It is hard to digest the unadulterated overreaction to the fact Kevin Love did not play in the fourth quarter of Friday’s Orlando Magic game. This seems to be an ongoing and disturbing theme regarding all things Cavs that have occurred this season. The media overreaction should have been anticipated but it is the tone of the media overreaction that is distressing. The fan overreaction also is expected given the hard lessons learned regarding Cleveland professional sports teams and four very tough years watching Cavs basketball. Regardless of how predictable some of these reactions might be, it is still tough to focus on the positive when all this negativity swirls around the Cavs constantly.
I will admit that it has not been easy even for me to sit back and wait for the team to gel given some of the poor performances I have seen. This is especially true because many of the disappointments seem to be a result of lack of effort or lack of understanding what kind of effort is needed. Lately, even more is being made about the team’s “fit” and chemistry. Despite all of these difficult issues being raised, I think the Cavaliers are on track to perform as expected in 2014-15.
And maybe that was the problem from the beginning?? The Cavs fans and national media seem to have unrealistic expectations of the Cavs waltzing to an NBA title. Now I don’t mean to suggest that was everyone. But a fair percentage of media and fans honestly thought an NBA title was more than a passing possibility. Now that reality has firmly set in, it seems everyone has to be the “deep diver” to find the root of the “failure”.
Looking at this further, it seems that it might be hard to find the root of the failure before a failure has actually occurred. In simple terms, until this season is over and the records are complete, it is not possible to judge success or failure of the 2014-15 Cavaliers. Even then it might be tricky.
This leads me to the fourth quarter against the Orlando Magic. Kevin Love had played solidly for 3 quarters. He had 22 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 turnovers in those three quarters. Love had played 33 minutes. That is exactly 3 minutes less than his season average of just over 36 minutes. The Cavs had played poorly with little energy in the first quarter and had allowed 60+% shooting from the floor for the Magic in the first half. The second quarter was better and the coach felt that the defensive effort was there from the second quarter on. Yet, because Love didn’t play in the fourth quarter and the Cavs defense was best in the fourth quarter, Brian Windhorst just had to point that out to notorious Cavs hater Bill Simmons that the Cavs defense was noticeably better in the fourth quarter, implying that the earlier failures were primarily dropped in the lap of Kevin Love.
The no show in the fourth was looked upon by these expert pundits as a sure sign of a lack of faith by Blatt and the Cavs in Love’s ability to affect the game on the defensive end in the fourth quarter. This sent Bill Simmons rushing to the trade machine to look up possible trade scenarios for Love and Windhorst to pile on with his comments about the relative improved defense in the fourth.
I wonder if they had even a slight pause when they heard that Love himself approved of the move to keep the same team that had seemed effective on the court for the fourth. Did they maybe swallow hard when they heard that Blatt and Love both acknowledged each other after the game and did a fist pump of approval after the win? Finally, what do you think they were “analyzing” when LeBron vocally explained how this type of act by an All Star was a sure step forward for the Cavs. And followed this up by saying that all Cavs need to be willing to sacrifice their individual feelings for the betterment of the team and that he hoped the team was watching. He made it very clear that he was watching and noticed Love’s vocal and animated support of his teammates in the fourth quarter.
Well, I am absolutely certain that those writers could care less about all that logic and will continue to pervade their theories about the meaning of Love’s absence in that quarter. That is why I am much more concerned about what Cavs fans think and how they perceive this rare occurrence. I am hoping that Cavs fans will look on this as a positive step forward as I do.
It has been increasingly difficult for me to handle all of the negative energy on twitter and repeated calls for changing the “fit” of the team with trades or downright complete overhauls. It just doesn’t make any sense to me this early to panic based primarily on “style points”. While the loss of Andy is a serious blow, it is not a death sentence to this season. It was going to be exceedingly hard to win an NBA championship this year anyway considering the fact we had a new head coach, many new players, two new stars, and a slew of holdover players that had never won anything in the NBA post season.
This is not the NCAA Division I football championship rankings where it seems style points predominate. As hard as it is to win in the NBA, the Cavs should be judged on wins and losses and style points should be excluded from the assessment. That is why the fourth quarter was so important to the Cavs maturation as a team. They beat an inferior team without one of their All Stars and with another All Star sitting on the bench the entire quarter. Love’s support of the move and support of his teammates speaks volumes compared to the disharmonious din played by others wanting to find fault.
This seems to be one more small step in the right direction. I hope it carries over to others and the clear message is sent. This team cannot be about individual player’s accolades. It is about building chemistry, fit and finish. Sure the Cavs might need some changes going forward but they need to focus on who is here right now and become the best Cavs team possible.