The Cavaliers have dropped four of five, their defense has struggled since Tyronn Lue took over, and their offense still more often than not feels like stars playing next to each other rather than truly with each other. There has been some overreaction to all of this, we are still talking about the best team in the East, but we do know that LeBron James has been frustrated with all of it.
Is Kyrie Irving, too?
Here is what Stephen A. Smith said on ESPN’s First Take Monday (via Josh Hill at Fansided and Bleacher Report):
“Dating back to last year, I’ve been told that Kyrie Irving ain’t too happy being in Cleveland. The situation is not ideal for him. I don’t know the particulars, I haven’t spoken to him personally. It’s something that I’ve been hearing for months; that under ideal circumstances he would prefer to be someplace other than Cleveland.”
Expect the denials to come in 3…2….1….
Stephen A. Smith loves to/gets paid to stir the pot. That is what is going on here. The question is how much truth is in his statement (if any)?
Before LeBron arrived, there was a lot of buzz around the league that Irving wanted out of Cleveland, but that seemed to subside as the Cavs started winning and moved into the league’s spotlight. The chemistry between LeBron, Irving, Kevin Love and the rest of the team has been a work in progress, and there has seemed to be tension this season as that chemistry has not improved as much as hoped. The Cavaliers are still elite, still the top team in the East and they likely make the Finals. But they are a clear step behind Golden State and likely San Antonio. They are not the team that those two squads are.
Part of it is Irving is not being the glue this franchise needs.
Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer described the frustration LeBron has had recently this way.
Kyrie Irving has to commit to sacrificing his scoring numbers to make his teammates better on a routine basis…. Irving is averaging 4.3 assists on the season and 3.6 assists in his last six games. Those numbers are unacceptable for a player who dominates the ball as much as he does. He’s too creative, too elusive and has too many weapons not to dish out seven or more on the regular….
Behind the scenes, James has been growing livid about being the sole proprietor of making sure guys are involved, and in a rhythm. He’s used to carrying such a workload, but on this team, he shouldn’t have to. From top to bottom, this is the deepest team James has been a member of. He needs help.
What LeBron had in Miami with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the others was a veteran team where the stars were willing to make significant sacrifices to their personal numbers for the sake of wins (Bosh in particular). There was an organizational structure in place that demanded this, starting from Pat Riley on down.
LeBron has tried to bring that attitude to Cleveland, but has not been able to truly impart that wisdom yet. David Blatt wasn’t able to do it. Kyrie Irving is a score first point guard and that’s not changing. The Cavaliers are a contender because of their raw talent, but one playing with some bad habits that will bite them in the playoffs — if not by Toronto Eastern Conference Finals then by whoever comes out of the West.
Irving is in the first year of a five-year contract extension, and while a lot of teams would gladly trade to take on that deal there is no way the Cavaliers are moving him. Irving, LeBron, and Love are going to need to figure all this out on their own, with a little help from Lue.
Because Cleveland has title-or-bust goals this season. You know it’s all about bringing one to the ‘Land.