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Cleveland Cavaliers: How many games can they win? -- Pluto

October 18,2018 15:21

Kevin Love admitted the team didn't take the regular season seriously. He said: "We were not good in the third quarter. We were super complacent. I can't tell you how many games we would have won if we had the same ball movement and player movement ...and more »

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Talking to myself as the Cavaliers start a new season without LeBron James:
QUESTION: Are you going to do it again, make yet another dumb prediction?
ANSWER: Like what? The Indians beating Houston in four.
Q: That was dumb, but you've been worse. How about what you said about the Cavaliers when LeBron James left for Miami.
A: That one. Oh, boy. I think I said they'd win 42 games.
Q: I think it was 46 wins for a team that opened the season with Jamario Moon as the starting small forward. The Cavs open this season with Cedi Osman taking LeBron's place. What do you think? Fifty wins?
A: OK, let's get it over with. I said 46 wins or whatever. The Cavs had an epic 26-game losing streak and ended the season with a 19-63 record. But right before Game 7 in Oakland, I predicted the Cavs would beat Golden State and win the 2016 title.
Q: Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back. How about this Cavs season?
A: I went to the practice facility on Monday. Kevin Love admitted the team didn't take the regular season seriously. He said: "We were not good in the third quarter. We were super complacent. I can't tell you how many games we would have won if we had the same ball movement and player movement in the third quarter as we did in the first half."
Q: Wow! It sure looked like that.
A: Love said he'd "stand on the perimeter" and sort of watch what was going on. "We don't have LeBron to bail us out," he said.
Q: What else did he say?
A: "LeBron was so special. He was like a freight train going to the basket. He and Kyrie (Irving) were magicians. With them gone, guys have to step up in their roles, myself included."
Q: Can Love do that?
A: After being traded to the Cavs, Love figured out he'd have to defer to James...and Irving. They were more talented. Their personalities were stronger. He was an All-Star in Minnesota, but admitted he had some "bad...selfish habits." Love was known for his indifferent defense, for staying under the basket to pad his rebounding totals. He could score, and the Cavs will need that part of what he calls "The Minnesota Kevin Love." But he needs the lessons he learned from being here about winning to help the younger players.
Q: Is this team any good?
A: "We have a chance to be good now," Coach Tyronn Lue said. "We have older and younger guys, a good mix. We're in good shape now, we can take advantage of it."
Q: What does Lue mean?
A: Early in the season, some veteran teams are not in top physical condition. They want to peak in May and June. Lue pushed the players hard, beginning with a 3-hour practice to open training camp. Also, the Cavs' new schemes on offense and defense could give them an advantage until a new scouting book is compiled.
Q: So you think they could start fast?
A: That's Lue's theory. He wants it to happen so the players buy into what he's thinking.
Q: But you think...what?
A: That's exactly it...what? I have no idea how they'll play early in the season. Lue wants to run. Over and over, he said, "play with pace." But that also could lead to them being run off the court by more athletic teams. They could have a hard time scoring points. Love is the prime option. Can Rodney Hood be the reliable second-scorer that Lue wants?
Q: I ask the questions...so...can Hood do it?
A: Maybe. His problem has been a passive basketball personality. He'll miss a few shots, then disappear on the court. Lue has been demanding Hood "attack the rim, be more physical...I want him to get to the foul line."
Q: But he averaged only 1.5 free throws per game with the Cavs last season.
A: And 2.1 for his career. One way for a scorer to be more consistent is to draw fouls, then he doesn't have to rely on his jump shot.
Q: Didn't Lue say he was looking forward to coaching in the post-LeBron era?
A: Yes, several times. He wants to put his own stamp on the team. He obviously appreciated LeBron. Winning that 2016 title set up a 5-year, $35 million contract for Lue. They seemed to have had a decent working relationship. But he knew it would always be LeBron's team.
Q: And now?
A: Reality will be a challenge. I think the Cavs could struggle early in the season. Lue said he needed to "keep teaching, not assuming they know anything. You have to teach and show."
Q: Is he capable of doing that?
A: I'd imagine. But I also know he prefers veteran players, or at least he did when LeBron was here. I don't want to see a lot of J.R. Smith. I hope he doesn't freeze out Ante Zizic because he wants to stick with Tristan Thompson at center behind Larry Nance.
Q: What about him not starting Collin Sexton at point guard?
A: That's OK with me. Nothing wrong with George Hill opening at the position. Sexton will play a lot. Near the end of training camp, the two point guards played together at times in practice. Hill also could be traded at mid-season.
Q: So what's your prediction?
A: I'm going with 36 wins and them being on the edge of making the playoffs.

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