CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – For going on four years that LeBron James has been back in Cleveland, there has been a theme of his team laying down when facing an inferior opponent. Yet somehow in year four, with the weakest active roster in that span, the Cavaliers are laying down against almost every opponent.
Maybe that makes them the inferior team.
While it appears to be no fault of his own sans maybe an non-quantifiable leadership component, the King’s starting unit is officially the first culprit to be named as an issue. The Cavaliers’ slow starts are tabbed with being the reason for their slow start as a whole.
Once a part of that first unit, and always a leader, guard Dwyane Wade took a jab at his best friend’s starting group.
“I want one time for the first unit to get on the second unit because we blew a lead. I’m waiting for that day to happen,” Wade joked. “We can’t get behind the 8-ball too much. We’re getting behind 10-plus. I told the guys… ‘We’re confident in the second unit, but we don’t want all that.”
Even with a 3-for-3, eight-point first quarter performance from Wade, the starting unit had the Cavaliers trailing 37-28 after 12 minutes to a 1-8 Atlanta Hawks team. That 1-8 mark, with the eight all coming consecutively, moved to 2-8 after 36 more minutes of action.
James played all 12 minutes earning a -4 plus-minus, while Derrick Rose picked up a whopping -16 in his 7:51 on the floor. Kevin Love, who left the game with illness after three fouls in 15 minutes, racked up a -14 in 7:08.
Rose finished the night 4-of-12 for 10 points in 20 minutes, racking up an impressive -27, continuing a poor start to the season in many aspects. He, Love (18) and Jae Crowder (23) saw reserves like Wade (32), Kyle Korver (24) and Jeff Green (26) all surpass their minute mark for the night.
Though plus-minus is by no means a terribly telling statistic in cases with small differentials, the fact that there was a 50-point swing between Rose to Wade and Korver is. The starting lineup, though still dealing with finding their roles, has been outmatched. Especially against the worst team they have faced.
From Wade to James to Head Coach Tyronn Lue and forward Channing Frye, the problem du jour has continued to be ‘effort’ and ‘a sense of urgency.’ Sunday was not the first time the words came up, nor the second.
“With a team that is 1-8, you’ve got to take their confidence away early,” Wade added. “Once you give a team in this league confidence, the record can go out the window. These NBA players, they can play when they get it going, and it’s no secret that we’re starting games off awful. Terrible.”
Yet for some reason, nothing has changed. The leaders of the team have identified a problem, one that is easily fixed, but yet it persists.
Asked if he could do anything specifically to jumpstart his team’s motivation, Lue punted.
“I’ve been around, this is my 20th season, it’s not a rah-rah thing,” he said. “These guys are grown men. Just tell them the truth about teams are going to play hard.”
There is plenty to be said for early struggles for a new team. There is less to be said for a diagnosed lack of effort. There is nothing to be said for that not changing immediately upon diagnosis.