Random dribbles on the Cavaliers and their oh-so-drab January:
1. Way too much is being made of the supposed friction between LeBron James and management. That’s not to say what has been reported is innacurate. It’s just that anyone who thinks pro sports is always one big love affair … well, that type of thinking is misguided.
2. Does James think the Cavs need help? Clearly, he does. Is he experiencing some sort of fallout with general manager David Griffin or owner Dan Gilbert? Uh, no. Know why? Because James isn’t that close with Griffin or Gilbert to begin with.
3. And guess what? That shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Contrary to what you read on social media, James isn’t a member of the front office or ownership group. He doesn’t meet with either party on a regular basis. He plays basketball; management manages. They have similar views on how the roster should be handled, but typically different approaches on how to get there.
4. In other words, James isn’t on the phone, making trade calls with team executives. That’s Griffin’s job. And frankly, when LeBron says the team is desperate for a move, that makes Griffin’s job that much more difficult.
5. When LeBron tells reporters that the Cavs need help, it sends this message to opposing GMs -- the Cavs will make a move, any move, because their star player says they need one. So when Griffin reaches out to try to strike a deal, opposing GMs think he’s ripe to get ripped off.
6. The thinking may go like this: Hey, LeBron says you need to make a trade, so give us a good player for our garbage. Otherwise, no deal, and LeBron stays mad.
7. That’s not actually the case right now -- but it could be. It’s likely why Griffin met with the media and insisted the Cavs could win another championship as currently constructed. Griffin may or may not believe that. But you’d better believe he wants opposing GMs to believe it during trade season.
8. LeBron is only doing what he feels is right. He wants more help. And guess what? So does the front office. But the trading deadline is still a month away. If James wants to act agitated publicly, he should at least wait until March. There’s still plenty of time to make a trade or find cheap help in free agency.
9. James is everything to this franchise. He knows it, the Cavs know it, all of the basketball-loving universe knows it. So this isn’t an indictment of the man, who just happens to be the biggest reason Cleveland is now called a champion. But he should be careful with how he goes about sharing his opinion of the roster.
10. Nor is it a major catastrophe if a star player and his GM don’t always agree. Michael Jordan was never shy about sharing his utter disdain for then-Bulls GM Jerry Krause. And Krause always had the audacity to act more important than Jordan. The two men didn’t like each other -- at all. Oh, they also won six championships together.
11. LeBron and Griffin actually like each other. Griffin does get LeBron's input about potential moves, and Griffin has said LeBron is a great recruiter to have in your corner. Was there a hiccup in their communication recently? Sounds like it. But let's not make it out to be more than that.
12. The main reason the Cavs have lost six of eight has nothing to do with James and how he currently feels about the people in charge of the salary cap. Does it contribute? I can’t say. I doubt it. But I’m not in the locker room or huddles when Tyronn Lue is addressing the team. No one is but the coaches and the players. What happens in those spaces determines how the team responds during games.
13. I do know this: LeBron and the rest of the Cavs want to win every night. Sometimes, though, they don’t display the necessary focus.
14. One example of that is their atrocious free-throw shooting lately. That’s a lack of concentration. And free throws are a good gauge of how the team is concentrating overall.
15. Along with their struggles from the line, the Cavs are having issues defending teams with any sort of size (DeMarcus Cousins, for instance). They’ve gotten lazy with their passes and are committing way too many turnovers. They aren’t attacking the glass and rebounding with the same tenacity as earlier this season.
16. Through it all, LeBron has been both magnificent and maddening. He has been the king of the Cavs’ turnover issues. He is handling the ball too much for someone who’s suddenly being much too casual in that department. Some of his passes have been mind-boggling. On top of that, he’s really been struggling to finish at the rim -- and he’s usually the best in the league at that department.
17. Worse than any of that, though, is LeBron seems to be acting as if everything is everyone else’s fault. It’s OK for the best player to ride his teammates. But James needs to own up to his own mistakes first. And for the love of Pete, stop griping to the officials every time you miss a shot.
18. Now that we have all of that out of the way, there are a few things to remember. First, the Cavs are still in first place in the Eastern Conference by what feels like a mile. Even at their worst, they can still beat most teams four out of seven games.
19. Also, this is just January. Would you rather they finished 73-9 and not win a title, or struggle through some of the dog days of the NBA, then play their best when it means the most? I think I know which LeBron and the Cavs would choose, and I can tell you it’s not even close.
20. Bottom line: The Cavs need to pull it together, no doubt. There’s no excuse for three full weeks of uninspired, inconsistent basketball. But the regular season is barely half over. They’ve been here before, and in the end, it meant nothing. Kyrie Irving and Love are All-Stars. But LeBron is the leader. It's time for him to stop worrying about what the Cavs don't have and start showing who is the champion here.