In the same respect, it’s funny how much things are exactly what they seem.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are a team in transition, and regardless of what your initial thoughts were for this team heading into 2014-2015, that was one fact that was undeniable.
Take LeBron James out of the equation for a moment, and think about the bare essentials of what happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the end of the 2013-2014 season, to the beginning of the 2014-2015 season.
1. They hired a new General Manager, David Griffin, on May 12, 2014. Even though he was the interim-GM prior, transitioning into the main job starting a season is a completely different animal.
2. They fired Head Coach Mike Brown, again, on the same day Griffin assumed official command of the Cavs.
3. On June 20th, they hired David Blatt as the team’s head coach. Blatt, while a 20-plus-year-veteran of coaching, had never played or coached in the NBA prior. His background is completely overseas.
Keep in mind, the LeBron James speculation had begun in earnest at this point. The Haywood deal was the first little piece of a puzzle that had people wondering if moves were being made to re-sign their lost superstar. Already the club had begun wading through a massive transition with a new GM, new coach, and new #1 draft pick to add to the puzzle.
Things were just getting started.
6. On July 10th, the Cavs sent shockwaves across the bows of every NBA team. In a three team trade, the Cavs sent Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev to the Brooklyn Nets, and Tyler Zeller to the Boston Celtics. The Cavs received a second round pick, and the rights to a bunch of guys that would never, ever play a second with the Cavs. They were just salary-balances that would allow the Cavs to open up room, you know, in case they were going to sign a certain someone.
Then came the biggest announcement, perhaps in major Cleveland sports’ history. On July 11th, James announced that he was coming home to Cleveland.
That’s when the balance of transition and a superstar revival began battling in the minds of every fan.
Yes, the team was transitioning, but yes, the best player in the NBA was coming home. From this point on, things began working at a feverish pitch.
7. On July 12th, the Cavs officially signed LeBron, and he immediately went to work at recruiting players. Almost immediately, Kevin Love became a reality.
8. On July 22nd, the Cavs traded Carrick Felix, a 2015 second rounder and some cash considerations to Utah for John Lucas III, Erik Murphy and Malcolm Thomas. This was a deal that was simply made to acquire parts to complete a deal for Kevin Love. The Cavs also hadn’t signed Andrew Wiggins yet, and by waiting, they were able to make this deal, then sign him, then wait the 30 days to include him in a trade for Love.
9. In the meantime, on August 5th, the Cavs signed two old LeBron cronies from Miami in Mike Miller and James Jones. Both brought veteran leadership, signed cheap, and would help shape a playoff bench for David Blatt and the Cavs.
10. On August 23, the Cavs took part in a three-team trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Philadelphia 76ers that brought them Kevin Love. They traded away both of their previous #1 draft choices in Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota, as well as a trade exception.
11. On September 9, the Cavs signed guard/forward Shawn Marion, who chose the Cavs over more playing time in Indiana.
12. On September 25, the Cavs dealt Lucas, Murphy, recently signed Dwight Powell and Malcolm Thomas, as well as two second round picks to the Boston Celtics for Keith Bogans and a 2015 and 2017 top-55 protected second round picks.
14. On September 27, the Cavs traded Bogans to the Sixers for a 2015 protected second round pick.
In all, the team moved Gee, Karasev, Zeller, Jack, C.J. Miles (to free agency), Felix and Anthony Bennett from their 2014 team, as well as the first pick in the 2014 draft. They acquired James, Love, Marion, Haywood, Miller, Jones, Amundson and Price, and drafted Joe Harris. That’s nine players coming from different places in their careers, and for the most part, different teams.
Add to the equation Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova, and you have a team that more or less resembles a hodge-podge of stars and might-bes, but at the bare minimum, had no idea how to play with each other.
It’s quite the turnover for any club to handle, especially one that has experienced a boatload of losing over the past four seasons. Even with proven all-stars coming on board, there’s a new General Manager, a new coach, three new starters, and a lot of players that haven’t tasted playoff basketball.
What does your mind say about the type of start this team should have?
Can LeBron, KLove and Kyrie expected to overcome a new system and no knowledge of their teammates capabilities?
While your heart immediately compares this team’s roster and screams out, “YES!!!” What does your mind tell you?
I immediately said to give this team 20 games. See what happens once they learn Blatt’s complicated offensive and defensive systems, and more importantly, once they learn to trust each other.
How would LeBron do with the weight of a city on his back?
How would Kyrie do trying to figure out how to be a star, with the biggest star in the league now on the same court?
What would Kevin Love do now that he had a player that was greater than his equal?
What would Dion do now that his touches would be limited?
Was Tristan Thompson anything more than a guy that comes off the bench anymore?
Was Matthew Dellavedova a good player on a bad team, or just a good player?
How much did guys like Varejao and Miller and Marion and Jones have left in the tank?
Could David Blatt coach in the league, and is David Griffin a puppet instead of a GM?
That’s a lot of questions, and not even all of the questions this team had to answer by the end of the 2014-2015 season, let alone by the time the opening bell rang on October 30th.
The Cavs started off slow.
Who would have figured?
There were moments of brilliance, but many in the social media networks counted them out. The Miami media outlets and fans were laughing at the struggles, and many were already courting the Cavs pending free agent-to-be, Kevin Love, thanks to a failed season…that wasn’t yet ten games old.
We’re now at the 20 game mark, and the Cavs are 13-7, and winners of their last eight games. It hasn’t always been pretty, and there are clearly weaknesses that will need to be addressed, but what is your brain telling you?
Is this a team that has plateaued, or will they get better?
Is this a team that is looking at it’s end-of-the-year roster, or are we going to see more additions by the time the trade deadline rolls around on March 1st?
Is this a team that will play better?
What’s been the most interesting in all of this has been the team’s ability to showcase different players on different nights. LeBron has been LeBron, and KLove has been KLove. Kyrie has starred (and really been the breakout star of the Bigger 3), and just when you counted him out, so has Dion Waiters. Tristan has had magnificent games, and so has Varejao.
In other words, this team is poking the edges to see what it’s got. How much fun is that?
This team can drop 120 on anyone, but has somehow found a way to play defense as well.
Kyrie cares, and Kevin is okay taking a back seat.
What happens when it all clicks, and they’re all driving side-by-side?
Bad things man…really bad things…
They aren’t the best of the league…yet, but we’re only twenty games in. Let’s wait and see where they are after 40 games…shall we?