The Cleveland Cavaliers are no strangers to regular season slumps. They have consistently been one of the oldest team’s in the league with aspirations beyond the regular season. Meaning that effort, motivation and focus can be inconsistent over the grind of the regular season. When you mix in a large number of injuries to key players over the last few years, and you’re going to find yourself in several lulls throughout the year.
The Cavs are certainly in one of those lulls now, as the team has gone just 1-3 over their last four games. Despite the losing to open the year, LeBron James is preaching patience as the Cavs work to figure things out.
"I'm fine, and we're fine. It's a long season. It's way too [early to judge]."
James went on to outline just how crazy things have been so far this season:
"We're out two starting point guards," James said of Rose and Isaiah Thomas. "So I'm not overlooking what's going on. I wasn't overlooking if we had success. I'm not going to overlook if we had a couple games off. I'm not getting too high and getting too low. I'm an even-keel guy. I understand this is a long process. We played some different [lineups]. Like I told you guys, we played some crazy lineups that we haven't even played in practice. So we'll continue to get better. There's going to be some games where we don't look as good unfortunately, but that's all part of the process, and we just have to be patient with it until we can become full-strength."
Kevin Love also weighed in, after breaking out of his personal slump with a 26 point, 11 rebound performance during the team’s loss to the Pelicans:
"We're really upset," Love said sarcastically when asked about the loss. "If we were in March or April, maybe it'd be a different story. But right now we know we have to get a lot better. We're frustrated. We're pissed off. But in no way are we going to panic. We need to get better, watch a lot of film, energy needs to be there. We all need to be on the same page. We'll get there.
Love getting going is incredibly important to the team. With Isaiah Thomas out, Love is the team’s clear second best player and will likely continue to hold that title until Thomas proves he can return to form. In order to limit the load LeBron has to carry early in this season, the team is going to need to step up and play at the level they know they are capable of performing at.
There have been some positive signs throughout this rough patch. Dwyane Wade looks comfortable and productive so far with the second unit. Plus, while the shots aren’t falling yet for the starters, they are generating much better looks and are simply failing to convert. Which bodes well for the team, unless J.R. Smith simply forgot how to shoot.
At this point, the most important thing for the team to get on track is their defensive play. While there are still some weaker defensive players on the roster, with Smith, James, Crowder, and Thompson playing a large portion of the available minutes the team has no excuse for being as bad as they’ve been defensively. The constantly changing rotation may impact chemistry and communication, but guys are simply getting beat one-on-one too frequently and the effort is lacking.
The Cavs will be alright, but the longer these struggles continue on for the harder it will be to break out of the slump.