This Cavaliers team is all about the moments, While We’re Waiting


Happy Tuesday, WFNY!

We start today with a little peek behind the process of writing While We’re Waiting. Well, everyone has their own process, I’m sure. But to give a little context, I’ll share my process.

My WWW segments are always posted on Tuesday morning. Typically I will pre-write a few paragraphs about a topic on Monday night. But I never fully write it because I want to be able to be flexible if something happens Monday night or Tuesday morning that I want to cover. Then, on Tuesday morning, I will fully flesh out the piece before posting it.

As I watched the Cleveland Cavaliers get completely embarrassed by the New York Knicks in the second quarter on Monday night, I decided I wanted to write a little about how frustrating this team is. Specifically, I wanted to discuss that the frustration is not the outcome1, but just how unwatchable they are. When floundering against mediocre teams, I would want to pull my hair out if I had any hair left. This team is supposed to be our escape, the thing to help guide us through the cold Ohio winters. When playing like this, though, all that fun is gone.

So I wrote a couple paragraphs about this while watching the third quarter. At the end of the third quarter, I felt satisfied with what I had, so I turned the game off. I was frustrated, yes, and I also had some things for work that I wanted to get done. So instead I put on some music and got some stuff done for my real job. When I was done with that, I went to bed, forgetting to check the final score of the Cavs game.

I woke up this morning, only to see that the Cavaliers had come back in the fourth quarter and won. Of course, I missed it. The only fun quarter of the game. I had another problem, too. The way I wrote my WWW about the frustration with watching the Cavs didn’t apply at all after the comeback the Cavs pulled off in New York. So not only did I not get to see the best part of the game but I also now had to come up with another topic.

The frustration aspect still applies to some degree, but the Cavaliers have won two in a row and three of their last four. On Saturday, they finally snapped their streak of 10 consecutive games giving up more than 110 points. On Monday night they held the Knicks to 101 points, the fewest they’ve given up since holding the Bucks to 97 points in Milwaukee in the second game of the season. So while it’s frustrating that the Cavs keep putting themselves in bad positions, the positive is they are showing that when they want to play hard, they are still pretty tough in the East.

So where are we right now with the Cavaliers?

In many ways, nothing happening right now matters in the least. People often say the NBA season doesn’t really start until Christmas, and I kind of agree. Last season the Cavaliers were cruising through the first couple months of the season, culminating in the big Christmas Day win over the Golden State Warriors. The regular season was all downhill from there. This year, the Cavaliers are struggling through these first couple months. The hope is, however, that Isaiah Thomas comes back shortly after Christmas and the season really starts for this team then. Ideally, we’d see the opposite of what happened last season.

So clearly, there’s nothing big-picture to take from what’s happening right now. As frustrating as the team can be, it’s probably going to be ultimately meaningless when April comes around. But the question really should be whether or not there is cause for real concern when it comes to the Cavaliers’ defense.

The numbers are ugly. Really ugly. Historically ugly. As of last week, the Cavaliers had the worst defensive rating in NBA history at 115.2 points allowed per 100 possessions. That number has since fallen to 113.6 points allowed per 100 possessions, good for “only” ninth worst of all-time. The Cavs defense is allowing the fourth-highest FG%, second-highest 3P%, and third-most points per game this season. These are not numbers a team can overcome to win a Championship. The Cavaliers offense simply isn’t good enough to make up that difference, even if the Cavaliers do have the fourth-best offensive rating in the NBA right now.

Isaiah Thomas coming back isn’t going to fix that problem. He may help them try to outscore their defensive issues, but he’s certainly not going to be any help on defense. What else might help on defense? Effort? Sure, the Cavaliers giving a better effort for a full game would help. Tristan Thompson coming back? You would think, but the fact is, Tristan hasn’t been particularly good on defense for over a year now.

The fact is, the Cavaliers are built as a team with a whole lot of bad defensive players. And most of the presumed plus defenders on the team (LeBron, Tristan, Jae Crowder, JR Smith) haven’t been very good in their own right this season. If we’re being honest, defense is probably going to be an issue for most, if not all, of this season. Watching this team struggle with mediocre teams because the Cavaliers are allowing nothing but wide open spot-up jumpers is likely our lot in life as Cavs fans this season.

So what are we, as fans, to do? Well, my advice is to not do what I did and turn off the games. Again, there’s a very good chance this is our last season watching LeBron in a Cavs uniform, so we shouldn’t take it for granted. Yes, we’re going to have to deal with frequent frustration as this team allows far-worse opponents to hang around, but it’s all worth it for those moments when this team clicks. I was dumb for turning the game off, and I regret. Don’t repeat my mistakes. Enjoy this team for all their faults and for all the moments.

  1. The Cavaliers are going to make the playoffs, and they will turn it on once they get there and will probably make it to the Finals again. Wins and losses right now just do not matter. []