The Cleveland Cavaliers are 38-28 heading into Tuesday and have gone 6-6 since completely overhauling their roster on the day of the trade deadline.
On Sunday, the LeBron James-led squad suffered a 127-113 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. That was concerning, to say the least.
In that game, however, they were without Kevin Love (fractured hand), Rodney Hood (back strain), Tristan Thompson (sprained ankle) and Cedi Osman (strained hip flexor). While Love’s absence was nothing new, recently losing three other key rotational players in addition to the ones traded at the deadline has simply been a large hurdle for the Cavaliers to get over.
It’s easy to make the argument that LeBron is the best basketball player on the planet. But, due to the immense amount of talent across the league, it’s more evident now than ever that the four other guys on the floor also matter.
While James usually never delivers pessimistic remarks to reporters in terms of the future of his team, he seems to be skeptical of how much Cleveland can accomplish this season given the sheer number of injuries that the team has suffered.
"Listen, at the end of the day you've got to want the most out of whoever you've got on the floor," James said, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. "You want to get the most from whoever is playing, but sometimes you can't overcome this many injuries that we have. We have pretty much five guys out of our top nine or top 10 of our rotation not playing because of injuries. It's next man up, but sometimes you just fall short."
"Can you judge what we have on the floor?" James asked. "I mean you don't know. You don't know.”
Tyronn Lue, who has had a tough job of juggling guys in an out of lineups and rotations, explained that they have to figure things out sooner rather than later.
"Pretty much have three different teams in one season," Lue said before Sunday's game. "Just trying to get the guys we have up to speed. This is the team we're going to have for the rest of the season, so just making sure we're playing our best basketball going into the playoffs is my biggest concern."
Veteran Kyle Korver explained how difficult it’s been to deal with the different injuries, especially since the squad is so thin in the frontcourt right now.
"It's hard to gauge because we just have so many guys out," Korver said. "We're so low on big men right now. So when we're small, they're just kind of switching everything on us and we're not able to -- there's not a lot of movement out there for us. That's what makes basketball fun is when the ball is moving, bodies are moving and hopping.”
He added, ”I think we're just missing some smiles out there on the court right now. It feels very serious. We're just kind of slugging it out. It'll help once we get some healthy bodies back. And there's not a lot of time, for sure.”
Listen HERE to the first episode of the new GiveMeSport NBA podcast, featuring former Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin.
Although it seems farfetched to claim that the Cavs might not make the playoffs since the ninth-seeded Detroit Pistons are 8.0 games behind them, there’s a clear risk for Cleveland to fall all the way down to No. 8 in the standings. The 36-32 Miami Heat currently hold that spot, and they’re just 3.0 games behind LeBron and company.