It’s safe to say that the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t gotten off to the start that they envisioned this season.
With a 3-5 record, the Cavs have averaged 105.0 points per game, but have allowed 111.9 for a negative-6.9 differential, which ranks 25th out of the NBA’s 30 teams so far in a small sample.
Only the Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings have been worse in that regard.
As the fourth-place team in the Central Division, Cleveland has dealt with an injury to starting point guard Derrick Rose that kept him out for half of the team’s games so far and has not yet been able to benefit from the services of Isaiah Thomas, who remains out with a hip ailment. Other than that, mostly everyone has been healthy.
Other than LeBron James, who is averaging 25.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 8.9 assists, and Kevin Love, who is averaging a double-double of 18.4 points and 11.4 boards, the Cavs have not received consistent production from anyone else on their roster so far, including Dwyane Wade, who has put up just 7.7 points, 1.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 21.9 minutes over seven contests.
Starting just three of his seven games played, Wade is still adjusting to his new role, but is still optimistic because this team reminds him of a successful one that he was a part of in the past.
"That last year in Miami when we went to the Finals, I don't know how we made it," Wade told reporters after Thursday’s practice, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. "As a team, we were kind of like this. It was worse, because it wasn't new guys; it was guys who had been around each other four years in a row. Your jokes weren't funny anymore to other guys, when you walked in it wasn't a big smile any more. Guys were just over you. It's like being in a bad marriage.”
In the 2013-2014 season, the Heat lost the Finals to the San Antonio Spurs in five games, but notably got off to a rough start at 4-3 before winning 10 in a row and surging to a 54-28 regular-season mark. In addition to LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh, the team was mainly comprised of veteran role players, somewhat similar to the current construction of Cleveland's roster this year.
"But we somehow made it to the Finals," Wade said of that team. "Indiana should have beat us that year. We had a mental edge over those guys and we were able to win. But we shouldn't have been there. So it's tough, definitely. That's why it hasn't been done a lot. For the guys that's here, you have to pull from something else to motivate you, to get you to feel that hunger again like you had that first year. That's sports, it's tough.”
Rose, along with veterans Jeff Green, Kyle Korver, Jae Croder, Iman Shumpert, JR Smith and Tristan Thompson have eaten up a lot of minutes for this Cavaliers team, but as a whole, haven’t produced adequately in support roles to LeBron and Love.
"With the new guys here, you've got guys that have never been [to the Finals], guys who are hungry," Wade noted. "Obviously, Isaiah is one of them, who's out. [And there's] Derrick and guys who have never been. Hopefully we can eventually pull from that and everybody wants to see the other guys succeed and get to that pinnacle they got to.”
While the team might struggle until they are able to benefit from Thomas’ scoring production when he eventually returns, Wade believes that the veteran makeup of the team could be a major asset.
"Eight games into the season," Wade said. "No one in here is a rookie. Everyone in here has been through [it.] Lot of guys have been through the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. It's frustrating when you're going through it. No one is more frustrated than you on the inside. ... We have to continue to understand that we're going to get out of this together and this is going to be a distant memory at one point, but right now we're in it. We have to figure it out, and I think we will. Communication, coming in every day with a fresh mind, with an open mind to listen to the coaches, listen to each other. It's steps in the right direction.”
Cleveland’s next test will be on Friday on the road against John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards. We will see if they can turn around what has been a rough start to their new campaign with a statement victory.