Amico: Latest loss another example Cavs are broken

Sam Amico

At some point, the Cleveland Cavaliers will have to realize the team they've assembled just isn't a championship contender.

And they had better realize it soon.

The Cavs keep finding ways to hit new lows -- and they did it yet again Tuesday in Detroit, suffering an embarrassing 125-114 loss to what was left of the Pistons.

Yes, the Pistons, who sent Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley to the Los Angeles Clippers as part of a trade for star forward Blake Griffin on Monday -- meaning none were in uniform Tuesday.

Instead, the Cavs were manhandled by the likes of Stanley Johnson and Ish Smith. Oh, and especially Andre Drummond, who wasn't even sure he was going to play. Apparently, he wasn't feeling well.

But Drummond and the Pistons dominated the Cavs, snapping their own eight-game streak of futility.

These days, though, the Cavs' defense can make anyone feel great. Except, of course, the Cavs.

The problems defensively run deep, and you can start with coach Tyronn Lue and what seems to be a lack of a real scheme. Everything with Lue this season has fallen under what appears to be the philosophy of, "Let's just make it up as we go along." LeBron James is great enough that you can sometimes get away with it.

But he can't defend all five positions by himself. Actually, it remains to be seen if James can defend even one. The only hope is that he doesn't really care in January. Otherwise, he is a shell of the defender he once was.

James looks a lot like the rest of the Cavs -- tired, lacking the necessary energy to play both ends, and absolutely befuddled about what is happening around him.

The Cavs (29-20) won an ugly one Friday against the visiting Indiana Pacers. Then they broke open a close one Sunday against these very Pistons, in a game that showed they can beat the downtrodden at home, provided the downtrodden basically hand them the game.

And just when it started to seem like the Cavs had discovered some togetherness, they lose Kevin Love in the first quarter to a broken left hand. He is expected to be out six-to-eight weeks, according to one report.

But injured hand or not, Love has been here for most of this disappointing basketball mess. While the Cavs will need him to make a speedy and full recovery, don't expect him to re-emerge as some sort of Superman.

Translation: Cavs general manager Koby Altman needs to make a trade because this roster is old and out of sorts.

Most nights, Isaiah Thomas just doesn't appear to be a fit. Obviously, he certainly deserves more time. But he is leaving a lot to be desired when it comes to shot selection, and he very clearly is part of the problem when it comes to the Cavs' sad-sack D.

Anymore, about the only positives for the Cavs are James (21 points), Channing Frye (20) and Dwyane Wade (18). And Lue just finally decided to start playing Frye again.

But not even that could save the Cavs against Pistons Lite.

It's hard to know if this team is just not engaged and has decided to mess around, or if it is lacking in important areas such as athleticism and energy. Right now, it appears to be a considerable amount of both.

In a lot of places, the Cavs' record would be cause for celebration and the hope the team can compete for something special. In Cleveland, though, expectations are always sky-high with James on the team.

That is why the recent effort and outcomes have been such major disappointments. So what choice do the Cavs have but to shake it up, potentially trading some familiar faces for extra help?

Thomas added 20 points, but shot just 3 of 10 from the floor. He passed for six assists, but committed five turnovers. Tristan Thompson tacked on eight points and 10 rebounds.

Johnson, the subject of recent trade banter, finished with a career-high 26 points and 10 boards for the Pistons. Drummond erupted for 21 and 22, respectively, and Anthony Tolliver scored 20.

Smith had 19 points, offering yet another example that the Pistons (23-26) got whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. That was especially the case late, when the Pistons seemed to make every unguarded attempt they shot. And there were plenty of them.

The Cavs were helpless and are beginning to look helpless. Bottom line: Change is needed and it can no longer be expected to come from within.