I didn't want it to come to this. This year started off with so much hope an optimism. If you really are feeling tough this morning, go back and read our season predictions article.
Unfortunately none of the pieces seem to fit, the players apparently don't like one another and with a loaded draft on the horizon it seems like a re-evaluation of our season goals is necessary. I've said a few times that you have to give this team until the end of January and then we would see where they are at. Well it's the end of the month and it's time:
Old Yeller Rabies Scene (via Taylor Lilly)
It's time to pull the plug on the 2013-2014 Cavaliers.
So what would this tear-down look like?
First things first, the Cavaliers need to fire Chris Grant. I've often said that firing a GM midseason is pointless, but we cannot risk Grant making a panic decision at the deadline to try and get this team into the playoffs. My suggestion would be to fire him and have VP of Basketball Operations David Griffin take his place as an interim GM for the remainder of the season. Griffin wouldn't have as large of an adjustment period as an external hire and as long as it's made clear that the job is only temporary, he wouldn't be motivated to make any self-preserving moves. Once the offseason comes around then the search for a permanent replacement can begin. It's clear that most of the players are not happy with this current situation and a change like this would show that the Cavs are being proactive in trying to resolve this issue. Earlier, Conrad brought up the following good points:
This Kyrie situation differs from the issues with LeBron for a number of reasons..but one main difference is the team's flexibility.— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) January 31, 2014
If Kyrie is actually really upset with this team and it's never going to work with these guys, the Cavs can easily get new guys.
If Kyrie is actually really upset with this team and it's never going to work with these guys, the Cavs can easily get new guys.— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) January 31, 2014
There aren't any really huge, hard to move contracts on the payroll. They aren't invested in anybody else.
There aren't any really huge, hard to move contracts on the payroll. They aren't invested in anybody else.— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) January 31, 2014
This team doesn't just need a face-lift, it needs a blood transfusion, new hip, biopsy as well as chemotherapy to get rid of it's tumors. It seems like nobody is buying into the culture and the system that this team is trying to build, but the coaching staff and management need to get together and identify who the biggest problems are and get them out of the locker room. This team is a perfect example of the dangers of tanking. When you put a bunch of young players together and surround them with little to no leadership; you create a powder keg full of bad habits, immaturity, jealousy and apathy.
Fair or unfair the blame for the lack of leadership must fall on the shoulders of the team's third youngest player and only All Star, Kyrie Irving. Irving must find a way to rise above petty fights, the frustration of losing, fan backlash and noise coming from the media. These are all parts of being a star player in the NBA and while he is one of the most talented players in the NBA, he needs to add the mental toughness and thick skin necessary to elevate himself to the next level. There's no shame in not knowing how to lead on and off the court at 21 years old, he's not ready to be best player on a playoff team. But he needs to show a willingness to accept these criticisms, humble himself and put in the work necessary to grow into a leader in the NBA. Only then will he be able to elevate himself into the upper-echelon of NBA superstars.
You might be wondering what the Cavs can do now? Considering "tanking" creates a toxic environment and desperation moves to win now could be hurtful to the long term outlook of the team. If the rumors are true that Irving and Waiters are unable to get along, both think that they are better than the other and are consistently pouting their way through practice one of them needs to go. At the moment they are both quitters on and off the floor, I don't see Waiters scoring a lot of points against a relaxed defense in blowouts as "trying when nobody else does" and when I see Kyrie's lack of activity when he doesn't have the ball in his hands I don't see someone setting the tone for his team.
But at the end of the day if I'm picking one or the other, I'm picking the temperamental quitter with talent that's still one of the top performers in the league despite his flaws over the temperamental quitter that is inconsistent on offense and non existent on defense. This is tough for me to write because I do like both of these players. Dion has put a lot of work in his game and I can feel his frustration when he sees Kyrie, who has everything come naturally to him, get a pass at times. I don't think either are bad people, I think both have the potential to be really good NBA players. Kyrie's immaturity and Dion's ego are hurting their respective games and it seems like their presence together is doing damage to both of their careers. Both have the drive to be great but neither has any clue on how to channel that and while Kyrie sighs and Dion scowls, the point is neither is getting back on defense. Hopefully it isn't as bad as I think it is and they can work it out, but management needs to take a long hard look at this situation and figure out the problem.
Anderson Varejao has been one of the best players on and off the court for the Cavaliers in the history of the franchise, but he's getting older and really deserves better than this. Ideally the Cavaliers would be able to trade him for a future asset as well as a veteran presence. I don't want the Cavs to start scrapping everyone on this team to improve their draft position and get future assets. We've seen that movie before and I want to burn the theater down before the it's over. But ideally the team can cash in on Varejao while his value is high, send him to a better situation as well as trade away the most problematic players (let's be honest, they're all problems right now) and in return get a few older veteran players that may not be as talented, as well as some future assets I think this team might be in a much better place.
The likely outcome of this is that they will lose more games as a result of the turnover/ drop in talent. But it is possible that the team actually starts winning games with someone to keep Irving and the other young players (whomever they decide to keep) in check. I'd be completely fine if this was the case because getting another high pick isn't as important to the future of this franchise as the growth and maturity of their past draft picks. I'll say it again, the more likely outcome would be that the losing continues and they continue their slide down the standings, but through the losing we just might see the growth that we as fans have been craving. As Cavs fans we're used to losing, but what we should never be forced to get used to is a lack of effort.
We were able to survive last season because it felt like the Cavaliers were building towards something, this season no longer has that feel to it and we need to get back on that path, even if it means taking a step back or two.