LeBron James thinks the Cleveland Cavaliers “lack mental” toughness at the moment. J.R. Smith thinks the Cavs are straight-up lazy. Whatever the issue, and there’s certainly more than one, the Cavs are in trouble, at least according to the team’s more outspoken players.
A 113-99 loss to the Wizards — and it wasn’t even that close — is Cleveland’s third in the last four games. Though the Raptors just lost to the Pistons, they have been creeping up behind the Cavs in a close race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. With about six weeks left in the regular season, Smith said his level of concern for the team is “extremely high.”
“We can’t play basketball like this going down the stretch.” Smith said by way of ESPN. “There’s 24, 25 games left in the year and you talk about contending, being a championship contender and get blown out by a team. … After losing a game to the No. 2 team in the East, then you come out and get thrashed and make it look good at the end. We can’t do that. If we’re serious about who we’re supposed to be, then we can’t do this.”
James was rested against the Wizards, and although Kyrie Irving had 28 points, the Cavs never showed any chemistry. At one point, they trailed by 30 points.
“If you lose a game like the other night to a team like Toronto and come out here and play the way we did and you had a lack of energy, maybe we shouldn’t be in this position,” Smith continued. “I don’t know. It’s tough. If we’re going to play with a lack of energy after losing a game on the road and come out and play the way we did today, then we shouldn’t be who we are and be in these uniforms.”
It’s one thing for James to express concern about this team in the post-David Blatt era. James carried the injury-plagued Cavs through the Finals last year and he’s in a leadership role that few, if any, have in the league as far as an entire organization is concerned. It’s another thing entirely for Smith to feel anxiety about this team’s chances heading into the playoffs. If multiple players are worried about the state of the team, the problems are quite real.
Then again, just about anyone can see that.