Losing LeBron James from the roster is sure to change any team's outlook in a given season. The Cleveland Cavaliers know that well, having dealt with James' departure not once, but twice, now. After James opted to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason, the Cavs were hoping a roster led by All-Star big man Kevin Love and other holdovers from Cleveland's runs to The Finals would keep the Cavs in the playoff mix in the East.
While it is still very, very early in the NBA season, the Cavs are 0-3 after Sunday's 133-111 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Rookie guard Trae Young sizzled in that game, lighting up Cleveland for 35 points (including six 3-pointers) and 11 assists. After the loss, Love and fellow Cavs veteran Tristan Thompson spoke of some troubling trends they saw from Cleveland early in the season.
In particular, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, defensive breakdowns have been an issue for the Cavs early in the season. Last night, the Cavs saw the Hawks go 22-for-46 on 3-pointers (46.8 percent) and shoot 49 percent overall. Veteran forward Tristan Thompson told Cleveland.com he was unhappy with the defensive effort overall that the Cavs gave.
"It was embarrassing," Thompson told Cleveland.com. "We would never expect for us to come out like that, especially at home.
"No disrespect to the Hawks, but those guys, their mentality this season is for their young guys to get reps, work on their game and just go out there and compete obviously at a high level, but understand it's not about the wins and losses, for them it's about the long journey to get back to where they want to get to. For us, that's not what we're here to do. For me, Kev, Kyle (Korver), G Hill, Swish (JR Smith), all the guys that have been part of winning environments, we come to compete. That's what we're here to do and tonight there was none of that at all.
"Whoever's in the game has got to be ready to play, take the scout serious and understand what we're doing. If you don't know what to do, ask questions. But don't go out there and say, 'I know. I know,' and then you come out there and get your ass whupped."
Love, too, was not impressed with last night's performance. But, in particular, he has seen bigger issues for Cleveland all season long.
"The last three quarters were pretty damn alarming," Love told Cleveland.com. "Opening Night at home we expect to play better. We expect to play better in front of our home crowd. I don't know if alarming is the right word but it sure sounds right, just with our effort level. Our effort level wasn't there, especially defending the three-point line. They were just gunning and we weren't getting into them, we weren't physical."
To date, the Cavs are 29th in Defensive Rating (121.4), 30th in blocks per game (1.7) and 28th in steals per game (4.7). Three of Cleveland's next four games are at home, which includes an Oct. 30 rematch with the Hawks.