Cleveland 120, Oklahoma City 112. Somebody break up the Cavs! Actually, that’s already been done. And they’ve been rebuilt. Better than they were before. Better. Stronger. Faster. Well, actually, it’s only been two games with the new lineup and this one came against an OKC team that’s not the same without Andre Roberson, so let’s not go all Mike Powell on the conclusion-jumping, but I’ll be damned if they don’t look better.
Actually, they don’t look better. They look completely different. This team looks nothing like that one that was blowing huge leads to the Orlando Magic or getting smoked by the Thunder. And the Rockets. And the Raptors. And the T-Wolves. And really anyone else who happened to get five guys in matching gear together for a run.
Because they are completely different. They’re younger. They’re faster. They’re more athletic. And they’re working together. They cause you problems at both ends of the court. Honestly, I didn’t expect this. I knew they’d be younger, and faster, and more athletic, that was obvious, because frankly, they couldn’t have gotten older, slower, or less athletic than they already were. But for everyone to gel this quickly? Borderline impossible. And it’s not just one new guy making a difference, it’s all of the new guys:
Larry Nance Jr: 13 points, 8 offensive rebounds, and 3 blocks
Rodney Hood: 14 points
Jordan Clarkson: 14 points
George Hill: 7 points, four assists, zero turnovers
Outside of Nance’s dominance on the offensive boards, none of those numbers are going to blow you away, but they make a world of difference. Especially to LeBron James, who’s blown out his voice communicating with his new teammates and getting them on the same page:
“Well, I think Koby (Altman) did a heck of a job of understanding what our team needed. It just wasn’t working out for us, and he felt like — obviously, you guys saw his quotes — he made the changes that he felt best fits our team. Then it’s on me to make sure the new guys that come in. I make sure they fit in and make it as seamless as possible. That’s my job. This is the third game in a row my voice is gone. And so, I’m just trying to have the communication at an all-time high for us, for the new guys and for the rest of the guys as well.”
The biggest concern before the trade deadline wasn’t just that the Cavs were dragging on the court or toxic in the locker room, it was that LeBron was getting run down. Now he seems like a new player. As I said at the time, the biggest part of all those moves isn’t Cleveland getting Nance, or Clarkson, or Hood, it’s the possibility that the Cavs might get a rejuvenated LeBron. And two games in, that seems to be the case.
Again, it’s just two games, so I’m not handing the Cavs the East just yet. It’s a long season and this is still a work in progress. But this gutting and then rebuilding of the airplane while in midflight has been so impressive. And if you’re a Cleveland fan, you have to be pumped. The season was circling the drain and now they’re alive again.
And LeBron is rejuvenated. Re-energized. Of course. He no longer has to work
with guys he hates , who suck the energy out of the room, and who are too old, too busted up, too selfish and who don’t fit together on the floor. Of course, he’s showing life again and looks like he turned the clock back five years. He likes his job again. He’s not miserable going to work, just punching the clock. The guy wants to be there again. Because the guys who didn’t are gone.
Amazing how much better things go when you play for each as opposed to hating each other.