I hate the East Coast. I mean, as a culture it’s not that bad, but as a time zone…it’s just downright terrible. I went to sleep last night around midnight, during halftime of the Los Angeles Lakers–Cleveland Cavaliers game. At that point the Lakers had developed a sizeable lead. And by sizeable I mean insurmountable. The Lakers were up 57-25, an unfathomable halftime score. I went to bed convinced that the Cavs would stick around, maybe even make a run, and that they’d end up losing by 25…30 at the worst. I mean nobody could play that horribly for two consecutive halves, right?
Of course this morning I woke up to see the alert on my phone: FINAL – LAL 112 CLE 57. Like I said, I hate the Eastern time zone.
I wish I could have watched this unfold, but I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. I had the displeasure of watching the Cavs take on the Toronto Raptors a few weeks ago and I have to say that the Cavs are basically an unwatchable team. After this recent embarrassment against the Lakers, I think it’s finally time to ask:
Is it time to contract the Cleveland Cavaliers?
It might sound silly, but contraction has been a hot topic in the NBA for a while now, and it received a boost thanks to the fightin’ words of LeBron James, who implied that the Minnesota Timberwolves and New Jersey Nets should be removed from the league so that their better players could be sent to other teams in the hopes of creating more “superteams”.
After the Cavs’ 55-point loss, LeBron was at it again, this time via his Twitter account:
Apparently LeBron has taken my advice and embraced his inner villain. Can’t wait to see him try to talk his way out of this one…
But as intriguing as his comments may be, this isn’t about LeBron. This is about the Cavs and how removing one player (albeit a great player) can take a franchise from back-to-back 60-win seasons to 8-30 near the halfway point, with no signs of improvement.
The biggest difference between the other horrible teams in the league is hope and desire. Most other bad teams in the league, even though they lose quite a bit, have some good young players and are one or two big free agents away from becoming playoff contenders.
The players know this, and it gives them the desire to want to play hard every night. It may be that they’re selfish and are trying to earn a big contract for themselves, or maybe they’re trying to lure those free agents over by saying “Hey, we’ve got a good thing going on here…we might be something in a couple years” Either way, it creates a team that may not win games, but at least plays hard and provides some entertainment.
For example, let’s look at one another terrible team, the Washinton Wizards. Last night, before the Cavs lost by 55 to the Lakers, the Wiz saw Nick Young put up a career-high 43 points in an overtime win over the Sacramento Kings. Now, of course I’m not saying that the Kings are the Lakers, but it just highlights the fact that the Wizards have some blossoming young players. Young has flourished after the departure of Gilbert Arenas and now he, John Wall, and Andray Blatche are all averaging around 16 points per game. Add to the mix JaVale McGee, who is second in the league in shot-blocking and is improving his offensive game, and you have a nucleus that at least shows glimpses of a winning team.
Now let’s look at the Cavs. Their starting lineup for last night’s debacle was the following:
- Antawn Jamison (whose ability to score suddenly disappeared two years ago)
- JJ Hickson (a solid role player for the 60-win Cavs thrust into a starring role)
- Ryan Hollins (a journeyman big man whose upside is Dan Gadzuric…not good for your starting center)
- Mo Williams (once an All-Star scorer who’s had the life sucked out of him…down to 14 ppg, 39% fg)
- Manny Harris (a solid young player who put up 27 the other night, but is far from an emerging star…his +/- was -57 last night! Not sure what that means but it can’t be good)
Out of those five, the only possible career starter in the NBA is Hickson, and that may be a stretch. Yes, the Cavs were missing Anderson Verejao, Anthony Parker, and Boobie Gibson due to injuries, but are those guys much better? Could you hear Carmelo Anthony saying “trade me to Cleveland so I can play with Andy Verejao and Boobie Gibson“? No chance.
The result is a team that is not only devoid of talent, but also sees no reason to play hard. The Cavs lost to the Lakers before they even stepped onto the court. It was pathetic and sad to watch a team go through the motions so blatantly.
Basically LeBron’s departure put the Cavs in no-man’s land. They’re a team full of role players designed to play around a ball-dominating star, but they no longer have that star. They haven’t been stockpiling young talent in the draft, so they’re essentially behind all the teams in the league that are just as bad as they are.
Therefore if the Wizards are three years from the playoffs, the Cavs are at least five. And that’s contingent on being able to trade away some veterans and making good draft decisions.
The other option is, of course, contraction. I know they’ve been bad all year, but last night’s loss just put Cavtraction on everybody’s mind.