The fading Cavs are fast reaching their expiry date

Jay Croucher Columnist

By Jay Croucher, Jay Croucher is a Roar Expert

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    At some point during Oklahoma City’s unforgiving, rapturous 148-124 beat-down of the Cavs, LeBron James might have thought to himself: ‘this all feels so familiar’.

    A team of three vibrant, ultra-athletic superstars, playing at pace, jumping passing lanes to kick-start fast-breaks with singular conclusions, mixing silk and violence, charging purposefully towards the rim or otherwise swishing open threes.

    This was LeBron James’s basketball life in Miami. Upon returning to Cleveland it was a little different – a little less athletic, a little less humanly impossible – but it was often just as devastating; with more shooting and whirring ball-movement compensating for slower-twitch muscles.

    Both those lives are gone now. What is left is a broken memory, a team held in the straitjacket of its own age and weariness.

    Yesterday, everything came so easily for Oklahoma City. Their default pace is mania, because it’s all that their best player knows, and it was a pace at which the Cavaliers couldn’t keep up, disinclined and unable.

    The Cavs plodded and played joyless basketball, going through the motions of what defence looks like, players vaguely moving in the direction of their opponent, half-heartedly rotating a second too late, too tired to even really point fingers afterwards.

    Steven Adams turned men into boys into infants and Russell Westbrook accelerated to the rim unimpeded, laying the ball in and looking almost confused at how easy it all was. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony feasted on open shots and then, when the shots finally became contested, their eyes were so firmly locked in that their bodies treated them as wide open.

    Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook

    (Wikipedia Commons)

    And the Cavaliers did… not much. Kevin Love being out made it tougher to keep up with the Thunder in a shootout, but Love’s absence doesn’t explain what happened to Cleveland’s defence. Consider, for a moment, that the Cavs just gave up 148 points to the league’s 12th-ranked offence in a game where Kevin Love played only three minutes.

    Whatever Isaiah Thomas does or doesn’t give them, the mere presence of James and Love surrounded by shooting means Cleveland will have an elite offence.

    Thomas hasn’t looked right yet, lacking explosiveness and the intangible magic he had all of last season. This is to be expected after the length of his layoff, but at his age, with his injury, the rust could always be permanent.

    Even if it’s not, and Thomas somehow rediscovers his MVP ballot-type form, it’s a question as to how much he will really help the Cavs. This team can score, but they’re atrocious defensively and abysmal on the glass. They’re old, tedious and oddly ground-bound, a cruel irony engulfing the most dynamic, explosive and physically powerful basketball athlete perhaps of all-time.

    Jae Crowder is a shadow of the player he was in Boston, Dwyane Wade is no longer undeniable – merely crafty – and Derrick Rose is an ineffectual sideshow. Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith are who they are – Smith is only going to get worse, and Thompson doesn’t appear to be getting better.

    Love has always been miscast – not just on this team, but perhaps in this particular generation of basketball. He is a magnificent and realised talent in so many ways, but continues to be restrained by the lazy truth that has been self-evident from the beginning: he’s slow and he can’t jump.

    There is no position for him on defence against the elite offences, and his offensive genius and nuance have never been truly been unlocked by Cleveland.

    The Cavs – losers of nine of their past 12, with two of their three wins in that stretch against the Magic – are spiralling and fracturing, dispirited by the manifest reality that they have no viable path to a meaningful shot at toppling Golden State. If a final strike home run swing is to happen, one suspects it will be to the trade table with Love.

    Jay Croucher
    Jay Croucher

    From MSG in New York to the MCG in Melbourne, Jay has spent his adult life travelling the world, indulging in sport and approaching it from the angle of history and pop culture. Follow him on Twitter @CroucherJD

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • Roar Guru

      January 22nd 2018 @ 7:46am
      Machooka said | January 22nd 2018 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      Thanks Jay for the read… and the more things change for the Cavs, the more they stay the same!?! 🙂

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 2:27pm
      Bilbo said | January 22nd 2018 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

      148-124? It’s called not even trying to play defence

      The NBA is a joke.

      • January 24th 2018 @ 4:01pm
        Marshall said | January 24th 2018 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

        why does that make the entire NBA a joke?

    • January 23rd 2018 @ 8:28am
      express34texas said | January 23rd 2018 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      Hopefully, tired of James and his antics. Crowder is just the latest example of a player doing worse with James. Why do his teams continue to underachieve so much? Not even on pace for 50 wins in the East with another stacked roster. As of right now, CLE would likely in the 1st round if in the West, but I’m not sure anyone in the East will beat in a series.

      • January 23rd 2018 @ 9:29am
        astro said | January 23rd 2018 @ 9:29am | ! Report

        Lebron’s teams ‘underachieve so much’? Yeah, all those Finals appearances have been a real disappointment for Cavs and Miami fans, especially because they were winning so many titles without him.

      • January 23rd 2018 @ 4:35pm
        steve said | January 23rd 2018 @ 4:35pm | ! Report

        The last thing Cleveland have is a stacked roster. They have a couple of all stars and a bunch of old, tired, broken down, often injured, under performing and defensively deficient role players. Golden State have the ” stacked team “.

      • January 24th 2018 @ 8:46am
        Swampy said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:46am | ! Report

        This is just wrong. The Cavs have a horrible roster. Who’s at fault for that we don’t know but it might be LeBron.

        To anyone who watches them it is bleedingly obvious they lack youth and the energy and spark youth brings with it. They have no one who is good at d aside from LeBron and he doesn’t try until the play-offs at that end.

        The Cavs have basically traded away all their draft picks in recent years in the chase for titles and fair enough too because they’ve been right there at the pointy end for three years. I’m pretty sure when it’s all said and done the Cavs fans (the real ones in Ohio) will appreciate the direction the franchise took.

        Titles are incredibly difficult to win. There are 30 teams in the NBA and since 1980 only 11 franchises have won a title (over 38 years).

        • January 24th 2018 @ 3:09pm
          boyer said | January 24th 2018 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

          James’ teams underachieve in the regular season almost every year for awhile now, there’s no disputing this. James admittedly coasts during the regular season, which certainly contributes to this. The East almost never has another true contender for him to go up against. His teams should make the Finals every year. Winning 2 titles with MIA is good, but he mentally checked out in 2011, and given his casts there, this isn’t that great.

          Steve, did read what you wrote? “They have a couple of AS…” What other team’s best player plays with 2 other AS? Yes, GS has 4, but that’s it. They’ve had some injuries, but they can go 12 deep. Crowder is a big-time player with BOS.

          CLE is 27-19, and MIA is 27-20. Am I really supposed to believe MIA with no AS with much lesser talent and depth is only 1/2 game back of CLE?

          Swampy, if James is barely going to try on defense, how can he expect anyone else to? And Crowder, Thompson, Shumpert can all play defense. And lest we not forget, James basically hand-picked his cast. These players he chose. Obviously GS has the best talent, but James’ teams including this year have been a top 3-4 cast for awhile now. With what they have, their record is pitiful. But, of course, like James’ supporters, he always has lots of excuses. Forget about GS, they’re fighting for homecourt advantage just in the 1st round in the East.

          • January 25th 2018 @ 9:46pm
            Swampy said | January 25th 2018 @ 9:46pm | ! Report

            Another believer of the myth of Jae crowder. He ain’t any good. Thompson seems to have lost his will (almost as if some she-devil drained it out of him) & Shumpert used to play d well but that was a while back now.

            My comment if you read it suggests the roster construction may be by LeBron but no one knows this for sure. It is certainly poor regardless.

            I was more pointing out the profound lack of any energy guys on their roster – something that is usually related to young guys (see Oubre, Kelly; Johnson, Stanley; Capella, Clint & Bell, Jordan as prime examples). Those guys get you through the games that seemingly don’t matter.

    • January 23rd 2018 @ 10:53am
      Jerry said | January 23rd 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

      They need to make a trade – use that Nets pick and shed some deadweight. They’ve got the best player in the world, try and win now. If James leaves, they’ll suck regardless and that Nets pick won’t matter. They can tank and get their own high pick.

      • January 23rd 2018 @ 3:48pm
        Kevin said | January 23rd 2018 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

        Yeah trade for sure ..but I heard talk of Dandre Jordan..pease tell me that’s not right..he would bring bugger all to what they need ..

        • January 23rd 2018 @ 4:31pm
          steve said | January 23rd 2018 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

          Yeah except for things like rim protection, offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, blocks. And an actual scoring presence from the centre position. hahaha Try again.

          • January 23rd 2018 @ 6:01pm
            kevin said | January 23rd 2018 @ 6:01pm | ! Report

            They can get bogut back for that, i think they need to try ang get paul george and go for the kill .. at least for one or two seasons …the current game seems a perimiter game, not the in and under days where a big centre was paramount …

            • January 23rd 2018 @ 10:39pm
              steve said | January 23rd 2018 @ 10:39pm | ! Report

              Paul George is a half a season rental. He is going to the Lakers in the off season and it will cost the Cavs the Brooklyn lottery pick in the process. He wants to go home to LA. PG, no thanks. Paul George doesn’t address the Cavs problems of no rim protector, and a team that cant defend from front court to back court.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 8:53am
                Swampy said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:53am | ! Report

                Agreed Steve. And he plays the same position as LeBron. Jordan fits but they would be monstrously over the salary cap. A lot of the deadweight are on cheap deals so that’s why they signed them.

                The Cavs need some youth. They definitely need to keep the Brooklyn pick and grab a couple of young guys. No reason they couldn’t sneak a John Collins or Bam Adebayo off a lottery team. Even a guy like Willie Cauley Stein would help tremendously.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 5:19pm
                steve said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

                I highly doubt that Atlanta, Miami or Sacramento give up any of those players, they are all focusing on their younger players. Miami, would however, I believe, give up Hassan Whiteside for the Nets pick, while absorbing Tristan Thompson’s contract until Adebayo is developed to take over as the centre. Its actually the move that helps the Cavs the most right now. Whiteside is ranked number seven in the whole NBA for defence, something the Cavs are severely lacking in. As far as I am aware, he is the best defensive centre in the NBA. I would happily give up the Nets pick for him. It makes sense right now while LBJ is around.

              • January 25th 2018 @ 9:53pm
                Swampy said | January 25th 2018 @ 9:53pm | ! Report

                Better than Gobert or Porzingas?

                Pretty sure sacramento would give up WCS plus something else to get at the Brooklyn pick. Isn’t there a scenario they lose their pick to Philly?

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