Cleveland enters record book as Cavs lose 24th consecutive games in a single season

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There’s no pity in sports. Not really.

In fact, many sane, compassionate people are overcome by a certain blood-thirsty ruthlessness when they play,watch, or are involved in sports. It takes over our mindsets and that competitive nature spreads like a virus and removes the part of us that leads us to show concern for our fellow man.

We love sports for many reasons, but one is that it reflects our strongest temptation to remove those positive feelings we endeavor towards in our daily life: compassion, generosity, and empathy. Whether it’s because the results don’t truly matter, the games are simply for fun, or the virtual concept of struggle removed from reality,the fact remains. There’s no pity in sports.

But if you truly love this game, part of you could not help but feel an element of pity as you saw the Cavaliers players walk through the tunnel at Quicken Loans Arena. It wasn’t a Game 5 loss to the Boston Celtics, spelling the end of the LeBron James era in Cleveland, but it was history. Portland 111 Cleveland 105. The Cleveland Cavaliers have now lost 24 straight , the longest single-season losing streak in NBA history.

There isn’t much to say about the game. It wasn’t a special battle. It was a team beset by injuries, struggling to hold on to their relevance in the Western Conference playoff race beating a terrible team with a terrible roster, terrible chemistry, and honestly, terrible coaching, despite some tough play from the home team. Seven Cavaliers were in double-digits, but no one scored more than 17, and that was Antawn Jamison who shot 7-of-16 from the floor. It was Jamison you saw walking through the tunnel, a dazed look on his face, wondering how his career had come to this point.

There are some that feel that Byron Scott got the raw end of the deal in this, that he thought he was signing up to coach LeBron James to a championship and instead ended up with this dreck. But his mark was on this game as it was on the previous 23. In a must-score situation, the ball wound up in the hands of J.J. Hickson for a 3-point attempt after a missed Ramon Sessions layup. A J.J. Hickson 3-pointer? Maybe Scott isn’t the problem, but he sure isn’t the solution right now.

It’s just another game, really. And that’s how the Cavaliers have to think of it. You can’t think about it too much, your role in one of the truly worst teams in NBA history. They have to somehow manage to walk the line between taking responsibility for their roles and playing better to finally end the streak, and remembering that there was no way for this season to go well. Not after “The Decision” and certainly not after all the injuries. It’s their fault, but it’s not their fault. It’s just something that happened. Like it happens to Cleveland, seemingly every year in some sport.

But take a second and realize what these players have to their names now. They have lost the most games in a row during a single 82-game stretch in NBA history. No group of players has lost more in a row than them. That’s something that will be on their career resumes for the rest of their lives. That’s brutal.

The trade deadline is 19 days away. Until now, Chris Grant, for some bizarre reason, has elected to stay the course. It’s time for a fire sale of massive proportions. Value is no longer the target. Erasing this team and starting completely over, free of memories of LeBron and this God-awful aftermath,  is the target. There’s no point seeing how this team develops.

It’s hit rock bottom. It’s crashed on the rocks. It’s sunk to the bottom of the sea. It’s gone down the tubes. It’s over.

God save the Cavaliers. God save Cleveland.

Warriors’ Matt Barnes on facing Kings: ‘I’m trying to kill ’em’

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The Kings were very good to Matt Barnes.

They signed him to a two-year contract worth more than $12.5 million when it seemed he wouldn’t come close to that on the market. Then they waived him, allowing him to receive all his salary and escape basketball hell for the Warriors, who make him much happier.

Yet, he’s going into tonight’s Golden State-Sacramento game with an edge.

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip: CSN Bay Area):

Matt Barnes holding a grudge? Why, I never.

Surging Heat have playoffs in sight after dreadful start

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MIAMI (AP) — They have won 24 times in their last 31 games. They put together the NBA’s longest winning streak this season, a 13-game run that was beyond surprising. They are on the cusp of doing something never accomplished in NBA history.

This Miami Heat comeback tale has been an epic one.

And now comes the toughest part – finishing the job.

None of the other 125 teams in NBA history who started 11-30 or worse made the NBA playoffs. The Heat, with 10 games left on their regular-season schedule, are in position to change that. They held the second-worst record in the league in mid-January, are tied with San Antonio for the best record since, and hold a one-game lead over Chicago and Detroit for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot entering Friday’s games.

“These guys want this so bad,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra – a reluctant coach of the year candidate who cringes when players lobby on his behalf – said Thursday after a loss to the Toronto Raptors. “They want this opportunity to be in the playoffs. We’ve fought, scratched, done everything we possibly can to put ourselves into a position to fight for it.”

More fighting and scratching awaits.

Of Miami’s final 10 games, a stretch that starts Sunday in Boston, eight are against teams still battling for either a playoff spot or playoff positioning. The only two exceptions are a home-and-home next week with New York, which earlier this season was seven games ahead of the Heat in the standings and now are eight games behind Miami (35-37).

“We’ve dug ourselves out of a deep ditch,” Heat center and NBA rebounding leader Hassan Whiteside said.

True, but they’re not on firm playoff footing yet.

Under normal circumstances, Whiteside almost certainly would not have played Thursday. He needed 13 stitches to repair a cut in his right (shooting) hand on Tuesday, and a similar injury two years ago left him sidelined for three games.

Not only did he start Thursday, he led the Heat with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Afterward, he had icepacks strapped to both of his knees, covered his right hand in a clear plastic bag so the stitches wouldn’t get wet in the shower, and had his newly sprained left ankle wrapped.

“He’s a tough dude,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said.

He hasn’t been the only one.

Factoring in that Chris Bosh‘s on-court tenure with the Heat was declared over when he failed a physical in September, Miami has had at least two players unavailable to play in every game this season because of health reasons. Since Jan. 1, it’s been at least three every game – and often more.

A huge blow came last week when shooting guard Dion Waiters sprained his left ankle. He’s at three missed games and counting, and the Heat offense has struggled since.

“This is that time of the year,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody is feeling it, so this is the mental toughness we have to get to.”

The Heat have no practice Friday, though most players will be in the training room for treatments. Practice resumes Saturday, preceding the flight to Boston. And then Sunday, the 10-game sprint to the finish begins.

“I want our guys to enjoy this,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t feel that we’re putting any undue pressure, but everybody will feel like when they lose that the world is collapsing. This playoff race is still going on. And I think we need a day to get away from it, to decompress and to get back to work on Saturday.”

Remember when Shaq started practice naked? His former Lakers teammates do

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The Lakers are unveiling a statue for Shaquille O’Neal tonight, a perfect opportunity for his former teammates to share their favorite Shaq stories.

Mark Medina of The Orange County Register:

“We had a rule you can’t be late to the center huddle,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton, who played with O’Neal as a rookie in 2003-04. “He got here where he didn’t have time to get his clothes on. So he made sure he was on time in the center circle.”

“I’m just scarred by the one where he ran out into the middle of the court naked before practice,” said former Lakers forward Rick Fox, who played with O’Neal from 1997 to 2004. “I can’t get that image out of my mind.”

“Shaq walked onto the court, put his hands up and said ‘I’m ready to practice,’ said Lakers assistant coach Mark Madsen, who was O’Neal’s teammate from 2000 to 2003. “He had not one inch of clothing on. So he was there in all of his glory.”

“He would start running around looking for guys to hug. Everybody was trying to get out of the way,” mused former Lakers guard Derek Fisher, who played with O’Neal from 1996 to 2004. “That’s’ why when I hit that shot in San Antonio in 2004, that’s why we were so good at sprinting off of the court.”

As much as he toed the line with his wardrobe choices before practice started, O’Neal always practiced with his actual uniform. Fox expressed the views of many saying he’s “not guarding him, not doubling down in the post and digging for the ball” sans uniform. As Madsen mused, “that would’ve been the day I would’ve submitted my resignation papers.”

Want to criticize Shaq for not setting a better tone of punctuality? It’s a fair argument, and you might have had Kobe Bryant on your side.

But Shaq keeping the Lakers loose was instrumental in their high-pressure pursuit of championships. Don’t discount that contribution to their three titles with him.

Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac, probable top-10 pick, declares for NBA draft

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Jonathan Isaac explored bursting through a loophole to declare for the 2016 NBA draft straight out of high school.

Instead, he went to Florida State. Now, he’ll enter the 2017 draft.

Isaac:

If he doesn’t hire an agent, Isaac can maintain college eligibility, but this message seems pretty final. Expect Isaac to remain in the draft, and expect him to go in the top 10.

What I like most about the 6-foot-11 forward: Despite being so lanky, he was an elite defensive rebounder. That shows an underlying technical proficiency and physicality that should serve him well.

And then there are the drool-inducing flashes – his ability to go up and get alley-oops above the rim and a sweet-looking jumper.

He’s still a work in progress, and he deferred a lot at Florida State. But he’s just 19, and he has the tools to do more. I’d love to get him on my team as he learns to assert himself.