The King and Korver: How the Cavs Made Everything Right in the Land
The Cleveland Cavaliers were struggling. Big time. They were out of sync. They were battered, bruised, and injured. And, most importantly, they were losing. The Cavs sat at 5-7 and if the playoffs would have started that day, LeBron and company wouldn’t have made the tournament. Thank God those playoffs didn’t start that day, and the Cavs have been looking like world beaters ever since.
It started with a 13-game winning streak, tying the franchise record for most wins in a row. Now, as I’m currently writing this, the Cavs are 20-8 and are only two losses behind Kyrie Irving and the Celtics for first place in the Eastern Conference (more on that later).
So what happened? How did the Cavs turn what looked to be a potential disastrous season into what now looks like another cake walk into the Finals? The answer is simple: LeBron decided to flip the switch, per usual.
Look, I’ve been watching LeBron play basketball since I was in elementary school. I watched in envy as he played in Miami the four years. I went to college in Ohio, and I lived in Cleveland the first year he came back. I’ve been watching Cavs basketball for 15 years now, and I’ve seen this movie before. James led teams usually start off slow. I can remember everybody being up in arms because the Heat were 8-9 one of the first years he was there. It’s what LeBron does. He keeps the team in the headlines every day because that’s what makes his brand great.
Think about it. If the team coasted throughout the season, we wouldn’t talk about them as much, and we would focus on other stars and teams in the league. He HATES that. Not the fact that other teams and stars get shine. He LOVES that because that’s good for the league. However, he HATES when he and his teams are out of sight and out of mind. Now, to be fair, he should hate that. He’s still the best player in the world, and it looks like that might not change anytime soon, so seeing other players get all the MVP and championship chatter while he becomes an afterthought would make anyone in his position upset.
This season, what he hated, was during the Cavs’ early struggles, his former teammate Kyrie Irving, and his new team, the Boston Celtics, were in the midst of a 16 game winning streak. Irving was getting praised as the early season MVP, and talks were that LeBron really did hold him back from being the player that he felt he should have been.
So, what’s a guy like Bron to do? Start a winning streak of his own, and put up MVP numbers in the process. LeBron is averaging 28 points per game, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds a game this season, all while shooting at career highs in field goal and free throw percentage. Also, Kyle Korver (a.k.a. Fourth Korver) has been killing it as of late in the fourth quarter, hitting big shot after big shot to spark the team. Now, with the Cavs firmly on the Celtics heels, and James having one the best years of his career, the MVP talks have shifted, and King James looks like he could steal it away.
So, what’s the Cavs strategy again? Struggle early, surge late, rinse and repeat. That way, the media and NBA fans around the world tune in to see if the Cavs will continue to struggle, or continue winning at a historic rate. Best believe the Cavs will go through a few more hideous losing streaks and incredible winning streaks throughout the course of the regular season, especially in the “dog days” of February and March.
It’s also fair to point out, that the Cavs don’t need the regular season. When you’re playing for a veteran strapped team like the Cavs, especially when you know you’re going to the Finals every year, the regular season doesn’t matter. So, while every other team has to take basically every game seriously to try to get a good seed in the playoffs, the Cavs (or any other LeBron led team) has the luxury of putting the regular season on cruise control. That means that the team will struggle from time to time, but just when they really start getting into trouble, they can flip a switch, win 8-10 games in a row, and get right back on track for one of the best records in the conference.
Again, to be fair to LeBron and the Cavs, the team was dealing with a lot of issues early in the season. They had to replace their second best player in Irving, and they had a lot of new pieces that they had to incorporate into the lineup. Kevin Love was flirting with playing center, then he wasn’t, then he was again. And injuries were piling up, including to Tristan Thompson, who hadn’t missed a game in his entire career until he had his calf injury in early November. Because of all the turnover, the Cavs had like a billion different starting lineups, and just couldn’t get in sync. So to say that this was ALL part of LeBron’s plan wouldn’t be fair, because the Cavs did have legit issues to start the season. Also, the team will have other issues down the road that might lead to them struggling again.
Isaiah Thomas will come back at some point this year and should be a major member of the team, as Irving’s replacement. We still don’t know how this team will look like once he comes back. Shoot, we don’t know how HE will look once he comes back, as he is still recovering from major hip surgery. He will have to get acclimated into the starting lineup and learn to play off the ball with LeBron, something he’s not used to doing. So, to say that the Cavs will struggle again at some point this season isn’t very Nostradamus on my part, but more of inevitability. But when it happens again, and it will happen again, it won’t be too long before the Cavs flip the switch again and surge to one of the best records in the league. And this time, we’ll all know why!