Those are the two most notable injuries, but there are more. So many more, in fact, that Scott, 49, was forced to lace up his sneakers and scrimmage this week because there weren’t enough players to practice.
“I’ve been in situations where we had injuries before, but not five or six guys at one time,” said Scott, who also coached New Orleans. “This is new to me.”
It’s all painfully new and yet hauntingly familiar to Cleveland fans. With James, the kid from nearby Akron leading them, the Cavaliers enjoyed their greatest stretch. Cleveland, just 17-65 in the season before James, won two division titles, a conference crown and made its only trip to the Finals in 2007.
They won more than 60 games the past two seasons. This year, they’ll be lucky to reach 20.
“It’s not the first time that it’s happened, but it has happened fast,” said Phoenix forward Grant Hill, after the Suns’ 106-98 win extended Cleveland’s slide to 14. “Franchises go through that. You have teams that are championship caliber and then you bottom out. You figure it out through free agency or trades or the draft and it appears that they’re going through that process now.
“They lost LeBron. It is what it is.”
It is a major rebuilding project for general manager Chris Grant. The injuries, combined with a long-term vision, has led to extended minutes for rookies Manny Harris, Samardo Samuels, Christian Eyenga and Alonzo Gee, the D-League’s top rookie last season. And they may not be done tweaking the roster.
Cleveland has had trade talks with Charlotte about forward Gerald Wallace, who has two years and about $22 million left on his contract. The Cavaliers also have a $14.5 million trade exception obtained from Miami in the deal for James, and it’s likely the team will shop the 34-year-old Jamison before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
In the meantime, the losses multiply.
After hosting Milwaukee on Friday, Cleveland will face only one more team — New Jersey — with a losing record in its final six games this month. The NBA record for consecutive losses is 23, and if they’re not careful, the Cavaliers may start February on the cusp of unimagined history.
“It’s a difficult challenge for those guys and hopefully things turn around for them,” James said. “Some of your friends, you don’t want to see them lose. I have a few on that team and I know how competitive they are. It’s definitely difficult for those guys to be going through that.
“But I feel like they’re strong enough. They’ll figure it out.”
He left them with no choice.
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.