CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Cavaliers are a disappointment thus far.
After getting thoroughly dismantled Saturday night on the road at the hands of the reigning Western Conference Champions, the San Antonio Spurs, the early failures of this team have resulted in premature trade buzz.
The entire roster and management have come under fire from fans and media alike.
The majority of Cavaliers fans' are bludgeoning their panic buttons mercilessly and it could be primed to get much worse.
LeBron James and the two-time reigning NBA champions Miami Heat come to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers this Wednesday night and it will be broadcast on ESPN to the entire country. Much of that country will either be out at bars drinking, which usually have TVs tuned into sports, or at home lounging in front of the TV preparing for the following day.
This could get uglier than child birth.
It seems misguided to place so much importance on a single game, 1/82 of the season, but given the context surrounding it as patience wears thin—not to mention, the fact that trade rumors are already swirling—it could be a make or break game for this roster as currently constructed.
There are no moral victories anymore. Not when you're 4-10 against a fairly weak schedule (albeit a road game-heavy one) and carried preseason expectations to make the playoffs. One could argue whether these expectations were heaped on the team too soon and that the rebuild is going to take another season, but it's too late for that discussion now.
The head honcho himself, Dan Gilbert, stated that he expects not to be taking a trip on his private jet back to New York this year for the NBA lottery. It really can't be any clearer than that. The job needs to get done. Dan Gilbert has put his foot in his mouth before and I'm sure he's not looking forward to having his words thrown back into his face nationally for a second time.
Despite the massive amounts of unfounded speculation that emerged from the early season players-only meeting the Cavaliers held, it is clear that team chemistry is about as low as the temperature outside The Q. Perpetual losing tends to have that effect.
A win against the Heat in front of a national audience can change all of that right quick. In one game, this team could come together or be undone. The additional press stemming from its national audience, the recent "Come Home LeBron campaign" which has also gained national press, and the fact that LeBron James in Cleveland will always be a story, all contribute to transforming the Q into a pressure cooker for Wednesday night.
A lot of eyes will be on Cleveland. This is not the time for an embarrassing performance which in all likelihood would sink team morale to a record low and I'm not sure any players only meeting could fix it. There's hope of a solid Cavalier performance though. All is not lost.
Kyrie Irving loves the spotlight. His desire to take every shot in the clutch as well as his propensity for starring in TV commercials seems to show that. I expect him to try and assert himself early on in this game and the lack of focus that sometimes seems to be the issue with him isn't as likely to rear its ugly head. The Cavaliers also possess a bit of Kryptonite for this Miami Heat squad in Andrew Bynum. Bynum played in his first back-to-back on Friday and Saturday and has slowly looked better and better on the offensive end.
The Heat lack a legit post defender and Bynum could be used early and often to exploit this mismatch and get the Cavs off to a fast start. The Q will in all probability be packed and rather raucous. If the Cavaliers get off the ground slowly I suspect the crowd will turn on the team early, which would be devastating against a team as good as the Heat. If they can hang in there, however, the noise should rise to playoff levels.
Unlike the Cavaliers bout against the Spurs, this game will be after three days of rest so fatigue should not be an issue, though the Cavaliers started terribly against the Wizards last Wednesday after enduring the same large stretch of rest. Does all this add up to a win for the Cavaliers? Honestly, I have no idea.
I have no real feel for this team anymore. I suspected they might get off to a slow start with a new coach and a lot of new pieces, but I didn't think it would look this ugly.
So, instead of proclaiming who I think they are I'll let their play Wednesday night tell the story.
Are they the dysfunctional group that the media wants to peg them as or just a young team learning to cope with expectations? Is Mike Brown just a product of having great players or a serious candidate to become an elite NBA head coach? Is Kyrie an actual superstar or just a product of too much hype too soon? Has Chris Grant truly screwed up these last few drafts? Does LeBron James really stand any chance of coming back here in the offseason?
The answers to all these questions will become a little clearer Wednesday night in Cleveland, but I must admit for the first
time, I'm a little afraid as to what they might be.