At some point last night, the dust settled over the NBA and everyone emerged from their Woj-bomb shelters to find a Cleveland Cavaliers roster that looked absolutely nothing like the one that had started the day. If I ran down the trades in chronological order, I’d take up the whole hour, so I’ll just run down the roster changes quickly.
Dwayne Wade – out. Derrick Rose – pack your bags. Jae Crowder – hit the bricks. Channing Frye – all the best. Iman Shumpert – it’s been real. Isaiah Thomas – we barely knew you.
And while they’re heading out of C-Town, a much younger group of guys are replacing them: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr, Rodney Hood, and George Hill.
Did they get better? Without a doubt and in more ways than one. They dumped a number of additions that failed, they got younger, they got more athletic, they added more two-way players than they had before and they’re better defensively… we know they couldn’t have been any worse… and above all, they changed up a locker room that had turned into a toxic wasteland. I don’t know if they got all of it, but they did carve a big chunk of the cancer in that room.
GM Koby Altman said he saw that and knew something had to change: “We felt like we were on a slow death march and that’s not something I wanted to be a part of.”
The only part of that description I’d disagree with was “slow,” that crew wasn’t going to make it another week before killing one another… you could see the resentment if not the all-out hate every single night they took the floor. I could see it from here, thousands of miles away. I’ve never seen a team with worse chemistry that liked playing with each other less than those Cavs did. Altman had no choice but to drop a bomb on it.
Altman also said: “I think, in large part, we addressed the culture of the team and the building. And I would imagine a lot people on the conference call that have been around our team saw the lack of energy and enthusiasm, and that was really disappointing to me.”
Of course the old Cavs lacked energy on the court, they used it all up savaging each other anonymously in the media. Altman said he was looking for fountains, not drains, and he definitely got some of that. But these deals aren’t just about plumbing, just like they aren’t just about this year.
Again, that’s a big swing. And they’re definitely better after carving out that cancer and ridding themselves off some dead wood. And if the moves rejuvenate LeBron, and he doesn’t hate the guys he’s playing with and have to do everything himself on both ends on the floor, that’s a good thing.
But those moves don’t put in the same class as Golden State. Obviously. They may not even make Cleveland the team to beat in the East. Again, they’re younger, more athletic, more versatile, better defensively; just better overall. But how much better. That we don’t know. Just as we don’t know if these pieces will fit… or how long it will take for them to fit. Or if the Cavs actually just giftwrapped LeBron to the Lakers with this deal. All these questions still have to be answered. But for the time being, at least LeBron won’t hate coming to work. And we all won’t hate watching them. And they were willing to take a shot, even to the point where it could hurt them in the long run in an attempt to win right now and keep LeBron… It probably won’t work… but I do respect the hustle.