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LeBron James says Cavs’ roster changes, search for identity hurt team’s playoff preparation

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In Game 1 Sunday, the Indiana Pacers clearly knew who they were as a team. Indiana was confident in how they wanted to attack Cleveland and anything the defense threw at them (such as attempts to trap Victor Oladipo). The Pacers knew how they wanted to defend and how to help off of. Indiana played with confidence.

Cleveland looked lost.

LeBron was not attacking mismatches (and with him, everything is a mismatch), guys were standing around watching and waiting (seemingly for LeBron to just take over), and on defense the LeBron lacked energy and Cavaliers looked like they had all season when they were 29th in the league.

What happened to the Cavaliers? LeBron James said this to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

Telling quote from LeBron James on Wednesday looking back at the season and looking smack in the face of the 0-1 deficit the Cavs are in against Indiana: “I think we spent so much time trying to figure out who we were in the regular season and getting the right lineups and guys in and out and things of that nature, we could never build for the playoffs. It was kind of like, build for the next game. So the postseason finally hit us and it hit us very well. And I think that can be the best teacher for us to know exactly what we should be ready for tonight.”

The Cavaliers didn’t have time to build a proper identity with this lineup, and that did have an impact heading into the playoffs. So did the talent level around LeBron this year compared to the last three.

Expect a different Cavaliers team in Game 2 Tuesday, starting with an attacking LeBron James from the opening top — especially of Bojon Bogdanovic remains the primary defender on him. Look for Kevin Love to get more touches. Look for more J.R. Smith (maybe starting). Look for the Cavaliers to play with some desperation.

But does this team have an identity yet? Do they have the trust and habits built up with each other to get by the Pacers? And if so, what about a Toronto team finding it’s groove.

If the Cavaliers don’t have that identity and fall short, it will make for a very wild offseason in Cleveland.

PBT Podcast: Three key early season impressions

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The NBA has been impossible to ignore the first week of the season — and not just because players are spitting on each other and throwing punches.

Pace and scoring are way up, which has made the league even more entertaining.

A few teams — Denver, Milwaukee, even Detroit among others — have been very hot, while a couple of teams we thought would be good have stumbled.

Keith Smith from Real GM and Celtics Blog joins Kurt Helin of NBC Sports to talk about their early season impressions, and take questions/comments from listeners on Twitter. That means the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks even get some love. The Thunder defense… not so much.

We want your questions for the podcast, and your comments, email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com. As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Lakers’ Brandon Ingram says he expected longer suspension

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The general consensus to the NBA’s suspensions – Brandon Ingram four games, Rajon Rondo three games, Chris Paul two games – for the Lakers-Rockets fight: Too lenient for the Lakers.

Even Ingram said he expected a harsher penalty.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

Ingram started the incident by pushing James Harden, and then Ingram hostilely confronted a referee. Once Rondo and Paul began exchanging punches, Ingram came in swinging. Not long ago, Ingram would have received a longer suspension.

But under NBA commissioner Adam Silver, the league hasn’t cracked down as hard.

This comes down to a bigger question: Why does the NBA suspend players? Prohibiting good players from playing lowers the quality of the product on the court in future games. It’s at least somewhat self-sabotaging. To some degree suspensions are designed deterrents, though players often don’t consider the repercussions during heated moments. But suspensions are also about appeasing fans who want to see an orderly system that keeps players in check.

So, with so many people calling Ingram’s suspension too short, maybe the league failed here. On the other hand, the objections don’t rise to the level of outrage. Most people seem OK with Ingram’s suspension, even if they would have preferred longer.

I doubt Ingram – or any player, for that matter – feels emboldened to fight because he got suspended just four games. Silver has been more lenient because fighting has mostly disappeared from the league. If it became rampant again, David Stern-era penalties might return. That potential deterrent still hovers, and we’ll all move on fairly quickly from Ingram’s suspension while enjoying watching him play again soon.

So, this seems about right.

Rondo getting just three games for spitting on and punching Paul, though…

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis escorted from courtside seat for screaming at Chris Paul after fight

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Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul got into it. Rondo’s girlfriend and Paul’s wife reportedly got into it.

And if that weren’t enough, Red Hot Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kiedis angrily challenged Paul during Saturday’s Lakers-Rockets fracas.

“California, show your teeth,” indeed.

Timberwolves president Tom Thibodeau on Derrick Rose: ‘As long as he’s healthy, he’ll be one of the best players in the league’

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Timberwolves guard Derrick Rose has already played two games better than he had all of last season. He scored 12 points with eight assists and no turnovers in a win over the Cavaliers on Friday then posted 28-5-5-2 against the Mavericks on Saturday.

But let’s not overreact to such a small –

Jace Frederick of the Pioneer Press:

If Tom Thibodeau is referring to a level of health Rose hasn’t had in several years and will never have again, that’s fine. Rose won MVP while healthy.

But if Thibodeau means just available to play without a limp, wow. His love of former Bulls extends even further than we realized.

Rose could help Minnesota in a limited role. He started to find a groove late last season, and he’s obviously starting strong this year. But this type of praise only prompts mocking.