Cavs lead the Wizards after losing a game less than Wizards with both spotting 30 wins. The immediate challenges are far from easy as Cavs take on Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks before facing Conference leaders Boston Celtics.
Cleveland had it tough against lower ranked Orlando the last time they played winning 104-103 and Minnesota demolished them with a 127-99 win. These games are to be played following another humiliating loss to a big side over the weekend.
Houston Rockets-touted as the best team to beat defending champion Golden State Warriors-run over Cleveland at the latter’s home arena winning 120-88. But the true measure of Cavaliers readiness to head to the All Star break on a winning note will be tested against Boston who look too good to lose to Cavaliers.
Despite suffering against Boston in the past regular seasons, Cleveland always turned it up when it mattered most. However, the team’s woeful play makes predicting a similar outcome very hard particularly with Kyrie Irving suiting up for Boston now.
It is hard to call because there is constant doubt this season on which Cavs team will turn up for a game at any given time.
Would it be the Cavaliers team that ripped 13 straight wins or is it the Cavs side that has lost six in the last ten games? In the midst of the bad run, reports have surfaced about the safety of Coach Tyronne Lue. While team leader LeBron James has publicly backed the man who guided Cleveland to its sole NBA Title, management’s backing cannot be fully trusted since decisions can be altered quickly.
After changing his starting lineup, tweaking plays and making players more accountable, none has worked and Lue is running out of time to make things work before the postseason. Perhaps the only reason Cleveland still ranks third is down to the conference’s weak challenges unlike the opposite conference where a losing run like the one Cavs are experiencing means more trouble keeping up.
While his coach is under fire, James has not covered himself in glory with his poor body language and utterances in the face of difficulty. He failed to commit to defense early in the game against Rockets and stated Cleveland games should be taken off national television. His future is unknown as he becomes a free agent at season’s end with the possibility of skipping town for the second time. By inserting a no trade clause in his contract, Cavs management cannot make a seismic trade and have to wait again on LeBron’s decision at the end of the season.
Per what is happening on and off the court, there is little to suggest he wants to stick around after clinching a title for the city in 2016. Pulling off another title win certainly helps its course in negotiations but until that time, Cleveland is behind the likes of Houston, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio in the race to sign him. Getting players through trades now can help but to add more quality to this group, Cavs Manager Koby Altman must include Brooklyn Nets top ten protected pick.
And even that is wrapped in uncertainty as the value of the draft depends on Brooklyn’s performance in the remaining games this season. Should Brooklyn win more games, chances of Cleveland picking high in the draft is low but the Nets losing a lot of games does the opposite for Cleveland. There are some who believe Altman should trade the pick for players who can help the team win now rather than endure a long rebuilding process the way teams like Philadelphia Sixers did so four seasons prior to this campaign.
In case James leaves as a free agent, the team will be better prepared to deal with the aftermath as Kyle Korver, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love have two more seasons remaining on their contracts. JR Smith doesn’t figure to be part of this trio since he is likely to be added to the pick for a player like Kemba Walker. An era could be coming to an end after this season and could be the perfect way for LeBron to build further on his legendary legacy by staying longer in Cleveland but neither situation is clear enough.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter