The Cleveland Cavaliers are a sad, dysfunctional mess. But according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, it’s somehow even worse than we already know. Reportedly, the front office is going back on handshake deals with players, the locker room is divided, no one knows their role, and acting (or maybe just regular) head coach Larry Drew doesn’t seem to be doing much about any of it — which is fine, because the players don’t seem inclined to listen to him anyway.
Kyle Korver wanted a trade if LeBron left, but didn’t get it
Cavaliers veterans don’t seem too happy lately, and Kyle Korver is one of them. None of them have been getting a lot of playing time lately (which caused J.R. Smith to essentially ask the Cavs to trade him last week), but Korver reportedly has another reason to be fuming from the bench every night. According to Vardon, when GM Koby Altman signed Korver in 2017, the two struck a handshake deal: If LeBron James opted out of his contract after the 2017-2018 season, Korver would be traded or bought out before the next season.
Since Korver is still with the Cavaliers, it’s obvious that their reported “understanding” wasn’t honored.
So when LeBron left July 1 for the Lakers, Korver asked for the Cavs to move him. They refused because, they told him, they wanted him to play and for the team to try and win.
Before the team took the court this season, the Cavaliers were still saying they were in “win now” mode, and that’s what Korver was told. That seems laughable in retrospect. The Cavs are 1-8 and are sitting in last place in the East. It’s less “win now” and more “for the love of all that’s holy please win a second game.”
The Cavs have even more problems, somehow
The Korver stuff isn’t even the only terrible Cavs thing in Vardon’s article. There’s a lot more. Not surprisingly, there’s a divide between the older, LeBron-era players and the slew of younger guys, and acting head coach — or maybe he’s just the head coach, the two sides are still working that out — Larry Drew isn’t doing anything to bridge that. What’s worse, he’s not doing anything to address some of the Cavs’ most pressing issues on the court — namely, that no one knows their role. Here’s a quote from J.R. Smith, followed by some commentary from Vardon:
“Team is in a very weird place right now and we have to figure it out, whether it’s a players-only meeting or coaches or front office meeting or whatever it is, we have to figure it out and let everyone know what their individual role is and what to expect,” Smith said. Except, the veterans do not expect Drew to do this because, while they respect him greatly, they don’t think he’s the head coach because of his contract situation.
According to Vardon, Drew’s evolving contract status is actively hurting the locker room and the team’s performance on the court, even though the players apparently respect Drew and are backing him in his contract dispute. This probably isn’t what owner Dan Gilbert or GM Koby Altman envisioned when they fired Tyronn Lue.
The Cavs are a flaming dumpster fire
All those problems not enough? Because there’s more. Vardon also reports that Cavs veterans aren’t impressed with first-round pick Collin Sexton. Really, really not impressed.
Throughout the organization, the line on Sexton is that he does not “know how to play.” He doesn’t know how to defend the pick and roll. He doesn’t know how to set up teammates as a point guard. He’s playing 25 minutes a night, averaging 11.1 points and 2.2 assists (2.1 turnovers) and is shooting 22 percent from 3-point range. Against the Hornets, he had as many points (four) as fouls.
That’s pretty much the opposite of what you want from a young player. Or any player.
The Cavs aren’t just a mess, they’re a flaming dumpster fire. The veterans are unhappy, the young guys don’t know their roles, Sexton is hapless and helpless, and no one has faith in the coach because of his contract status. These problems represent organizational failures at various levels, and it’s not easily fixable. The season is still young, so there’s certainly time for Gilbert and Altman to right the ship, but if they don’t, there’s a lot of season left.
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