It’s been quite a week for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’ve traded Dion Waiters – as well as a couple of future draft picks – for Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov; there are rumblings that the organization is not happy first-year NBA coach David Blatt; and LeBron James is reportedly trying to rush back from back and knee injuries to prevent the Cavs (19-17) from slipping in the standings even more.
What in the world is going on in Cleveland?
“Yeah, things have not exactly gone to plan after the big return party and everyone saying, ‘LeBron’s back and everything’s fixed,’” CBS Sports NBA writer Matt Moore said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “It turns out it’s a bit harder. A lot of us had questions about how this team was going to perform. We had questions in terms of personnel on defense and David Blatt being a first-time NBA head coach. This isn’t Europe, so we had some questions. And the answers to those questions have been very concerning. Because not only has the defense struggled, but the offense has just looked like it doesn’t make the best use of its personnel, and half the time it doesn’t even know what (it’s) doing. You throw in the injury concerns and everything else, and that’s why you see this week (general manager) David Griffin coming out and supporting David Blatt and then making two significant trades to bolster their defense.
“This is not what you see from contenders,” Moore continued. “It’s rare for a contender to make these kind of drastic changes in-season. It shows you what the pressure situation is like for Cleveland right now.”
Cleveland is the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference – 8.5 games behind first-place Atlanta (27-8) and 5.5 games behind Washington (24-11) for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
What else do the Cavs need to do right now?
“Well, the move for Shumpert is a good start,” Moore said. “Now, J.R. Smith comes with his own bag of tricks, if you want to call it that. But you move Iman Shumpert to the quality 1. They needed a perimeter defender, someone to take the pressure off of their guys and help the guys inside as well.”
Moore added that Mozgov, a rim protector, “was a huge step forward” and “exactly what they needed.”
There’s just one more potential issue that needs fixing.
“Honestly, I think it is on the coach,” Moore said. “I think it is on the coach. This team has not bought into what David Blatt has been selling. They have no identity, and they’re going to have to find that as the season goes along. They have to figure out what kind of team they are, what they do well and focus on winning games that way. Because just blowing teams apart with shooting isn’t going to work. No matter how many points Kyrie Irving scores, they’ve got to find an identity for this team – and that, I think, is the biggest challenge over these next four months.”