Notes, quotes and observations after the Cavaliers fell 103-74 to the San Antonio Spurs Monday night at AT&T Center.
1. It is time for leadership. It is time for attention to detail, time to realize that the regular season may not matter, but putting something together in the final nine games that resembles a playoff team might.
2. And, gasp, I can’t believe I’m saying this, it might be time for some cryptic tweets, unless LeBron James can find another way to inspire a better effort than his teammates have put forth in the past week.
3. Beaten in every facet of the game at Denver on Wednesday. Giving up 71 points in the first half Saturday at home against Washington. Destroyed in the Spurs in a 36-point second quarter.
4. The slide from a league-best 9-2 February to 6-9 in March has been so dramatic, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving have carried so much of a load due to injuries to J.R. Smith, Kevin Love and now Kyle Korver that Cavs coach Tyronn Lue is considering drastic measures.
5. Asked before the game if he’d ever been part of a team as a player or coach that was forced to put it together at the last minute like the Cavs are, Lue went back to 2009-10. It was his first season in the NBA, when he served as director of basketball development for the Boston Celtics under Doc Rivers.
6. “I haven’t thought about it. I’m not sure,” Lue said. “I haven’t really thought about it. I know the situation in Boston we had where we were back and forth between the first and second seed and Doc decided to rest KG, Ray and Paul the last seven games. We were the four seed and still went to the Finals. He picked health over seed and that was important to us knowing if he had a healthy team we’d be OK. I kind of feel the same way.”
7. Lue’s memory was way off in terms of resting the Celtics’ Big Three. Kevin Garnett sat two of the last three games, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen one as the Celtics lost seven of their last nine.
8. But the Celtics’ situation was similar to the Cavs. Consider this paragraph from an ESPN.com story from Chris Forsberg on June 18, 2010: “Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett battled injuries, Ray Allen endured inconsistency amidst trade rumors leading up the February deadline, Rajon Rondo questioned the leadership of the team, and Kendrick Perkins wondered out loud if the Celtics had become bored with the regular season.”
9. Sound familiar?
10. Here’s more about the Celtics’ 2009-10 season from a story from Bill Oram of the Orange County Register this month on the issue of resting star players.
11. “Boston was beset by injuries that season,” Oram wrote. “Paul Pierce missed 11 games, Kevin Garnett was out for 13. Key role players Tony Allen and Glen Davis each missed 28 games. It knocked the Celtics out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and midway through the season, Rivers made a decision to worry less about chasing a playoff seed and more about getting his team healthy for the playoffs. “We talked to the team about it a month before the end of the season,” Rivers said. “Which I’ve never done, anything like that. ‘Hey guys, let’s not worry about the games let’s worry about getting right for the playoffs.’ ”
12. On March 27, 2010 (note the date, same as Cavs vs. Spurs), the Celtics were 91/2 games behind the Cavs for the No. 1 seed, 31/2 out of the second seed. They ended up finishing fourth in the East, but still ousted James and the Cavs in the conference semifinals and went to the NBA Finals, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
13. Rivers is Lue’s mentor. The two got together on the Cavs’ trip to Los Angeles last week. They surely discussed the Cavs’ situation. It’s a valid comparison Lue can make to the Cavs, even if he needs to brush up on his history lesson first.
14. But that’s not as far as the question went. After the Cavs’ blowout loss to the Spurs, Lue was asked if he might consider resting his stars for the last seven games, the same as his foggy memory had believed the Celtics did.
15. “It’s crossed my mind,” Lue admitted. Asked how often, an issue in the wake of the controversy stirred by the Big Three sitting against the Clippers on March 18, Lue said, “I don’t know, I might get in trouble, so I don’t know.”
16. When suggested that he would be in the clear if he informed the league ahead of time, Lue said, “We’ll see, we’ll talk about it. I know a lot of guys are tired. With Kyrie and LeBron having to carry the load with Kevin and J.R. being out so long, and having to do so much, they’re pretty worn down.
17. “But like I said, a lot of the teams, a lot of players are too. That’s no excuse. When you’ve got one of the top three point guards in the league and the best player in the league, that’s your job. You’re supposed to carry us and keep doing what you’ve been doing. And, we’ve weathered a tough storm. I told those guys earlier today we went through a lot. I don’t know if a lot of teams could’ve handled that. And here we are, still jockeying for first and second position. I just think we’re in good shape. We gotta play better, we know that. No need to panic.”
18. Lue might have to fight LeBron James if he brings up that extended rest issue before the playoffs begin on April 15. The Cavs end the regular season on April 12.
19. Against the Spurs, the Cavs were without Kyle Korver, who missed his eighth game Monday with a sore left foot and will sit the next two Thursday and Friday before being re-evaluated. Iman Shumpert missed his second consecutive game with a sore right knee.
20. But the issue is more about James and Irving, who carried the Cavs when they were without Smith for 36 games with a fractured right wrist and without Love for 13 after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
21. Missing a block of games – whether based on fallacy or not – does not appeal to James.
22. “I know from a personal standpoint, I feel great. I feel really good, actually,” James said. “I don’t know. Coach is going to have his logic of things, but at the end of the day, we need to play. If we can get everybody back, which is going to be very tough. Obviously Shump just had the injury, Kyle is going to be out a couple games I believe, just getting Kev back from knee surgery. If guys are having heavy legs, then they should go to Coach and say they may need one. We’ve got two days now. Shouldn’t have heavy legs on Thursday (at Chicago). But if it’s an opportunity, then guys should take it. But I’m OK.”
23. Kevin Love also wasn’t in favor of extended rest, at least personally. He played his sixth game since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Valentine’s Day.
24. “I need to be out there,” Love said. “You still have some rust. You take away the game for four or five weeks, I like to say you can always shoot it, you always have a feel for the game, but it’s just a matter of getting your legs underneath you and getting game action. For me, that is the case, but for other guys they had to step up in my absence, in Swish’s absence, in Kyle’s absence. They had to doat more and play more minutes. It’s been tough. But when the time comes in a few weeks, we’ll be ready.”
25. Part of being run all over by the Wizards and Spurs is an age issue. The Cavs are the second-oldest team in the league at 30 years, 30 days, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, trailing the Clippers, at 30 years and 107 days.
26. Part of it is the Cavs’ brutal March schedule, with 12 of 17 on the road. Monday marked their third game in four days.
27. But if they can’t keep up, James suggested perhaps his teammates need to get in better shape.
28. “It’s an individual question, but at the same time, yeah, we look a little slow against a lot of these teams,” James said. “It takes the individual, first of all, to feel like, ‘OK if I’m feeling a little slow, I’ve got to get in better shape.’ It sucks to say ‘Hey, it’s March and I ain’t in good shape.’ But you’ve got to get in even better shape when you’re playing some of these top teams that have been plugging away all season long.”
29. Even though it may seem like the sky is falling, James said he’s not ready to become the vocal leader.
30. “My leadership, as I’ve learned over this season, there’s a time and place for certain situations,” he said. “I kind of wait for the right time. It’s a delicate time right now for our team and a lot of people talking. There will be a time where I’ll say things, but also got to go out and play, too, as well. I’ll figure that point out.”
31. Asked what he meant by delicate, he said, “We’re just not playing good basketball. We’ve got to figure that out.”
32. The Cavs have plenty of veteran leaders, with seven players in double digits in NBA experience. James doesn’t have to do it alone. James Jones has been with him for six consecutive NBA Finals.
33. Love realizes the issues, knows the message they will deliver, if necessary.
34. Just lately it’s been we need to play harder,” Love said. “We don’t use it as an excuse, March, that tough schedule, but a couple guys coming back from injury, a couple guys out tonight. We have to roll with who we have and continue to get better with the guys that are out there.
35. “Knowing that, we just preach that we have only so many games left before the real thing. The regular season still means a lot and also so does seeding. That’s not lost on us, but we really feel like we need to get better these last several games.”