Even as they maintain the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers still give the impression of a deeply unhappy team. Their public comments are often cryptic at best and disheartening at worst, and the rumors are even worse. Case in point: Even though the Cavs beat a Western Conference playoff team in the Dallas Mavericks without LeBron James, a report from Cleveland.com’s Chris Haynes suggests that the team’s main takeaway was Kyrie Irving’s selfish play.
Irving scored 33 points on 13-28 shooting while recording only one assist against four turnovers. Kevin Love was second on the team with 19 shots. Irving did help seal the win with a steal in the closing seconds, but Haynes claims all it did was prevent a mutiny:
After the game, a few players were puzzled to how their point guard managed to register just one measly assist while playing 39 minutes. They were frustrated, but the win and Irving’s huge defensive play lessened the anger.
The notion within the locker room is that the situation is tolerable, because it isn’t permanent. If the Cavaliers were dealt the misfortune of playing without James for an extended period of time, this locker room would be boiling over.
Players are growing tired of Irving’s inability to not only register a proper amount of assists at the lead guard position, but also to just move the ball.
Kyrie’s low assist totals have been called into question before, but LeBron’s presence as the primary distributor has often been pointed to in the guard’s defense. With James sitting out, Irving could have proved something to a lot of doubters. Instead, he took the opportunity to shoot even more. It’s legitimately concerning, especially in light of the Warriors’ and Spurs’ incredible success with unselfish teams. It’s a stark contrast to the ball-stopping Cavs, and a big reason why no one gives Cleveland much of a shot in a potential NBA Finals matchup against either team.
It needs to be mentioned that nobody went on the record for this report, nor did they even provide a specific sentiment on background. Haynes merely described his perspective on the emotions in the locker room, so his report begs to be taken with a grain of salt. And yet, it fits with the narrative of the Cavs’ season, wherein no one is happy with how the team is playing and no one seems to trust each other.
Again, this team is still the top seed in the East, with more postseason pedigree than the rest of the field combined. This season is nowhere near a failure — yet. But if the Cavaliers don’t manage to pull off an upset over whoever emerges from the Western Conference, it’s hard to imagine their locker room looking the same heading into the 2016-17 season.