If you’ve watched the Cleveland Cavaliers (3-7) over the past two weeks, you know how much of a mess they are. They’ve won twice in nine tries, with the bad-play streak starting against the Charlotte Bobcats on Nov. 1 and currently continuing with an 86-80 loss to the ‘Cats Friday night. But, after Wednesday’s 29-point loss in Minnesota against the Timberwolves, the Cavaliers decided to hold a players-only meeting. Much like their play recently—a three-game losing streak in which the Cavaliers have averaged 85.3 points—the meeting was, supposedly, an eyesore.
The Cavaliers added eight new players to their roster this season and only retained seven from last season’s lineup. The mesh is new, and with high expectations set in the offseason due to a hefty summer load, frustration is building because this team is nowhere near the level that it should be performing at. Obviously the chemistry hasn’t been there on the court, but, according to multiple sources who passed on the word to ESPN.com, the meeting got “contentious” and players began to confront each other in an argumentative fashion.
The many lineup changes that head coach Mike Brown has experimented with this season is a big cause to the early-season struggles that the Wine & Gold are going through. Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee have swapped starting roles, Bynum is in and out of the game off the bench and Brown has even reached down to players like Sergey Karasev and Matthew Dellavedova this early in the season. The time is now to play around with starting lineups and backup units, but some players seem to be unhappy with this shuffling around.
In Monday night’s loss to the Chicago Bulls, Brown pulled Kyrie from the game for apparent lack of effort, as backed up by the exchange that the two got into on the bench afterward. Kyrie’s play this season has been inefficient, as he is shooting just 38.0 percent from the field and turning the ball over 3.3 times per game. Although he has been more physical on defense and has teammates he can rely on to make buckets, he’s forcing shots because the offense isn’t opening up to the pick and roll. With added shooters to the roster this offseason, Kyrie needs to be more effective from the field, but he can’t do it all if his team is lacking the proper training in running a fluid offense. Or is it Brown that is neglecting offensive production and wanting to win games in the trenches?
The most frustrating thing about how the Cavaliers season has started off is how uncompetitive the team is in losses. They have been outworked and blown out in some capacity in all seven Ls this season, losing by an average of 13 points. In their three wins, they’ve barely managed victory, winning by a combined seven points. That includes an overtime victory against the 76ers.
Something positive to look at is that the Wine & Gold could very well be 0-10, so let’s think how much worse our reactions would be then compared to now. Obviously it’s not time to hit the panic button, but overall this team has looked horrendous, especially on offense. They’ve showed signs of defensive improvements, but the offense has been a complete train wreck up to this point.
Cleveland’s offensive efficiency rating, 92.0, only ranks higher than the 91.7 that the 1-9 Utah Jazz currently post. With the Wine & Gold also producing a true shooting percentage of 48.5 percent (29th), effective field goal percentage of 44.6 percent (28th) and an assist ratio of 14.4 (27th), the Cavaliers offensive unit is statistically one of the worst in the NBA. The Utah Jazz are statistically the only team worse than Cleveland on offense, so things could, again, be worse.
Although a lot of fingers are being pointed at Kyrie right now in the locker room, Dion Waiters is still shooting south of 40 percent from the field and is dealing with an illness that will keep him out of Saturday’s game in D.C., Andrew Bynum has seen inconsistent playing time on the court despite starting one game and Anthony Bennett has been a complete nonfactor. Some of these issues will be resolve on their own or in the near future, but some may be long term (Bynum’s knees and Bennett’s woes). What’s important is being able to keep team chemistry, because this thing could get a whole new kind of ugly if the Cavs start to fall apart internally.
That’s something that the Cavaliers haven’t been able to do very well this season, along with a laundry list of other problematic areas on the court.