Padanilam: Cavs fans should be fed up with the team
Benjamin Padanilam | Monday, February 5, 2018
So I have this idea for a new reality TV show.
You have all heard of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “The Real Housewives of New York City” and just about every other “Real Housewives” franchise, right?
Well, how’s this: “The Real Cavaliers of Cleveland,” a drama coming to your TVs soon?
Oh wait, it’s already on TV? It’s in season three? Yikes.
As a Cleveland sports fan, there’s been little to enjoy for the last several months; the Browns went 0-16 and found as much success at quarterback as “The Bachelor” has had in creating genuine love connections; now, the Cavaliers are in another losing skid, and the locker room drama has players pointing more fingers than an episode of “Maury.”
And I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of it. Because it’s not surprising.
This point has been boiling to a head the last three seasons. It started the year after the first installment of the Cavs–Warriors trilogy, when LeBron James leveraged his power in the organization to earn Iman Shumpert a new four-year, $40 million contract and Tristan Thompson a new five-year, $82 million contract.
Those moves, along with some savvy personnel acquisitions by then-general manager David Griffin, netted the Cavaliers its first championship ever and the city of Cleveland its first professional sports championship in over 50 years.
But it also put a stranglehold on the organization’s future, particularly one which could or could not include James down the road.
It had mortgaged its draft capital and locked itself into expensive long-term contracts with role players. That practice continued when it signed J.R. Smith to a four-year, $57 million contract after winning the championship.
Each of those two previous seasons, there were questions about team chemistry and leadership — including the firing of David Blatt as head coach — as well as stretches of poor play. The team would eventually recover, but questions of whether the Cavaliers could make it work were nothing new.
Then after another losing effort against the Warriors in the championship this past year, the problems came out: Kyrie Irving was unsatisfied with his role and wanted out, Dan Gilbert was in the business of self-sabotage and refused to extend a new contract to Griffin — who had been instrumental in quelling the egos and problems in previous seasons — and the Cavs rid themselves of Irving and some of the team’s veteran leadership in the form of Richard Jefferson for talented players and draft capital from Boston, but it shook up the locker room.
And all of that shakeup created an older, less cohesive team already with a history of internal issues and much less of the previous leadership that helped to quell those issues in the past.
That history lesson is all basically to say that no one should be surprised by the Cavaliers’ struggles this season and the seemingly unsolvable nature of them. They’re exactly where they should expect to be when you consider the issues of the past, they don’t seem to be on the horizon of getting better and there’s plenty of blame to go around.
Dan Gilbert essentially axed his general manager in the middle of trade negotiations involving the team’s future and current second-best player.
Current head coach Tyronn Lue might have the support of his players and the team’s management publicly, but with the number of players questioning the notion of accountability in the locker room, it’s hard to say he has that support and respect privately as well.
LeBron James buckled the Cavaliers into poor contracts by leveraging his position to play general manager, and the one asset they do have — the Brooklyn Nets’ pick in this year’s draft — won’t be moved because he continues to leverage his future, leaving the Cavaliers unwilling to trade away theirs.
And all of that has led to a culture in Cleveland that is dysfunctional and showing no signs of improving.
Sure, this group won a championship during its tenure, and that’s enough to buy them the city’s goodwill for a long time to come. It’s enough other Cavaliers fans and I can’t really be upset or disappointed with the last few years, either.
But what we can be is resigned to this outcome, apathetic to the team’s current state.
We shouldn’t be surprised now, and we shouldn’t be surprised when the Cavaliers don’t get any better if something doesn’t drastically change in the next few weeks.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.