For the first time in over 10 years, I took my talents to Austin, Texas to visit my cousin who finally returned from Afghanistan. I went down the Dirty 6, took it up Congress Drive and enjoyed the revelry that is the weirdest city in Texas. (Of course, I threw as much Sooner shade as I could while there, y'all know how I get down.) Drinks were had, stories were shared and good will was the monarch of the rendezvous session.
However, when we sat down at a local watering hole on Congress, I happened across the fourth quarter of the Cleveland Cavaliers doing battle with the Detroit Pistons. I wasn't really paying attention, as my cousin was telling a tall tale about his night of debauchery that was recently had, as his gallivanting with women and his over-consumption of tequila had us all enthralled. Unfortunately, the tick in my brain that makes me a sports fan means that I can't help but to constantly steal glances at the flashing lights to see what's happening next. Then I saw the score.
Detroit 90, Cleveland 63.
This was my exact reaction.
The amount of disgust I had in my body watching the Cavaliers play wretched basketball against a team that just WAIVED arguably its best
worst player in Josh Smith about a week ago reached peak levels of furious anger. What makes things worse is that the Cavs had a healthy 15-point lead earlier in the game but ended up losing by 23 points. The team with the world's best player, the world's best outlet passer and the world's most emotionless head coach had a 40-point swing in point differential against the bummy Pistons. Yes, tip the cap to the Pistons, as Detroit's shooters made so many threes that they set a new franchise record (17 3-pointers made in a game) and Cleveland didn't have Kyrie Irving in the lineup, but there's really no excuse for this at all.
The Cleveland Cavaliers should be ashamed of themselves. This is getting to be absurd.
Here's more from the basketball wizard Tom Ziller of SB Nation (who puts together the best daily basketball newsletter on the planet) on the Collapse in Cleveland from Sunday night:
Kevin Love had 20, and the Cavs were missing Kyrie Irving and, of course, Anderson Varejao. But LeBron James needed 21 shooting possessions to get 17 points, which is very un-LeBron, which is good description of how he's been off and on this season. [...] LeBron is still more than capable of exploding. He's just doing it far less frequently it seems. It's worrisome. If you're a fan of the game and you don't actively root for one of the four teams in the East who gain the most from Cleveland's mediocrity, you want to see the Cavaliers at or near their peak potential. We were excited for Irving-LeBron-Love for a reason. That hasn't been unleashed at all.
There's time, but not that much time. And every demoralizing, confusing loss like this makes me wonder if that wonderful basketball we thought was just around the corner in fact just isn't possible. This is a "make it work" moment for David Blatt, LeBron and the Cavs. So, make it work.
When LeBron "took his talents to South Beach" to play for the Miami Heat, things didn't start off peachy there either. Everyone remembers the 9-8 start that had LeBron wondering if he'd made the right decision. Four years ago, we could at least watch the Heat unleash this absurdity that was their lightning quick string defense, where everyone on the floor could switch on ball-handlers and the Heat would force turnovers in an instant and convert them into countless fast-break opportunities. The reality was, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra hadn't installed any offensive systems whatsoever, but by year two everything eventually clicked. But at least we saw something there with that Heat team.
To use an old saying of mine, this Cavaliers squad looks like five guys who just met at the YMCA five minutes ago and decided to run pickup against the old dudes who've been playing there for a decade.
If David Blatt was ever going to prove to the world that he's a basketball coach worth a damn, now is the time. While LeBron has nothing to prove (in my opinion) at this point in his career, he's either going to have to draw a line in the sand and truly show this team what it's going to take (which it seems he's already been doing and yeah … not working) or he's going to have to fall back a bit and fully buy in to whatever Blatt is selling, for better or worse. As for players 2 through 12 on that Cavaliers roster, they either look too green, too greedy, too old or too bummy to individually be able to right the ship. However, the reason why this team should be disappointed is because the players look listless out there. There's no fire whatsoever, they look uninspired, and it seems they're just waiting for LeBron to save them and take them to the promised land.
It's time for the Cleveland Cavaliers to simply man up. Check their egos at the door and look themselves in the mirror. Otherwise, this collective grouping of talents won't last very long in northeast Ohio.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”