As recently as three months ago, there was optimism in the Cleveland air surrounding the Cavaliers, their playoff chances in the 2013-14 season and perhaps even the idea of LeBron James returning home in the summer of 2014.
Fast-forward to present day, and that optimism has been buried by snow, frozen over and completely eradicated. In short, there is no optimism surrounding the Cavs anymore – and for good reason.
Before the season, the Cavs looked like they were on the upswing, ready for a brighter future. Well, at least on paper. After all, All-Star guard Kyrie Irving would be entering his third season, as would forward Tristan Thompson, the No. 4 pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Dion Waiters would be coming off of his rookie campaign with plenty of potential and room to grow.
But a combination of poor decisions in the summer of 2013 ultimately backfired on the Cavs, leaving them as the laughingstock of the NBA. And that’s putting it nicely.
First off, the decision to draft Anthony Bennett No. 1 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft was arguably the worst draft decision of all time. Seriously. The 20-year-old Bennett is averaging just 2.4 points per game on 25.9 percent shooting. I understand he’s young, but those numbers are beyond horrific. There’s a difference between struggling and just being nowhere near NBA-ready. Take into consideration that the previous four No. 1 picks were Blake Griffin, John Wall, Irving and Anthony Davis, and you truly begin to see just how bad the Bennett pick was.
Secondly, the decision to re-hire Mike Brown was a colossal failure. Brown was fired in 2010 per LeBron’s request, and the Cavs beckoned to that order as they attempted to please LeBron and convince him to stay in Cleveland. Obviously, we all know how that worked out. So after the Cavs fired Byron Scott after the 2012-13 season, a move that makes about as much sense as the Browns firing Rob Chudzinski, the Cavs compounded the issue by re-hiring a coach they fired just three years prior. I defended Brown during his tenure with the Lakers and even when he was originally re-hired, but I’ve lost all faith in him at this point. In sports, you’re judged by your win-loss record, and if we examine Brown’s record without LeBron, you begin to realize he’s just not head coaching material.
As if drafting Bennett and hiring Brown weren’t awful enough decisions already, the Cavs hit the trifecta by signing Andrew “I don’t give a damn” Bynum to a two-year, $24 million contract. There’s probably no player in the NBA I’ve criticized more in the last three years than Bynum. He’s lazy, selfish, immature, doesn’t care about the sport of basketball, doesn’t take his profession seriously, doesn’t care about his teammates and only cares about getting paid – and he proved me right on all of those counts during his time in Cleveland. In other words, Bynum is the textbook definition of an awful teammate. Unfortunately, he also happens to be a massive waste of Hall-of-Fame level talent. So the Cavs took a risk, got burned and dumped his salary to the rebuilding Chicago Bulls in exchange for Luol Deng while attempting to still make a run at the playoffs.
Up until Sunday night, I had about one percent of hope vested in the Cavs’ playoff chances. And then that one percent vanished.
On Sunday, the Cavs led the Suns by 18 points at halftime at home. It was as if the team finally had figured something out.
Then, in typical Cleveland fashion, the Cavs scored just six points in the third quarter while being completely outplayed in the second half and eventually went on to lose the game.
I’d like to say that the Cavs have finally hit rock bottom, but something tells me that they’re not quite there yet. Those pre-season days of playoff aspirations and LeBron’s 2014 homecoming seem like distant memories at this point, leaving the Cavs in purgatory.
Where do they go from here? Between the broken Anthony Bennett project, the demise of Mike Brown and a trio of young players (Irving, Thompson, Waiters) that seem to be on the decline rather than incline, the future is murky, to say the least.
My advice: Grab a flashlight and make sure you have extra batteries, because there’s no light at the end of this Cleveland tunnel.