Associated Press

Cavaliers hold lengthy, clear-the-air meeting after slow start


INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James dressed up as Pennywise, the devilishly demented clown from the movie “It” for his annual Halloween party.

The makeup made him unrecognizable. He was menacing, frightening.

Lately, James and his Cavaliers teammates haven’t scared anyone on the floor.

With four losses in their past five games, defensive issues, injuries and new players still trying to figure things out, the Cavs had a lengthy meeting on Tuesday before they practiced. It was a chance to clear the air and perhaps reset a season for a team that hasn’t come close to playing up to its potential.

“The slow start that we’ve had prompted us to just all get on the same page and kind of figure out what we need to do,” center Kevin Love said. “I feel like we can get in better shape, that’s going to help us on the defensive end. Communication, energy and just getting the new guys adjusted. So time will tell how it’s going to play out, but we have a lot of really good positive energy from today, so, it was a great practice.”

After a night of connecting in costume, the Cavs, who host Indiana on Wednesday, didn’t hide their problems during their pre-practice discussion that coach Tyronn Lue described as a “long talk.”

“Off the court we’ve got great chemistry, great bond,” Lue said. “On the court we just gotta be better. Like, talking, communicating, enjoying the game together. Having fun. Right now guys are not having fun.”

There isn’t much to smile about.

Following losses to Orlando, Brooklyn, New Orleans and New York in the past 10 days, the Cavs are ranked near the bottom of the NBA in defense and are giving up nearly 14 3-pointers per game. They’re coming off losses by a combined 41 points in their past two games, prompting Lue to say that James, who missed much of the preseason with an ankle injury, and others need to get in better shape.

Cleveland’s transition defense has been brutal, and Lue said some of that may be due to conditioning. He pushed the Cavs hard at both ends during Tuesday’s workout and noticed a change.

“Watching us today, damn,” Lue said. “It’s a big difference. I’m screaming play with pace, and move the ball, move bodies, we got to get in better shape to do that.”

James sprained his left ankle during Cleveland’s second practice in training camp and only played in one exhibition. Although he hasn’t shown any major decline in his game, the 32-year-old is not having the impact Lue needs James to have on the defensive end.

It’s hard to ask him for more, but Lue has no choice.

“Missing the whole training camp and getting hurt the second day of practice really set him back as far as being able to fly around and push the pace offensively and defensively fly around,” Lue said. “He’s trying to work himself back in shape, but the games are coming so fast and it’s hard to really do that. The best way to do that is by him playing more minutes and getting in game shape and we just got to go from there.”

Lue knew this would take time. With Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Jeff Green and Jae Crowder among the new players on Cleveland’s roster this season, there were bound to be growing pains. Lue just didn’t expect them to hurt this much.

However, Lue has confidence the group is beginning to gel.

“They’ve been in winning situations,” he said. “We’re just trying to figure it out. Today’s start of film and practice, I think guys are getting a clear understanding of what they need to do.”

As the Cavs work out the kinks, they were able to relax at James’ party, which has become a social media must-see-event.

Love shaved off his beard and endured a long makeup session to dress up as WWE wrestler Sting. Kyle Korver was the Johnny Depp version of Willy Wonka, and Wade and his wife, Gabrielle Union, went as pop lip-synching sensations Milli Vanilli.

“I think it was good for us,” Love said. “I think it definitely lightened the mood and it was definitely a get-to-know-you moment with a lot of guys. We all get along, have fun, but I think in some odd way it will definitely help us.”

At this point, it can’t hurt the Cavs.


Kevin Love returns to Cavaliers lineup Monday vs. Bucks

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The last time Kevin Love suited up for the Cavaliers, it was still January and Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, and Jae Crowder were still on the team.

That is about to change tonight — Love will return from a fractured hand and play for the Cavaliers, but on a minutes restriction to start, interim coach Larry Drew confirmed.

Cleveland needs Love back. The Cavaliers went 11-9 without him in this stretch (and 6-7 since the All-Star break) with an offense that has still been top 10 in the NBA but a defense that is holding them back. The Cavaliers’ defense is just not on the same page right now, and the more time the regular rotations guys get to play together, the better they should be before the playoffs start.

As Love rounds into form, the Cavaliers have to figure out their rotations. Does Love start Love next to Larry Nance Jr., or does Nance come off the bench again? Probably the latter, but the Cavaliers will toy with the rotations (and do that more when Tristan Thompson returns).

Former NBA All-Star Steve Francis cited for public intoxication

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What happened to Steve Francis [after his playing days]? I was drinking heavily, is what happened. And that can be just as bad (as drug use). In the span of a few years I lost basketball, I lost my whole identity, and I lost my stepfather, who committed suicide.”
—Steve Francis, writing in the Players’ Tribune earlier this month, about his journey from selling crack to the NBA, and what happened after.

Addiction, once it’s got you, never goes away. The fight to stay sober/clean is a new one every day.

Steve Francis was cited for public intoxication in Burbank, Calif., after an incident at a hotel bar, according to TMZ (since confirmed by other reports).

Francis, 41, was arrested around 11:40 PM after police were called for a disturbance between two men at a hotel in Burbank.

Law enforcement sources tell us when cops arrived, Francis was intoxicated. He was arrested for being drunk in public.

Francis was transported to jail … before being given a citation and released around 7 AM Monday morning.

Francis denied in the Players’ Tribune article rumors he had a drug problem, but he owned up to drinking.

Lakers coach Luke Walton: I thought Pacers’ Paul George trade was ‘lopsided’ in favor of Thunder

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Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said the Pacers “could have done better” than trading Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Gilbert would have company with egg on their face if more people shared their views on the deal when it happened.

Lakers coach Luke Walton – whose team plays Indiana tonight – joined the club with an admission.



Originally, I thought it was kind of a lopsided trade, but I’m man enough to admit that I was wrong. Indiana has, I think they’re probably the surprise team of the season so far. They’re playing unbelievable. They have that three seed. And both of those players they got in the trade, they’re playing some really, really good basketball. So, obviously, a good trade for both teams.

Me too, Luke. Me too.

George is basically who we thought he was. But Oladipo and Sabonis have taken major steps forward. Sabonis’ growth as a second-year player was more predictable. Oladipo’s breakthrough seemed far less likely – and has carried far larger ramifications.

Oladipo was fine in Oklahoma City and Orlando, but he got into the best shape of his life and developed his outside shooting, particularly off the dribble. He has become a true star, putting up big offensive numbers while remaining a plus defender.

All the credit goes to Oladipo for making it happen and Pacers president Kevin Pritchard for ensuring Indiana reaped the rewards. I bet even Pritchard is surprised by Oladipo’s level of play, but Pritchard bet on Oladipo. Pritchard gets credit for the outcome.

People like Walton and myself eat crow.

Rajon Rondo on Ray Allen’s book: ‘He just wants attention’

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Ray Allen wrote a book that spills a lot of dirt on Rajon Rondo – how Rondo told Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Allen and other Celtics he carried them to the 2008 title, how Rondo clashed with Doc Rivers.

Rondo, via Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:

“He just wants attention,” Rondo said. “I need actually some sales from [the book], only [publicity] it’s been getting is from my name. I need some percentage or something.”

“Obviously, that man is hurting,” Rondo said of Allen. “I don’t know if it’s financially, I don’t know if it’s mentally. He wants to stay relevant. I am who I am. I don’t try to be something I’m not. I can’t say the same for him. He’s looking for attention. I’m a better human being than that. I take accountability for my actions. Certain [stuff] happens in my life, I man up. But he has a whole other agenda.”

“He’s been retired for whatever years, and now he comes out with a book,” Rondo said of Allen. “People do that in that situation they need money. He should have hit me up and asked me for a loan or something. It’s no hard feelings.”

Obviously, Allen wants attention. He’s promoting a book.

But that doesn’t make the stories in the book inaccurate.

Allen and Rondo, now with the Pelicans, have feuded for a while. Neither is completely reliable about the other. Both are too colored by their dislike for each other.

I doubt Rondo knows about Allen’s financial situation. Rondo is just trying to dig at Allen, like Allen dug at Rondo in the book. Famous people write books for many reasons. Financial gain isn’t necessarily Allen’s primary motivation. Allen has a lot of time in retirement.

I’d rather hear Rondo address the book’s claims. He’s extremely forthright, even admitting he’s difficult to coach. He might corroborate the stories involving himself and Rivers. Telling Garnett, Pierce and Allen he led them to the championship? I’d like to know Rondo’s side of that story.