LeBron James wants the Cavs off national television
LeBron James is aware that his Cleveland Cavaliers are a train wreck, and after his team got utterly humiliated on national television Saturday in a 120-88 shellacking at home by the Houston Rockets, he had strong words for anyone who asked him what he thought.
“I’m lost for words, actually,” James said. “They should take us off every nationally televised game for the rest of the season. We haven’t played good ball and we get our butts kicked every time we play on national television, so I’m at a loss for words.”
James is not exaggerating. Cleveland has lost its last eight games on national TV, and they’ve done so by an average of 18 points.
For a bit of perspective, the 2012 Charlotte Bobcats, whose 7-59 record in the lockout-shortened season was the worst winning percentage in NBA history, lost those 59 games by an average of 14.7 points.
Cavs’ coach Tyronn Lue said he believes some of his team’s problems are mental.
“Don’t look like [we tried]. We didn’t have no fight,” Lue said. “I just think our mindset needs to change. I think we need to do things harder.”
Cleveland guard Isaiah Thomas pointed to the team’s trust issues.
“There’s a lot of one-on-one on the offense end, maybe because we don’t trust each other,” Thomas said. “And then on the defensive end, it’s the same thing. Guys are put on islands and there’s no trust. I mean, if you don’t trust something … I don’t know. I think it has a lot to do with trust on both ends.”
There have been rumors that Lue is on the hot seat. Cleveland may give him his walking papers, but everyone seems to tacitly understand that James is the player-coach on this team already, so firing Lue isn’t likely to usher in a big change.
If James is supposed to lead by example, his clear lack of defensive effort from the opening minute of the game shows just how dysfunctional the Cavaliers have been. It set the tone and established that the game was effectively a foregone conclusion from the opening tip.
Cleveland is still third in the Eastern Conference at 30-21, but it’s been a true roller-coaster season. They had a stretch earlier in the season where they went 18-1 over 19 games, including a 13-game winning streak.
Take out that stretch of basketball and they’re 12-20, which over 82 games equates to a 31-win team.
The Cavaliers can only coast for so long on that winning streak. If the Washington Wizards beat the Pacers in Indiana Monday and the Cavs find a way to fluff their game in Orlando on Tuesday, the fall from the top three could be done just that quickly.
Plus, only two games separate Cleveland from the seventh-place Miami Heat. Not only could Cleveland choke away third place, they might find themselves out of homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
And, if things really get out of hand, only five games separate the Cavaliers from the ninth-place Pistons, who just acquired Blake Griffin.
So maybe LeBron is right. Maybe they should take the Cavs off national TV. They have 13 games on ESPN or TNT the rest of the way, all but one (at the Lakers in March) against teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today.
For his part, James says he is not lobbying the front office to make moves in advance of this week’s trade deadline.
“That’s not a question for me,” James said. “I show up to work every day. I bust my tail every day. I’m the first one to get to the gym and I’m one of the last ones to leave I do my part. I control what I can control, and that is what I can control.”
Too bad the rest of his team isn’t giving him any help.
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