After last week's blowout loss at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue and star LeBron James knew there were issues the team has to fix and quick. Following last night's loss to the Golden State Warriors -- a defeat that gave the Cavs' rivals the season series -- talk of discord and concern about the season among the Cavs is growing.
According to ESPN.com, Cleveland.com and TheAthletic.com, multiple players acknowledged to those media outlets that there is a growing concern that the root of the Cavs' issues cannot be fixed. The Cavaliers have dropped eight of 10 games dating to a Christmas Day defeat at defending champion Golden State. As well, last night's loss dropped the Cavs to 10-12 against teams over .500, with their last win over a .500 team coming in a Jan. 2 home win against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com reports that multiple marquee Cavs -- as well as several league sources -- spoke about a sullen atmosphere surrounding the Cavs of late:
Multiple marquee Cleveland players spoke without attribution to cleveland.com, ESPN, and The Athletic after the loss to the Warriors, and league sources separately spoke to cleveland.com to describe a sullen and dour atmosphere on a team that a few short weeks ago was toasting in Napa, Calif.
"Rotations are awful. IT (Isaiah Thomas) is so much worse than Kyrie defensively it's insane," said a league source. "There is not a great feeling anywhere. They need to limp into the All-Star break and get away from each other."
Concerns range from a roster (the league's oldest) that appears ill fit to match up in a seven-game series with the mighty Warriors, who have beaten the Cavs in two of the last three Finals, in seven of the last eight games overall, and are again the NBA's best team at 36-9.
There are questions as to whether the pieces put in place by owner Dan Gilbert's new front office team, headed by general manager Koby Altman, fit together -- regardless of opponent -- and whether the Cavs will make a trade by the Feb. 8 deadline.
Communication between the front office and players and coaches is different -- not as frequent -- as it was when former general manager David Griffin was here, multiple team sources have said.
In terms of the roster's future, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com, a trade may not seem likely and the return of some familiar faces will alter what happens next in Cleveland:
Several prominent players, speaking on a condition of anonymity to ESPN, Cleveland.com and The Athletic, expressed doubt that the problems -- an aging roster, defensively-challenged personnel and a glut of redundant role players -- could simply be worked out through patience and a chance to coalesce when fully healthy.
With the trade deadline looming Feb. 8, the Cavaliers do have some options, including their own 2018 first-round pick, which could fetch interest on the trade market. In addition, they also have Brooklyn's unprotected first-round pick in this year's draft, acquired in the Kyrie Irving deal. However, several league sources told ESPN that the Cavs prefer to hold onto the pick as a potential franchise-resetting asset should LeBron James leave as a free agent in July.
In the meantime, they have two more players on the mend -- Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert -- who could further disrupt the rotation whenever they return healthy enough to play.
That could also include an adjustment period that any sort of major trade would bring. And midseason trades are just as much an annual tradition for the Cavs as midseason slumps are -- with deals completed the last several years to acquire Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov in 2015; Channing Frye in 2016 and Kyle Korver in 2017.
"I'm not anticipating anything," Lue said before the Warriors game when asked about potentially accommodating new pieces into his rotation.
Cleveland's schedule may not make life much easier on it going forward. Eight of its next 10 games are against teams currently in the playoff chase in either conference, including a game in San Antonio (Jan. 23, 8 ET) and a home game vs. Houston (Feb. 3, 8:30 ET).
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