The Cleveland Cavaliers losing two games in a row isn’t the end of the world, especially when LeBron James sits out one of them. But Tyronn Lue admitting he doesn’t really have control of his star player while the brewing unhappiness bubbling under the surface as shown by J.R. Smith casts another negative light on a franchise that seems to be doing things the wrong way.
The Cavaliers losing 113-99 to the Wizards is worse than the result. While the Toronto Raptors losing as well means they still have their two game lead in the Eastern conference, it also showed how little has changed since Tyronn Lue was hired instead of the fired David Blatt. James rested and didn’t play because he decided it. Otherwise, there’s no reason Lue says it. James didn’t want to come out in the loss to the Raptors, leading to him sitting out in the loss to the Wizards, who led by 30 points during the game. When a coach has no control over the minutes of one of his players, even if it’s someone as powerful as James, something’s very wrong.
After Blatt was fired, everyone talked about new atmosphere and vibe in the locker room. About players suggesting James should have been held more accountable by the previous coach. How things will be different under Lue, although all signs pointed towards James being the one who got Lue hired. And with the Cavaliers going 11-6 since the coaching switch while playing a slower kind of offense with worse defense, what has really changed?
J.R. Smith spoke after the game, and it wasn’t pretty. From him, and from others, it comes off as more of an attitude problem than anything else. He didn’t say anything about James, but those looking for hints can find them. Bottom line from Smith? The Cavaliers might be considered contenders by everyone or at least the favorites to make the finals out of the East, but with this kind of ability and mental state, they’re not going to make it back to the NBA finals.
This whole situation takes us back to James in Miami. After the 2011 season and during the 2011-2012 season, it’s been rumored James tried to get Erik Spoelstra fired. And yet there was one figure who has been dominating this franchise for the last 20 years. Pat Riley didn’t let his players take over the team, and got two championships out of it. James left the Heat for a number of reasons in 2014. Maybe one of them was trying to have more control, and seeing the void in leadership in Cleveland being the perfect opportunity for him.
The Cavaliers have talent, a lot of it. It should be enough, in the end, to make the NBA finals out of the East. But maybe this group is already on its way towards another crisis or failure. If this is all just a sidenote in James’ personal and growing ego trip, everyone, including max-paid players like Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, are supporting actors, nothing more. Lue, or someone in management, should be steering this organization, not James. A great basketball player, but something about his personality and the position he’s in simply aren’t healthy when it comes to the prospects and ambitions of winning a championship.