Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – On Thursday, LeBron James cited the
already immortal quote from Green Bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers:
While personal preference would’ve loved the citing reference to have been
Frankie Goes to Hollywood, the message was clear. Everyone needs to exercise
some patience regarding the 1-3 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Rodgers’ words were uttered on his radio show and both he and the Packers have
backed it up. The Packers are a game behind in the NFC North and James’
Cavaliers will easily vault up the Eastern Conference standings.
Since it’s 2014 and the world revolves around immediacy, panic has struck the
NBA. Cleveland has looked bad at times and fell to 1-3. Two losses came
against teams that missed the playoffs last season – the New York Knicks and
The Cavs have looked bad at times this early in the campaign. They managed six
assists as a team in a loss to the Utah Jazz. That’s pathetic, no two ways
“There’s no way you’re going to win a basketball game like that, just having
six assists,” said James.
The disconnect thus far in Cleveland appears to be between James and Kyrie
Irving. The two-time All-Star point guard and MVP of this summer’s FIBA World
Cup does not have a single assist in his last six quarters, despite jacking up
36 shot attempts, per ESPN.
It shouldn’t shock anyone then, that Irving had a slightly different take on
“No, sometimes things happen in a game where you see a shot and you have to
take it,” Irving said when asked if the low assist total was a concern going
forward. “We have to try and avoid it as best we can.”
All of these early-season struggles have caught the national eye, but were to
be expected. The Cavaliers couldn’t rely strictly on talent. Plenty of NBA
teams are talented. There needs time to jell and the Cavs have played exactly
four games together in meaningful situations.
James committed eight turnovers in his re-debut for the Cavaliers. He said
some of those instances were miscues stemming from thinking a teammate would
zig when they zagged.
It all comes with time and four games is no sample size. Cleveland could
literally go 78-0 the rest of the way and we could share a laugh about the
concern we showed over cocktails.
However, this four-game slate is all we have and it’s been discouraging. Those
numbers from Irving, the team’s point guard, are troubling. His job out there
should be facilitating and scoring as the team’s third option.
Nothing’s that easy, not even the Jumble.
Irving has been a score-first point guard his entire life. Two coaches – Byron
Scott and Mike Brown – needed him to be the primary scorer. That’s two seasons
worth of an NBA career, let alone high school, AAU and his two weeks with Duke
that Irving is just supposed to erase from his mind and body in four games.
That’s not easy, but should come by at least 2015. Personally, it’s been a tad
discouraging to see Irving jacking so many shots considering how unselfishly
well he played with fellow All-Stars in Spain this summer. It seemed like a
promising foreshadowing to what was headed to Cleveland this season.
But, when things go poorly, we, as humans, revert back to old ways. In golf,
if a player is knee deep in a swing change, as soon as he or she hits a few
balls wayward, the old swing creeps back in. That could be the case with
James is the best player in the league. He has struggled personally at the
start of the season and some are questioning if his physical skills have
diminished. Maybe they have.
James has played in 158 playoff games over the last nine seasons. That’s six
short of two extra regular seasons. That puts a lot of tread on the tires.
James is lighter than seasons past. His size was what separated him from other
forwards. Imagine taking a charge from a steaming, slightly undersized
offensive tackle. A lighter James might pay dividends in the long run, but
it’s probably taking LBJ some time to get comfortable with his new body.
The alpha dog status belongs to James, without question. Irving, Kevin Love
and everyone in the Cleveland Cavaliers organization will realize such in due
time. The single most important development in the Miami Heat’s run to a title
came when Dwyane Wade acquiesced top billing to James. They won the title that
same season. It too, shall happen with Irving.
Irving will have his “Come to James” moment and things will get better.
However, this transition isn’t a totally one-way street. James has never in
his life played with a high-quality scoring point guard. Due respect to Eric
Snow, Boobie Gibson and Mario Chalmers, but put them all together and you
don’t have the singular talent of Irving.
Maybe, James needs to adapt a little better. He will be 30 in December and
with the wear and tear on his body (don’t forget three Olympic appearances),
maybe it’s not the worst idea in the world, to, at times, let Irving handle
the offense. So there’s no confusion, James is clearly the man, but a slightly
lighter workload might be beneficial come summer time.
Amidst the sluggish start, the Cavs have reportedly become a little testy.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported after a lopsided loss to the Portland Trail
Blazers on Tuesday. Windhorst described it as “healthy” according to his
James is trying to teach these guys how to win. That’s a learned skill.
Against Portland, James didn’t score a point in the second half. At times,
James was distant from the offense. It appeared he was sending a tough message
as if to say, “you clowns want to play this way, we will lose by 20.”
All of these lessons learned in November should pay dividends in the
postseason. Irving and Kevin Love have never made the postseason. Other than
the Spurs Big Three and Kobe Bryant, James has appeared in the most playoff
games among active players.
The question is, if things don’t change, does LeBron go from teacher to
dominator? How long can he be patient.
Everything will get sorted out. Teams aren’t built in two weeks.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” said James.
Everyone needs to listen to LeBron, Frankie and Aaron: RELAX
– Gregg Popovich’s checks are signed by the San Antonio Spurs. That’s the only
loyalty he needs to show. Perhaps, the NBA should just admit its mistake and
not schedule them for Thursday night TNT games because he’s going to play
Rizzoli & Isles before Duncan, Parker and Ginobili.
– I picked the Houston Rockets to miss the playoffs, so I’m smart. Granted,
their six wins came against Boston, Utah, the Lakers, Sixers, Heat and a
depleted Spurs team. You have to beat who is front of you, but not exactly the
Celtics’ dynasty teams.
– Kobe Bryant leads the NBA in scoring and I’m going to say he will finish the
season in the same spot. With Kevin Durant hurt and Carmelo Anthony sometimes
struggling within the Knicks new triangle, Bryant is going to chuck ’em up in
order to give the Lakers any chance of winning games.
– The Sacramento Kings have been awesome. DeMarcus Cousins for MVP. A four-
game road trip against Phoenix, OKC, Dallas and Memphis will really show where
– Movie moment – I’m overjoyed for “Toy Story 4” in 2017, assuming I live that
long. Where do they go with it? Does Andy buy the toys back for his kids?
Wait, maybe that’s exactly what happens. Remember this.
– TV moment – Excited for “The Newsroom” to return on Sunday. Love Aaron
Sorkin. Bet there will be a moment where Will defends his group. Or, they will
do a story no one else does.