Cleveland Cavs' Slow Start Simply a Hiccup...Isn't It?
As a close friend of mine told me last night, "I just want to see a Cleveland team win one game already."
Coming into this year, expectations in the city on the lake couldn't have been any bigger after a heart-squelching loss to the Orlando Magic in last season's Eastern Conference Semifinals and the acquisition of future Hall-of-Fame center, Shaquille O'Neal.
In fact, this writer proudly proclaimed back in August that the Cavs were the favorites to win it all in '09-'10.
After massive build-up and anticipation, the long-awaited night finally came: Oct. 27—the coronation of the new dominant force in the NBA.
It was inevitable that the Cavs and their "improved" roster would ride the momentum from their raucous sellout crowd of seething, rabid Clevelanders and run the hated Celtics out of the building. Right?
LeBron, Shaq, and company came out with guns ablaze to the tune of a 14-point first quarter lead.
The rest of the game (for Cavs fans, at least) was forgettable at best.
Boston out-executed, out-hustled, and out-played Cleveland en route to a 95-89 spoiling of the Cavs' would-be coming out party.
No big deal. Next up on Cleveland's slate were the Toronto Raptors. This matchup had to bring the Cavs their first win (probably in dominant fashion), didn't it?
The Cleveland offense suffered from the same disease with which it was afflicted last season: LeBron James receiving possession with 15 seconds left on the shot clock and seeing his four floormates do their best impression of a terrified Sam Neill in Jurassic Park ("He can't see us if we don't move..."). To their credit, the Cavs were playing a team nicknamed the Raptors.
It also didn't help that the Cavs simply could not buy a field goal last night. Wide open looks, the majority of which were converted last season, clanged off the iron.
Players like the newly-acquired Anthony Parker didn't help Cleveland's shooting woes, as the Cavs time and time again resorted to contested jumpers and fade aways.
Could these offensive lapses be the result of former long-tenured offensive assistant John Kuester's departure to the head coaching gig in Detroit? Will they continue? Will they get even worse? Time will certainly tell.
Defensively, the sophisticated, suffocating defensive schemes seen by Cleveland last year were nowhere to be found.
The nasty, gritty, stalwart defense that the Cavs made their hallmark in '08-'09 was replaced with a confused, lackluster version.
Raptor pick-and-rolls were defended by nobody and Toronto's star big men, Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh, found points and rebounds plentiful.
In these first two regular season contests, what's been seen (for the most part) is not a lack of execution, but a lack of team chemistry, trust, and sometimes structured play calling.
Will these problems be short-term ones that fade after a few games? Probably. Remember, the Cavs began last season with a record of 1-2 (losing to Boston on opening night as well).
Also, Cleveland has yet to see any playing time from guard Delonte West, who was a huge cog in the Cavs' wheel last year and was arguably the second-best Cavalier performer in the postseason. His return should bring with it better team basketball.
Everyone from the media to the fans to the players still remains confident in a very successful season and a long playoff run.
But for those of us unfortunate enough to have been regularly subjected to the torturous side shows that are the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns, these chinks in the Cavs' immaculate armor are enough to incite hysteria.
The Cavaliers are this city's only (and I mean only) legitimate hope at the championship oasis that has become so tantalizingly close several times, but has never been realized.
One win is a tiny moral victory for the die-hard, success-starved people of northeast Ohio.
One win is something we in Cleveland haven't seen in quite a while.
Hopefully—for the sake of both my friend and the city—one win is coming sooner rather than later.
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