The Cleveland Cavaliers are freefalling right now, and not even LeBron James or Isaiah Thomas can save them from the fall.
Time is the only thing that is capable of snapping the Cavaliers out of their recent slump. A new season has produced new challenges for a Cavaliers team that looks completely different from the team that won an NBA championship two years ago. Kyrie Irving, a player largely responsible for the team’s success, became his own Batman after being traded to the Boston Celtics in the offseason. James lost his Robin in that deal.
In exchange, the Cavaliers have signed and picked up a bunch of veteran players like Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder. Any James-led team faces perennial championship expectations. The 5-6 Cavaliers don’t even look like the best team in the Eastern Conference right now, much less a threat to win an NBA title.
However, it is still way too soon to hit the panic button. There have been a lot of moving parts in Cleveland, and the team is obviously struggling to find the right balance and chemistry on the floor. It is also important not to downplay the significance in Thomas’ return. While Irving is the better all-around player, Thomas would give the Cavaliers that standout secondary scoring option they desperately lack.
But the rest of the pieces still have to fit in order for the team to work. While James anticipates Thomas’ return, he also isn’t putting all of his hopes into one man to cure the team’s recent string of problems.
“To be honest, I don’t think it’s too much expected [of Thomas],” James said on Thursday morning, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “I don’t think we’re relying on IT to come back. We want him to take his time. When he feels he’s ready, he’s going to fit right in. …We can’t rely on just one person. We can’t rely on just one person for us to be as good as we want to be, whether it’s IT or myself or Tristan [Thompson] being out. We have guys who have to step up.”
With or without Thomas, there is too much talent on the Cavaliers’ roster to simply close the book on them after only 11 games. They’ll figure things out and position themselves to compete for a spot in the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive season.
That’s not such a daunting task when you still have the best player in the world.