Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant knows the team's fans aren't stupid.
The Cavs were supposed to be better than they are. Much better. Andrew Bynum made them a contender. When that didn't work out, he turned the disengaged center into two-time All-Star Luol Deng. Hope was reborn.
Then, quickly as it came, it was gone.
At 16-29, Cleveland is 2.5 games back of a playoff spot—threatening to bottom out in the dreadful Eastern Conference. Fans are predictably unhappy, and so is Grant.
"We're all accountable for it, including myself," he told reporters, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Schmitt Boyer. "It's frustrating. It's disappointing. The fans deserve better."
After waiting to climb out of the NBA's doldrums that LeBron James' 2010 departure put them in, they most certainly do. But instead of playoff-level basketball and promising future outlooks, the fans have been treated to losing and dysfunction.
Sophomore Dion Waiters butted heads with superstar Kyrie Irving during a players-only meeting in November, according to a report filed by ESPN's Chris Broussard, and Irving himself has been lampooned for his attitude.
"Two opposing general managers this season have told me they think Irving is pouting," wrote the Akron Beacon Journal’s Jason Lloyd. "Over what is anyone’s guess. Jarrett Jack hasn’t been the locker room enforcer he was supposed to be. Luol Deng should help, but he just arrived and may not be (in Cleveland) past April."
There's also the Bynum business to consider. The entitled big man has always been a headache, but Cleveland's inability to keep him in check doesn't say much about its infrastructure.
In-fighting and tumultuous play have put the Cavs in a precarious situation moving forward. They approach the Feb. 20 trade deadline in need of answers. Any answers.
Further ahead, they enter a summer rife with questions.
Poaching James from the Miami Heat is no longer a concern, nor is it even an option at this point. If he leaves the sunny confines of Miami, it won't be for a franchise he couldn't save on his own once before when it's in worse shape now.
Retaining Deng will be the main concern. Irving needs a No. 2 and it's clearly not going to be Waiters. Deng, however, is a savvy veteran and won't necessarily be seduced by dollar signs if it means sticking around a team falling deeper into a self-mandated hell.
Where will the Cavs finish in the Eastern Conference?
"We did a lot of good things (Sunday), but we did a lot of disappointing things—things that reminds us that we’re not that good," Deng said following a loss to the Phoenix Suns, via The Plain Dealer's Jodie Valade.
Failure to appease and subsequently keep Deng, and Cleveland runs the risk of frustrating the already-sullen Irving even further. Then they run the risk of losing him via restricted free agency in 2015 or unrestricted free agency in 2016, despite the ability to offer him a lucrative contract.
"The lack of effort is just not acceptable," Grant said, per Boyer. "It's not who we are or who we want to be."
Who the Cavs actually are or wind up being is anyone's guess. Right now, all signs point to them being a self-destructive disaster incapable of correcting a growing list of serious problems.