With a week already gone in this new NBA season, team identities are starting to form. The Celtics are that young team with a new core that should scare the rest of the league. The Warriors have kept their identity as the best team in basketball and the one that everyone loves to hate. Teams like the Bucks, Timberwolves, and Pelicans look to finally put all their pieces together and make a deep run into the playoffs. New players are stepping up and already having breakout seasons like Jaylen Brown and Giannis Antetokounmpo. There is one thing that has made itself evident in the early part of the NBA season and it is a continuation of a trend seen last year by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers play with a disgusting amount of indifference and apathy that makes them hard to watch.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are becoming a team that just accepts the fact that they are going to make the NBA finals. They feel like if they just show up, they can win any game. After defeating the Celtics in an emotional season opener, the Cavs have since gone 2-2. They lost to the Magic by 21 and then lost on the road to the Brooklyn Nets just a few nights ago. As Celtics fans know all too well, the Cavaliers will get the Nets pick in the 2018 NBA draft. The Nets were expected to finish bottom 5 in the league before the season so the Cavaliers thought they could march into the Barclays Center and blow out the Nets just by showing up. The Nets came ready to play and outplayed the Cavs en route to a 112-107 victory. The Nets, led by vastly improving PG DeAngelo Russell, are showing that they have the athletic talent to not get steamrolled in every game this season. The Nets are 3-2 so far this season and should finish outside the bottom 5 if they continue to play this type of basketball and therefore diminish the value of the now-Cavaliers 1st-round pick.
I have never seen a team play as lazily in the regular season as the Cavs have in the past few seasons. It seems that they have accepted the fact that they can march straight into the playoffs and end up in the NBA finals with a rematch against the Warriors without even trying. However, that won’t be the case this year. The Celtics are on a 3-game winning streak and their team chemistry is improving every night. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are providing veteran leadership for a team of mostly young players. The Bucks also provide a tough matchup with the Cavaliers. It is tough to find a man to guard Giannis and Lebron’s age is going to hamper his ability to be that guy. I could easily see the Bucks heading to the Eastern Conference Finals to play the Celtics or Cavs this season. Also, the Wizards are a team that the Cavs need to watch out for. John Wall is rising the ranks of top guards in the league and Bradley Beal makes for a nice backcourt complement. If the Cavs think they can waltz back to a rematch with the Warriors, they are going to be very surprised come playoff time.
The apathetic play by the Cavaliers really started last season towards the end of the season. The Cavs and Celtics were neck-and-neck heading into the final week of the season for who would be the #1 seed in the East. The Celtics sent their starting 5 in every night and tried their hardest to win every night. The Cavs barely sent in their 2nd unit and ultimately settled for the #2 seed in the East.
As an avid sports fan, this irritates me to no end. The Cavs showed that they didn’t even care for their seed in the playoffs because they felt that confident in their inevitable return to the Finals. Lebron didn’t feel like playing and the weak Cavaliers management have no say in what Lebron does or wants. They just want to appease their Lord and savior (remember 2010-2014 where Cleveland fans loved burning his jersey). Even early this season, the Cavaliers have shown no sign that they care about the regular season. The team just plays lethargic basketball and are getting outmanned by the teams they play. Although the Magic have been hot to begin this season, there is absolutely no way a Lebron-led team should lose by double-digits, especially not 21, at home to the Magic. If that loss to the Magic wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Cavaliers lost to the Nets. This is something that just should not ever occur with that roster. The Cavaliers could be in a world of trouble if they can’t find a spark to carry them through this season, especially in the playoffs. I am starting to doubt their capability of finding their way back to the NBA Finals.
Ultimately, this apathetic play starts with the leader Lebron James. This is all on him as the captain and face of the franchise. He is supposed to be the guy who shows up and gives it his all every night without exception. Lebron just isn’t that guy though. He never was and never will be. He doesn’t care about the fans and he doesn’t care about winning for Cleveland. He will bench himself when he doesn’t feel like the game is important enough for him to play in. He’ll tell the media that he is tired after such a long season but the true reason is that he doesn’t care enough about the Cavaliers organization to play in games he believes are beneath him. If the Cavaliers don’t get their act together, they will be sitting on their couches watching another Eastern Conference team play in the NBA Finals.