Between the Delonte West fiasco and the team’s back to back losses to begin the ’09-10 campaign, it hasn’t been the smoothest start for the Cleveland Cavaliers. With 80 games to go this season, there isn’t any reason for the team or fans to start panicking yet. But they should definitely be worried.
LeBron James could possibly be the best player on the planet, but even Jordan couldn’t win games and playoff series all by himself. On opening night against the Celtics, James went for 38 points, 8 assists and 4 blocks and the Cavs still lost to Boston. Last night in Toronto, James put up a triple double (23 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds) but his team still lost by 10. Although he hasn’t been perfect (he missed 12-17 shots last night), he’s had to carry the team’s offensive burden. At some point, other guys are going to have to step up and contribute.
“It’s a long season, we know what we have to do,” Shaquille O’Neal told reporters after the Raptors loss last night. “We beat ourselves by not playing with a sense of urgency these last two nights. Coach is still learning us, we’re still learning the system, it’s a work in progress.”
Shaq is the main piece that Cleveland added in the offseason to provide help for James. So far, he has been average at best. In the first half against the Celtics, he was looking good and pushing around Kendrick Perkins, but disappeared in the second half. O’Neal, along with the Cavs’ other bigs could not stop Andrea Bargnani last night, who went off for 28 points on 11-15 shooting. Shaq will definitely improve and help, but he’s definitely not the missing piece to the Cavs’ championship puzzle.
Sure, missing West leaves a void for a second scoring option for the Cavs, but even when he was in the lineup during the playoffs, James still had to average around 35 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists for the Cavs to even have a chance to win games (they lost in 6 games to the Magic in the Conference Finals). You can bet that Danny Ferry is exploring options to get LeBron help, and getting him help now. The latest rumor has the Cavs trading Zydrunas Ilgauskas to the Warriors for the high scoring but volatile Stephen Jackson. According to ESPN, James and O’Neal are in favor of the possible move.
Everybody knows that success this season is vital for the Cavs. The thought that LeBron could chose to be in another uniform and city as early as July, is probably already giving members in the organization nightmares. Despite their slow start, obviously the Cavs will probably finish the season in one of the East’s top four slots. But if their lack of depth results in a second round exit, than the Cavs will definitely go from worrying to panicking.
Can the Cavs win the East with this roster? Would adding Stephen Jackson solve their needs?
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DIMEMag.
Follow Gerald Narciso on Twitter at @Gerald_Narciso.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE