Report: Luol Deng shocked at mess that is the Cavaliers

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When Luol Deng was traded from the Bulls to Cleveland, he was coming from the only team he had known in his nine-plus NBA seasons. His Chicago teams, especially under head coach Tom Thibodeau in recent years, have been the epitome of professionalism in pursuing winning above all else.

The Cavaliers, apparently, are the complete opposite.

Deng reportedly is shocked at some of the goings on in his new surroundings, the particulars of which are detailed by Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News:

As Deng recently told one close friend, “the stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess.”

Deng was brought in to help clean it up when he arrived in a deal for Andrew Bynum on Jan. 7. But since then, he’s seen players get thrown out of practice, take off their uniform tops at halftime and threaten not to play, mouth off to Brown and generally act like spoiled brats. …

There is no accountability, as Dion Waiters found out when he was kicked out of practice last week but still got his usual minutes against the Knicks.

Mike Brown may have done an adequate job when he had LeBron James on the roster during his first stint in Cleveland, but his personality is geared toward basketball more than it is charismatic leadership or taking on the role of a disciplinarian.

When things start to go bad on one of Brown’s team, they snowball to a level that gets out of control extremely quickly — which is exactly what happened when he was relieved of his duties as coach of the Lakers just five games into last season.

There are real problems with personalities in the Cavaliers locker room — Waiters is immature, and Irving lacks the level of star power to command enough respect. The accountability needs to come from the top, and it doesn’t seem like Brown or GM Chris Grant are able to get the players on the same page.

The good news for Deng is that he’s an unrestricted free agent once this season is finished. The Cavaliers, however, will be stuck with this mess moving forward unless the required changes are made, which seemingly need to take place at multiple levels of the organization.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.