Cleveland’s drama club is acting up again.
Frustrated by their recent poor play in a season when their NBA title hopes seem to be slipping away, the Cavaliers held an emotional pre-practice meeting Monday in hopes of clearing the air.
They’d lost 10 of 14 and dropped to third in the Eastern Conference behind Boston and Toronto. With an embarrassing defeat to Oklahoma City on national TV still lingering, the Cavs decided it was time to address their troubled state before leaving for Tuesday’s game at San Antonio.
“We aired any grievances we had and we’re going to move forward,” said All-Star center Kevin Love, who regretted that the meeting was leaked publicly. “Hopefully we’ll be better for it, we have been in the past.”
Chaos is nothing new for the Cavaliers, who have had similar blowups in recent years yet managed to overcome any differences and went to the Finals the past three years.
Love, who was named an All-Star reserve later Tuesday, has been in the middle of controversy before, and after he missed two days with an illness, it was presumed he was involved in Monday’s discussion.
“Did I feel like a target?” he said at Tuesday’s shootaround. “I think everybody, most people, were a target. We’re trying to figure this thing out. People hold themselves to a very high standard on this team and we’re a team that can compete at the highest level. So, for us, it’s not about me.
“I’m not going to make it about myself. I’m sure with other guys, it’s the same thing. The biggest thing is moving forward. For me, the thing I’ve always done is kept my mouth shut, I continue to work hard and try to do best for the Cavs. That’s all I can do tonight and moving forward these last 35, 40 games and overall just try to help this team.”
While Love wants to move on from the team’s latest turbulence, there may be some unresolved issues.
When the team arrived at San Antonio’s AT&T Center, Love was the first player off the bus and he walked into the arena by himself wearing headphones and carrying a coffee cup. His teammates trailed in behind him.
Although Love is averaging 18.6 points and 9.4 rebounds, there always seems to be a sense that he should be doing more. He’s been the scapegoat before, so the latest uproar surrounding the team doesn’t surprise him.
“I’m numb to it at this point,” he said. “We’ve been to three straight Finals. We’ve been able to thrive under a certain amount of chaos at some points. The good thing about us is we’ve got better throughout the course of seasons and we’ve peaked at the right time. We’re hoping that it’s not any different.”
LeBron James refused to address the meeting, saying “I don’t want to talk about it” three times.
James became the seventh player in league history with 30,000 points Tuesday night.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue spoke during the meeting, which took place at the team’s training facility in Independence.
Lue has decided not to make any changes to his lineup or rotations in hopes that his experienced team — Cleveland has the league’s oldest roster — will figure things out.
Until then, Lue hopes that venting their concerns will help the Cavaliers, who have been blown out three times in the past two weeks.
“We’ve got to do something about it,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of talking, but we’ve got to play better. We’ve got to execute better offensively, we’ve got to execute better defensively. We’ve got to be better collectively. Everyone has to be better. We’ve been saying that, but we’re taking the necessary steps to do that.”
Love played just three minutes in Saturday’s loss to the Thunder because of an illness. He went home and then missed Sunday’s practice, but Lue dismissed Love’s absence as an issue.
“It’s not about one person, it’s about all of us,” he said. “If the training staff says Kevin is sick and he’s out, he’s sick and he’s out. I don’t think anybody on our team is a doctor, none of the players, so you can’t speak for what the training staff says. Of course, throughout the course of the season he’s human, everyone is human and there’s going to be other guys that are going to get sick and be down now, too.
“We’ve just got to move forward, move past that and we’ve got to try to get on track as far as winning basketball games.”
Lue thought it was misguided for Love to absorb the brunt of the criticism after his teammates allowed the most points by a Cleveland team since 1972.
“That’s crazy. I mean, if Kevin was out there, we might have given up 170,” he said, laughing. “We’re being tested right now. That’s when your true character comes out and the character of who you are as a person, as a player.”
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