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Cavs Notes

Jim Ingraham: Just one game into their roster makeover and the Cavaliers already look like a different team

  • Cavaliers-Hawks-Basketball-3

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) laughs with teammates as they warm up before in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, in Atlanta.

    JOHN BAZEMORE / AP

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If you’re into omens … oh, man!

The Cavs delivered a whopper Friday night in Atlanta.

If ever there was a game in which they could be excused for excusing themselves from competing, it was this one. After T-shirt bazooka-ing six teammates to various corners of the republic during Thursday’s roster liquidation sale, the Cavs on Friday were left with LeBron James and five guys named Mo.

An exaggeration? Only slightly.

But in a good way.

Let’s just say that, going into today’s game in Boston, the Cavs’ record this season is 1-0 in games John Holland and London Perrantes see the floor.

It was G-League Appreciation Night for the Cavs in the final minutes of their surprisingly easy, grossly undermanned yet impressively energetic 123-107 victory over the team with the worst record in the NBA.

But prior to Thursday the Cavs were the most dysfunctional team in the NBA, so let’s call it even.

And if you’re a fan of omens … oh, man!

The four players the Cavs traded for Thursday were unavailable Friday because they were all either still in transit or trying to master the Cavs’ handshake playbook.

That meant the Cavs went to war with essentially a seven-man team, including Cedi Osman, the 22-year-old Turkish whirling dervish, whose first NBA start was such a masterpiece of motor skills that it begged the question, “Can we have some more, please?”

The Cavs also played with a two — count ’em — two-man bench, not counting the firm of Holland & Perrantes.

The bench “bunch” was Kyle Korver, Jeff Green and Ty Lue’s marching orders: “Pace yourself! We don’t have anyone else.”

In other words, even allowing for the institutional awfulness of the Hawks, the Cavs were bringing a slingshot to a gunfight.

Or so it seemed.

But then the game started and it was seven kinds of crazy.

Cavs players for whom “effort” was previously a four-letter word, competed like their hair was on fire. They shot the lights out, let the dogs out and ran the Hawks right out of the gym.

Undermanned but overeager.

Oh, boy. Oh, man.

Omen?

Granted, it’s only one game, with only half the team, but if this is any indication of how the Cavs are going to react to the chemistry and manpower reset induced by Thursday’s swapapalooza, somebody better alert the media, because it’s game on.

The Cavs looked dramatically energized and invigorated at both ends of the court, and it wasn’t just because they were playing the 17-39 Hawks.

It’s like the Cavs suddenly realized how fun basketball can be. LeBron was having a ball by shooting, dishing and rebounding it. His 22 points, 12 rebounds, 19 assists triple-double tour de force is probably as close as LeBron will ever get to publicly saying to Dan Gilbert and Koby Altman, “Good job.”

On Thursday, Gilbert and Altman used their roster demolition to say to LeBron, “We’re all in.”

On Friday, LeBron used his triple-double to answer, “Me too.”

These three crazy kids. Don’t you just love ’em?

Obviously, there are still four new players to incorporate onto the roster, and that’s going to take some time, of which there isn’t a lot. On the other side of the all-star break the Cavs have only 26 games left in the regular season.

But the new players are presumably excited to be joining the Cavs, given that all four come from teams that, if the season ended today, would not be in the playoffs.

The survivors of the Cavs’ roster demolition showed Friday night that they are gassed up, greased up and ready for the stretch run. Korver and Green together outscored Atlanta’s six-man bench 54-40, with Korver scoring 30 points for the first time in more than 10 years.

Osman, who was averaging eight minutes per game pre-swapapalooza, played 39 minutes in his first NBA start and proved he should stay in the starting lineup: 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. In other words, the anti-Jae Crowder. Even the mercurial Tristan Thompson had a double-double.

So now the hunt begins in earnest, as the Cavs attempt to do something, which, if it has been done before, is not easily recollected. Blow up the roster at midseason and then go on to win a championship?

Interesting concept.

Normally roster blowups are followed by concession speeches and talks about rebuilding for the future. But this was a case of a roster blowup Thursday and rebuilding for Friday.

If the Cavs are able to pull this off, all involved will be heroes, including, and especially, he whose presence demanded the blowup.

Talk about a legacy maker. To blow it up and then take what’s left, plus some new pieces, and win a championship, all in the same season?

LeBron knows Michael Jordan never did anything like that.

Michael knows the Bulls never had to.

Contact Jim Ingraham at 329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.



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