On one level this is the Cavaliers saying, “Our roster was really screwed up and we never should have traded Kyrie Irving.”
On another level this is the Cavs saying, “Our roster was really screwed up and we never should have traded Kyrie Irving, but how do you like us now?”
Let’s call it a net win because the Cavs are now clearly back in the business of trying to win games, soothe the simmering fan base and get LeBron James’ attention.
They made all that abundantly clear with their Thursday Afternoon Massacre, when they blew up their roster.
Blew it up real good.
In the span of about 90 minutes, Crazy Dan’s Basketball Emporium traded almost half the team.
Almost half the team!
“Everything must go!” they shouted before making sure almost everything went.
It was your basic benchectomy. The whole second unit, non-Korver Division, gone!
By sundown, until the new guys start to trickle in, you could have fit what was left of the Cavs in a mini-van and still had room for all those who feel the results of the Thursday Afternoon Massacre instantly make the Cavs the favorites to go back to The Finals, fall behind 3-1 to the Warriors, then rally to win it all again.
Or at least to win two games in a row in February.
Will it work? It almost doesn’t matter, because the old way wasn’t working and the meter is running on LeBron. Something had to change, so the Cavs changed almost everything, because that’s how they roll at Crazy Dan’s.
The deep-sixed six: Isaiah Thomas (too small), Channing Frye (too old), Jae Crowder (too not-as-advertised), Derrick Rose (too injured), Iman Shumpert (too Shump) and Dwyane Wade, who was graciously allowed to return to his home in Miami with a nod and a wink that what happened in Cleveland stays in Cleveland.
The four new guys are all younger, faster, more athletic, more expensive and, in one case, at least, more gene pool specific. Let’s put it this way: If the roster blowup doesn’t pan out, at least we’ll have fun in the second half of the season watching Larry Nance Jr. jump around.
Jordan Clarkson, George Hill and Rodney Hood, all guards, are the other three additions.
In the short term — and as long as LeBron is on your team, that’s all that matters — what’s most to like about the new guys is that they aren’t the old guys. They are all younger and healthier than those they replace, so the Cavs’ embarrassing defense has to be better, right?
It better. Because in the long term, the Cavs are taking on money and years in some of the contracts they brought on board. But at least they’ve reduced the number of Cavs who play defense while using a walker. If that means increasing the team’s tax bill, so be it. The Cavs are apparently willing to jump off that bridge when they get to it.
That, as always in the Cold War between owner and icon, is the way Dan Gilbert tries to show LeBron that he’s all in and doing all he can to help LeBron eclipse the legacy of another certain No. 23.
When in doubt, spend more money, and, to his credit, Gilbert keeps doing that. He may have his flaws — OK, he does have his flaws — but there are worse owners out there than a free-spending one.
Thursday, bloody Thursday also addressed what apparently was a toxic team chemistry problem that perhaps explains why it appeared that the Cavs didn’t like each other. It’s because they didn’t.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Thomas and Crowder, the two ex-Celtics, never really fit in. Indeed, the image of Crowder stepping over, rather than helping Kevin Love up from the floor is a defining image of the “It seemed like a good idea at the time” Irving trade.
However, that the Cavs were able to flush almost half their roster Thursday while retaining the coveted Brooklyn draft pick is a good thing for a team battling an epidemic of bad things.
We can analyze the trade to death, but its essence is not very complicated. It’s Gilbert telling LeBron, and Cavs fans everywhere, that the owner is still all in, and that the ball is now in LeBron’s court.
Clearly Thursday was a pivot point for this Cavs season. Think about it. Things were so bad that at midseason the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions traded almost half their team.
Who does that?
Who does that and then goes on to win a championship?
The Cavs on Thursday not only sailed into uncharted waters, they are working off of uncharted charts.
But with LeBron at the wheel, and with his meter running, the second half of the season just got a whole lot more interesting.