The Basketball Gods are being cruel to the Cavaliers this season. LeBron James left last summer, one year after Kyrie Irving did the same, and this season Kevin Love is already out until around Christmas with a foot injury. The Cavaliers have not meshed and are off to a 1-10 start.
After losing 10 of 11 games to start the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be without starting point guard George Hill for two weeks because of a sprained right shoulder, league sources told ESPN.
This means Dan Gilbert gets what he wants more rookie Colin Sexton, who is averaging 10.9 points per game but has been very up and down with his play (as 19-year-old rookies will be). While veteran Cavaliers have been frustrated with Sexton’s foibles, this is the reality of being on a rebuilding team. Which the Cavaliers are… and maybe they’ll finally admit it.
Three Things to Know: 1-5 Wizards are worse than you think
LOS ANGELES —Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) The 1-5 Wizards are worse than you think. Watch the Wizards play and what is wrong grows more and more obvious. It’s not the defense — although it’s terrible, the Wizards are allowing 114.5 points per 100 possessions this season (26th in the NBA and 6.9 worse than they gave up last season). It’s not their three-point shooting, although the Wizards are hitting just 31 percent from three as a team. It wasn’t even that the Wizards got blown out by the Clippers 136-104 Sunday night.
It’s not the statistics at all.
Watch Washington in person and the team’s lack of chemistry is painfully obvious:
• When Bradley Beal slipped and went to the floor in the second half, it was Clipper Tobias Harris who helped him up because no Wizard teammate came over to. There were two other similar instances I noticed Sunday night where the Clipper player helped a Wizards player off the floor because teammates did not rush over to do so.
• When the Wizards took the court to start the game there was almost no interaction among players — Otto Porter was talking to the referee because that was the only person willing to talk to him.
• Clippers players seemed to be more concerned when Markieff Morris went down with an elbow to the face than the Wizards (Morris left the game with a concussion).
The Wizards are clearly playing for themselves and not each other, not the team.
“That was the first thing Scotty [Brooks, Wizards’ coach] said after the game,” Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers said. “He said, ‘Man, your guys are just, watching them, you just feel the energy and you just feel them. They get along.”
“Just gotta go out there and compete,” John Wall said. “We play like a team that’s 5-1 and people are just going to lay down, we got to play with a sense of urgency that we’re 1-5 now…. “When you play the game of basketball you can’t worry about how many points you got, how many steals you got, how many assists you got, it’s just competing.”
Beyond the chemistry, of all the on-court problems, nothing is going to change until the defense improves.
“Our defense is horrendous…” Austin Rivers said. “You’ve got to have personal pride. You’ve got to get mad when someone scores on you. We’re not the Warriors.”
“Just heart. Just heart and pride,” Wall said of what it will take to fix the defense. “Guard your man one-on-one, that’s really the main key. We gotta do a better job of switching — when we do do that, like we did in the first quarter, I think we played the best we have played for a while.”
The switching trend in the NBA is giving the Wizards problems on both ends.
“On offense when we get (a switch we like), we take a bad shot sometimes and bail those guys out,” Wall said. “When they put us in bad situations, we gamble too much or don’t stay on the play and get a stop… we do a good job of it in practice, but we have to bring the same competitive edge we have competing against each other in practice to playing someone else.”
Washington’s play is ugly and coach Scott Brooks could pay the price with his job if things don’t improve. He certainly is not faultless in all this.
However, the Wizards have changed coaches before. They have changed players around on the periphery then spun it as trying to fix chemistry issues (Marcin Gortat going to the Clippers is the latest along those lines). Everything changes except the core, and yet the same problem exists.
Which means maybe it’s getting to be time for the Wizards to take a fresh look at that core and if it works.
2) Does firing of Tyronn Lue mean Cavaliers realize it’s time to go all-in on the rebuild? Last July, when LeBron James decided to head west, the Cavaliers brain trust decided to pivot to… nobody is sure what exactly. They wanted to walk the very fine line of a rebuild on the fly — compete now while building for the future — and they fell off that tightrope.
This isn’t a team built to win now, not with Kevin Love leading an aging roster constructed to support LeBron — Tristan Thompson, George Hill, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver. They are not a group built to create great looks and rack up wins on their own. There’s a reason Vegas set the under/over on wins for the Cavaliers this season at 31.5.
Sunday Lue paid the price for a 0-6 start and a sense among the front office in Cleveland they needed to go another direction, a coach better suited to a young team (even if the Cavs are not yet htat).
That start, however, was not about Lue. It’s about a team in limbo. The Cavaliers need to pick a path. Rebuilding would make the most sense.
Play Colin Sexton more and live with the at times painful learning process. He’s got real potential, but he’s still adjusting to the speed of the NBA and settles for far too many long twos.
More importantly, it’s time to start working to trade the veterans and getting pieces for a rebuild back (picks and prospects). There will a market at the deadline for Kyle Korver — a shooter on a fair contract, $7.6 million this season and with a $3.4 million buyout for next season. George Hill is overpaid this season ($19 million) but he is a solid point guard when healthy and come the deadline there could be teams willing to take the hit this season knowing he has a $1 million buyout next season. J.R. Smith, at $14.7 million this season (with a $3.9 million buyout next season) will be harder to move because, without LeBron, teams are not sure how much he will help them.
Love is the big piece to move, but with his new contract it’s a lot harder. That is probably a next summer move — but it’s one they need to start moving toward.
3) Oklahoma City gets first win of the season. When you’re busting out of a slump, you don’t care where and how it happens. So what if the Phoenix Suns were on the second night of a back-to-back? Who cares if they didn’t have Devin Booker?
The Cavaliers are not going full tear-it-down rebuild. At least not yet. They re-signed Kevin Love and other veterans — George Hill and Tristan Thompson, for example — and while they are not dangerous they are a potential playoff team in a down East.
However, some of those veterans could be on the move this season.
That’s not new news, they have shopped those two around all off-season, but there have been no offers to the team’s liking. Yet. Maybe an injury in training camp or early in the season will change the dynamic and a better offer will come in. Maybe the Cavaliers will just accept the lesser offers as they best they can do. However, one way or another one or both of those two will be on the move before the trade deadline to a playoff team.
Smith will make $14.7 million this season and has just a $3.9 million guaranteed for 2019-20. Korver will earn $7.5 million this season and also has just a $3.4 million guaranteed for the following season if a team wants to buy him out.
Report: Hawks offered No. 3 pick, Kent Bazemore to Cavaliers on draft night
A source said the Cavs were offered on draft night the chance to trade up to No. 3 with the Hawks in a deal that would’ve sent Kent Bazemore to Cleveland.
Presumably, the Cavaliers would have sent the No. 8 pick – which they used on Collin Sexton – to Atlanta.
But, with or without the No. 8 pick, that trade wouldn’t have satisfied salary-cap rules. Cleveland would have had to send out matching salary.
So, what else was included? Did the Hawks want Kevin Love? Would they have taken George Hill or J.R. Smith, whose 2019-20 salaries – unlike Bazemore’s – are only partially guaranteed?
We obviously don’t know the entire offer, which opens even more questions about what Atlanta wanted. The Hawks have the Cavaliers’ top-10-protected 2019 first-round pick. Did removing those protections factor into the trade offer?
The Hawks seemed set on Young, and moving down to No. 5 ensured they got him. That wouldn’t have been the case at No. 8 with the Magic (No. 6) and Bulls (No. 7) picking in between. So, not only is the exact offer unclear, so are potential contingencies it was based on. Perhaps, Atlanta would have picked Doncic then executed the deal only if Young fell to No. 8.
Could Cleveland have gotten Doncic for taking on the overpaid, but still helpful, Bazemore? Maybe – but that’s a significant oversimplification.
Report: Cavaliers won’t trade Kevin Love if LeBron James leaves
Sources told cleveland.com this week that the Cavs would not trade Love, a five-time All-Star who is owed about $50 million over the next two seasons, if James leaves as a free agent. Sources say James is strongly considering joining the Los Angeles Lakers.
“There is no reason to go backwards,” one source said, describing the Cavs’ situation….
Cleveland has a $5.3 million exception to the salary cap, and can go over the cap to re-sign restricted free agent Rodney Hood. The team is also interested in Jeff Green coming back. Green played on a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum last season.
The Cavaliers may come around to trading Love, who has one year ($24.1 million) plus a player option year ($25.5 million) on his contract. There is no reason for the Cavaliers to start a fire sale the minute LeBron announces his new home, but the Cavaliers will be heading into a full-on rebuild, and they should start considering options through the rest of the summer and heading into the trade deadline. Kyle Korver would be a trade target by playoff teams looking for shooting. If a team ends up needing a veteran point guard maybe George Hill draws interest, but at $19 million he will difficult to move.
The challenge with trading Love would be finding a team that would take on that much salary when most are capped out. While some fans like to malign him, Love brings skills — he’s an All-Star who averaged 17.3 points and 9.3 rebounds a game, is strong on the glass and who can score inside and out.
As for Green, bringing him back should depend upon the price. Get him at the veteran minimum or something close to that again, go for it. He can be a decent if inconsistent part of the rotation. However, if another team steps up with more money, let him walk.