A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

The End of an Era: No More Fun in The Land

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ odds of a return trip to the NBA Finals are far from a slam dunk.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been heavily scrutinized since the return of LeBron James after his four-year stint in Miami from 2010-2014.

The Cavs have enjoyed a lot of success, including three consecutive NBA finals and a championship in 2016–a first for the Cavs. However, the team has also gone through extremely publicized losing streaks, often accompanied by reported unrest and disagreements in the locker room.

The run the Cavaliers have been on since late December is the lowest they’ve sunk since James’ return. They’ve lost 10 of their last 15 games and have never been worse defensively.

Many NBA fans are chalking this run up to the Cavs’ habit of losing a lot in January.

Last year, Cleveland had a record of 7-8 in January, which is not awful, but it’s a far cry from their overall record of 51-31 at the end of the regular season. This year, they are 5-8 thus far in January and people are pulling the “relax” card. However, metric stats and the eye test proves this is not the same team as last year.

Right now, the Cavaliers are an awful basketball team, especially on defense. As of Jan. 30, the team’s defensive rating is a low 112.49, according to basketballreference.com, which is better than only the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings, two of the worst teams in the entire NBA this season.

The Cavaliers have never been a dominant defensive team, but in the past they’ve been decent on that end of the floor. Their high-scoring offense led by James and formerly Kyrie Irving has been able to carry the load at times. This year’s team is different. One of the key players fueled the offense from 2014-2017 is now leading the Boston Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Many fans questioned the Cavs’ move to deal all-star Kyrie Irving to Boston in exchange for a 2018 first-round pick, center Ante Zizic, forward Jae Crowder and an injured Isaiah Thomas.

Thomas was an MVP candidate for the Celtics last year and a lot of people thought he could have a similar impact on this year’s Cavs. Since getting back from injury, however, Thomas has been nothing but an inefficient scoring guard and a subpar defender. He is undersized at only 5’9”.

Meanwhile, the reports coming out of the locker room illustrate frustrations between teammates, notably a rift between all-star forward Kevin Love and the rest of the team. Love has been a scapegoat whenever the Cavaliers struggle over the last four years and his name has been linked in trade rumors for almost his entire tenure with the team. I see Love as one of the main reasons the team has been successful in recent years, thanks to his excellent rebounding and three-point shooting. It’s frustrating to hear about newcomers on the team calling him out for a perceived lack of effort.

It has become clear that head coach Tyronn Lue has lost his players’ trust. The on-court body language over the last few weeks have shown no signs of improving. The players are lazy defensively and rather than owning up to missed assignments and fixing them, the whole team has been prone to pointing figures and deflecting blame. One thing I noticed is players simply hanging their heads when they make mistakes and not doing anything to correct them, which is enough to drive any loyal Cavs fan mad.

It’s a dark time for Cleveland basketball. Unless the team can right the ship defensively and start working together as a unit, there is not much evidence pointing them to making a fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.

There is not even evidence suggesting they could make it out of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.


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About the Contributor
Ian MacGregor
Ian MacGregor, Sports Editor
Ian McGregor is a Sports editor at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Oak Leaf. He is pursuing a career in Sports journalism and is most interested in basketball and football. He also has an undying love for Cleveland, particularly their basketball team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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