CLEVELAND | Fanning out a stack of tickets like a magician performing a card trick, a member of the Cavalier Girls dance team stopped by Cleveland’s locker room about an hour before tipoff for Wednesday night’s game against Phoenix.
“Y’all know anybody who wants to come to the game?” she asked, offering freebies.
No takers today. Maybe some other season, definitely not this one.
Only months after owning the NBA’s best record for the second straight year, the Cavaliers have fallen — shockingly fast and far. Now on a 14-game losing streak, the Cavaliers, who started 7-9, have dropped 24 of 25 and haven’t shaken a hangover that began with LeBron James‘ summer announcement that he was migrating to Miami.
At 8-33, with a long list of injured players and a shocked fan base in withdrawal, the Cavaliers have gone from first to worst. They’ve lost their elite status, and it may be years before they get it back.
“For us, whatever happened here the past seven or eight years is out the window,” said veteran forward Antawn Jamison, who arrived last season via a trade with Washington. “There’s nothing we can do about it. We knew coming in to this season that a lot of teams were going to get payback. It’s tough, but nobody’s going to feel sorry for us.”
That became apparent on Cleveland’s recent road trip. During stops at Golden State, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Utah and Denver, the Cavaliers channeled their inner Washington Generals against everyone else’s Harlem Globetrotters. They were barely competitive.
Showing no pity, the two-time defending champion Lakers were merciless in a 55-point drubbing. It was an epic loss — the worst in Cleveland’s 41-year history — and one that triggered James‘ “karma” tweet directed at Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, his former boss.
Keep in mind, this is a team that was on the doorstep of an NBA title with James and a seemingly loaded roster. And now, the talk is not only about losing, but losing by an average of 16.5 points in your last 24 defeats.
Coach Byron Scott — who took the New Jersey Nets, of all teams, to the NBA Finals twice — never dreamed it would get to this.
Arriving just before James‘ departure, Scott, a three-time champion as a player on the Lakers’ “Showtime” teams, came to Cleveland believing he had inherited a roster with enough talent and depth to absorb James‘ loss.
And although he can be considered a glass-is-half-full type, the losses have even tempered his optimism.
“Yeah, it gets me down,” Scott acknowledged during Cleveland’s trip. “I don’t like losing. I’ve been in the position on a number of occasions where I’ve had to deal with losing, but I’m a winner, period. That’s what I’m used to. It’s tough after some of the losses we’ve had. But the next day when I wake up, I look at it as another opportunity to get better, from a coaching standpoint and a players’ standpoint.”
Injuries, though, continue to hamper any progress.
In an ironic and cruel twist, center Anderson Varejao, whose career has been defined by floor burns and all-out hustle, suffered a season-ending ankle injury during a non-contact running drill at practice. He’s expected to have surgery this week. Also, starting guard Mo Williams is out indefinitely with a groin injury initially sustained just before training camp.