Six weeks after the front office made a shocking midseason coaching change, the Cleveland Cavaliers have somehow reached a crossroads of similar proportions.
The reigning Eastern Conference champions have lost three out of their past five games. Tyronn Lue can’t commit to a full-time starting lineup. And loud whispers that this team lacks the emotional chemistry and cohesion necessary to win a championship have resurfaced following an unsubstantiated report of Kyrie Irving’s unhappiness and LeBron James taking an impromptu trip down south to workout with Dwyane Wade.
Are the Cavaliers doomed? Of course not. Cleveland is still one of the most talented teams in basketball and holds a two-game lead on the Toronto Raptors for home-court throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. The sky isn’t quite falling.
But the Cavaliers are clearly struggling nonetheless, and some new intel suggests a source of the hushed disharmony that’s seemingly plagued them since beginning of last season.
In an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show,” Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group was asked about the pitfalls of Cleveland lacking a player with the all-encompassing leadership qualities of someone like Draymond Green. Unprompted, the Cavaliers beat writer responded by invoking the name of Kendrick Perkins – and insisted players were “highly pissed” when the team elected against re-signing the veteran big man last summer.
Not at all. They don’t have a personality like [Draymond] and they don’t have an emotional leader like that. I think LeBron James takes on too much of a load, like they are too reliant on his skill set, his leadership ability, all of that.
I’ll tell you one guy, and he’s definitely not a Draymond Green, but when they had Kendrick Perkins last year – that guy, he was an emotional leader. And not only that – obviously he wasn’t gonna somebody that’s gonna play a lot of minutes – but when things got tough and people started pushing around the Cavaliers, David Blatt would insert Kendrick Perkins, and within a minute Kendrick Perkins would lay somebody out on the floor. They don’t have an enforcer like that.
They were highly pissed, and I know this for a fact, they were highly ticked off at this team when the team didn’t re-sign Kendrick Perkins and ended up picking up over the summer Sasha Kaun… Players, I know for a fact, were highly ticked off about that, not bringing him back. Because it wasn’t about his numbers; it was about his intangibles, the emotional leadership, and the enforcer role that he brought to the team.
Cleveland signed the mean-mugging behemoth after he was released by the Utah Jazz following a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder at last year’s deadline. Though he appeared in just 17 regular season games for the Cavaliers and his role was further diminished come playoff time, Perkins no doubt made a sizable impact on the team during his brief time in Northeast Ohio.
In addition to doling out the occasional hard foul and setting an overall tone of toughness, the 31 year old always motivated James with intense pre-game chats. Remember this heartwarming moment mere seconds before Cleveland clinched a Finals berth, too?
Basketball isn’t played on paper. Perkins knows that as well as any player in the league; his influence has been felt much more in the locker room than actually on the court for years.
Do the Cavaliers miss him? Clearly. Would Perkins, now toiling away with the New Orleans Pelicans, solve all their problems? Doubtful.