INDEPENDENCE (92.3 The Fan) – As the temperatures rise for a January thaw in northeast Ohio, Cleveland’s basketball team remains in a deep freeze.
Having lost 10 of their last 14 dating back to December 19, the Cleveland Cavaliers are simply searching for answers and a way to stop the bleeding.
LeBron James believes he’s the solution. From his point of view, he has to be.
“As the leader of this team, as the leader of this franchise, I have to do more – especially out on the floor,” James said. “I have to pick up for wherever guys haven’t been able to do as of late or not playing up to their potential where we would like them to be but I know those guys will come around.
“It’s not about them, it’s about me, honestly. I have to pick up for everybody, even when they are playing great so I gotta be much better.”
The shellacking Saturday courtesy of Oklahoma City, who dropped 148 on them in a 24-point rout, set off alarm bells everywhere but James doesn’t want to get caught up in any dramatic narratives.
“I’m not a red flag guy, I’m not a concerned guy,” James said. “I’m a guy who is optimistic on how we can get better. That’s just who I am.”
Isaiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade spoke after the blowout by the Thunder on Saturday about the lack of trust on the defensive end of the floor as well as the need for more accountability within the team. Those are things no one wants to hear on a team expected to compete for an NBA championship.
James didn’t disagree Monday.
“Everybody’s accountable for the team,” James said. “My numbers are down, the team’s numbers are down. We’re not playing well, so obviously it’s a direct correlation of all those things.
“I could care less about me individually, but when I’m not playing to my standard and we’re losing then I have to do a better job as well and I gotta figure that out too.”
The root of the Cavs’ problems appear to be defensively. They’re the worst team in the league on that end of the floor to date this season as evidenced by their 109.8 defensive rating – it ranks dead last.
But James pointed out that it is easy for fans or media to focus on one thing for the Cavs to fix- like the defense, if only it were that simple or easy.
“You can’t just say one thing,” James said. “The game is not…if you say ‘oh you gotta do one thing, you [gotta] cover the three-point line.’ We cover the three-point line, they drive us and get to the hole. You say, ‘oh we gotta cover the paint,’ and then they start shooting threes. ‘We gotta cover transition.’ We start covering transition and they execute better in the half court.
“That’s what a lot of people don’t know about the game. The game is…[There is] so many different facets in the game that you can help yourself get better at. You could say offensively ‘what would you like to work on?’ Us making threes, but listen, we’ve been working on it every day. You go up there, take your shot with confidence and just try to get better at it so it’s not just one thing.
“If you can point to one thing why the struggles are happening, it’s never just one thing. It’s an accumulation of a lot of things that if we can click at the right time and put everything together then we’ll play better ball.”
Life gets no easier for James and the Cavs Tuesday night when they travel to San Antonio to take on the 30-18 Spurs, and he knows it.
“We’ll go to San Antonio versus an historically unbelievable great team, it doesn’t do us any justice that they lost [Sunday] night on their home floor because I know hoe Pop is after losses,” James said smiling. “So, our challenge is going to be even tougher but I’ll be suited up, I’ll be ready to go and I give ourselves a chance anytime I’m in the lineup that’s for sure.”