LeBron summer and nobody’s ever really done that to LeBron. Nobody’s ever said ‘I don’t want to play with him.’ And somebody said it, did it, acted on it and got out. I think Kyrie said I’m not going to let LeBron dictate my future. Organizations, whether it was Cleveland the first time or in Miami, everybody in the league has had to wait for LeBron to dictate terms. A player said I’m going to dictate it and the team acquiesced and traded him. I think that set the stage for this.”
Cleveland is 6-12 since Christmas and its longest win streak during that stretch is two games, accomplished once. “I don’t think anybody’s here not to make the playoffs,” LeBron James said. “We gotta stop worrying about the past (…) This is this season and we haven’t played well versus anyone.”
If the Cavaliers’ doomsday scenario is LeBron James leaving this summer via free agency, then what would you call it if they fail to make the playoffs this year? Disaster with a rotten cherry on top? Here’s what the Cavs call it: unfathomable. “I mean we’re still going to make the playoffs,” Lue said. “There’s no doubt about that. We’re still confident in that for sure.”
Now in their fourth season since James returned, is mental fatigue taking a toll on the Cavs? Sam Amick: It’s a whole lot more complicated than the fatigue factor, and it has everything to do with the layers of dysfunction that the Cavs are battling. Cavs general manager Koby Altman is trying hard to shed the contracts of Tristan Thompson (two years, $36 million remaining) and J.R. Smith ($14.7 million next season, team option worth $15.6 million in 2019-20 with $3.8 million guaranteed), two players who were re-signed in large part because of LeBron’s omnipresent influence. They’re all represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, who built the agency with a huge assist from James. As it pertains to the Cavs’ interest in the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, a person with knowledge of that situation said Cleveland continues to offer only its own first-round pick and this kind of unwanted money in those stalled negotiations. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
It’s dangerous in the NBA to overreact; it gets people fired and it costs people wins, respect and money. The season is long, and that makes it forgiving, which is why anyone who has much experience preaches patience. But the Cleveland Cavaliers are out of time. It’s preposterous to say that in February for a team with a history of turning things around and doing it when they have to. However, they are in a preposterous situation. They aren’t just looking at losing this season, but they are looking at losing LeBron James. If tomorrow were the beginning of free agency, there’s a good chance that would be the case.
The Cavs’ players do not trust each other. It appears as if some of them don’t like each other. Two of them — Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye — were told they’d probably get traded two weeks ago but then weren’t. Their coach has been hesitant to shake up the lineup as he has failed to motivate his veteran team. Tyronn Lue’s performance has been questioned in recent weeks. His fidelity to playing certain lineups while abandoning others that previously were highly successful is so mystifying that it has launched conspiracy theories. Nonetheless, he is not at the center of the storm. This is all a whirlwind around LeBron James vs. the Cavs’ front office, which is to say it’s about James vs. owner Dan Gilbert.
LeBron James (11 points, 3-of-10 from the field) is completely dispirited. Never before in his career has he played like this. Maybe on the occasional midseason evening he has been less than energetic — in the past, he has called it “chill mode” — but never like this. Looking through his eyes, you can understand why he’s frustrated. You can understand why he sometimes feels like the organization hasn’t kept the pedal down. When he sees Isaiah Thomas struggling, trying so hard to fight through a devastating injury but having to go so slow that he’s hindering the Cavs instead of helping them, he wonders why they traded Irving at all. And why they took the deal with the Boston Celtics, even though they had a chance to back out. James must wonder: If the organization won’t go all-in to try to keep the best team around him, would he want to be elsewhere? Would he want to waive his no-trade clause? Instead, he stews.
In the games since, LeBron James’ defensive effort has further wilted. His aggression has waned. His frustration has grown. And his leadership, which at times has been controversial in its style but never questioned in its intent, has faded. He is absolutely culpable; his past month has been one of the worst of his NBA life. This comes after the first two months of the season in which he was a leading candidate for MVP. Which makes his erosion all the more clear. And the Cavs are culpable for allowing the trust and the relationship with management to crack. The Cavs know crisis better than anyone — they’ve been immersed in it on and off for four years. But this is a different situation. Everyone can feel it.
Chris Fedor: #Cavs LeBron James when asked about trades: “That’s not a question for me. I show up to work every day. I bust my tail every day. I’m the 1st one to get to the gym & one of the last ones to leave. I do my part. I control what I can control and that is what I can control.”
Chris Paul scored 22 points with 11 assists, Ryan Anderson added 21 points and the long-range Rockets became the latest team to manhandle the Cavaliers on national TV. “They should take us off every nationally televised game for the rest of the season,” said James, who spoke softly with a baseball cap pulled over his eyes. “We haven’t played good at all and we get our butts kicked every time we play on national television, so I’m at a loss for words.”
Chris Fedor: #Cavs Dwyane Wade: “There’s no magic dust we’re going to be able to sprinkle on top of it. We played a team that was better than us tonight. We played a team that’s better than a lot of teams. They kicked our butt like they’ve done many. They’re better than us”
Somber wouldn’t even describe the mood in the Cavaliers’ locker room, where players dressed quietly without any conversation. “Another embarrassing loss,” Thomas said. “Something gotta change. I don’t know. It was bad from the jump. I don’t want to comment too much on it. I need to watch film to see what really went down. It wasn’t a good one for us on both ends.”
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November 18, 2018 | 11:29 am EST Update
The Warriors had beaten Dallas 10 straight times and 17 of the previous 18 meetings. They were impressed with their first live look at Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic, who scored a team-high 24 points and pulled down nine rebounds. “He’s great; a great player,” said Kerr, who before the game compared 6-7 Doncic to a five-tool baseball player. “He’s got a lot of skill and a lot of guts. I thought he played a great game.”
Doncic gave the Mavericks the lead for good, 109-108, with a 7-foot floater with 1:10 left, then sank a pair of free throws to account for the final margin. “You could tell he’s been playing pro for a long time,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who scored 22 points but missed 15 of 24 shots, including a 16-footer that would have tied the score at 110. “He’s got great poise. He gets to his spots, and he’s going to be a cornerstone of this franchise for a long time.”
Said Durant, who scored a game-high 32 points, was even more effusive in his praise of Doncic, whose 292 points scored through 15 games is the most by a teenager in NBA history. “I like him a lot,” Durant said. “He’s polished. He’s skilled, and you can tell he’s played professional basketball already. They got a great guy in him to lead this franchise in the future. Luka and Dennis [Smith Jr.] play well together.”
Anderson came to Phoenix as part of an offseason trade with Houston looking to contribute in any way he could to change the culture of the Suns. He’s gone from starting to not playing, but Anderson has tried to remain a positive influence in the locker room, particularly with the younger players. “I’m good,” said Anderson, who is averaging just 4.5 points on a chilly 32.1 percent shooting (7-of-31 from 3) this season. “I feel good. I’m working hard in practice trying to get the guys better. We have a lot of young talent on this team and guys that need more experience. The more time they get on the court, the better they’re going to be.”
Anderson remembers being a rookie for New Orleans and watching veteran teammate Eduardo Najera going all out in practice. He recently found an old quote from Najera saying he wanted to make a group of young players better, including Anderson. A decade later, Anderson is Phoenix’s Najera. “Right now, it’s elevating these young guys. It’s not about Ryan Anderson,” he said.
Anderson has embraced the role of being a team leader and a positive force in the locker room. “I’m willing to take a step back and elevate somebody else because it could be their opportunity,” Anderson said. “I’ve had my opportunities. I’ve had a lot of success in this league. There’s a time you kind of take a step back and realize what’s better for the group, what’s better for the team.”
Eric Koreen: Here was Nurse’s full explanation for why Lowry was in when he hurt his ankle pic.twitter.com/AXGsP9y2rA