The good news for the Cleveland Cavaliers is their season of teetering on the edge of the playoffs is almost over. The bad news is their season of teetering on the edge of the playoffs is almost over.
Sure, the team seems to be jelling, and they've remained fairly competitive despite the loss of Kyrie Irving, but the fact of the matter is the squad isn't where the front office wants it to be at this point.
There's still more questions than answers, and while it's cliche to try to avoid pointing fingers, there's been tangible mistakes over the course of the preseason and regular season—on and off the court—that have at the very least been detrimental to the team.
For all the activity the team generated during the offseason, none of the Cavaliers' acquisitions have panned out.
We'll get to Mike Brown in a second, but neither Earl Clark nor Andrew Bynum are still with the team, and aside from Jarrett Jack's recent 31-point explosion, he's stunk out loud. But of those names, only one landed in the worse-than-worst-case-scenario scenario.
To their credit, the Cavs were very smart about making him as mobile as possible in case it was clear he wasn't working out. But aside from the lack of overall positive contribution on the court (the team has been much better on both sides of the court when he's on the bench), he was just absolutely toxic in the locker room.
In fairness, Bynum did inadvertently lead to Luol Deng. But looking back, it's a fair question to ask whether or not some of the off-court issues in Cleveland might have gone over smoother had a certain 7-footer not visibly undermined the coaching staff.
Locker Room Drama
While we're on the subject of locker room drama...
Is there another team outside of California or Florida that has run more cycles through the daily rumor mill? Whether it's involved Bynum's misbehavior, the strenuous relationship between Dion Waiters and Irving, the out-of-context comments by Deng, the firing of former general manager Chris Grant, the trade deadline buzz concerning every player's availability or the general circus that has surrounded player emotions around head coach Mike Brown, the environment just isn't in place for a young team to grow functionally.
The organization itself isn't completely to blame for this, but it also isn't free of blame. No one expected the transition into the second reign of Coach Brown to be clean, but at least during his first stint, the locker room seemed to be under control.
Plain and simple, the team needs solidified leadership. And the Cavs have gone to great lengths to provide an infusion of talent, but no one who can command the type of veteran control to steer the ship right. There's something to be said for that.
The jury's still out on whether the Brown experiment has been worth it. Just a year ago, head coach Byron Scott was in a similar hot seat. He got canned.
In the pro-Brown camp, it's inarguable that he's been able to leave a defensive imprint on this team. The team's won more games this season compared to last already, and even Waiters seems to be maturing as the team configures itself on the fly amid left-and-right injuries.
On the other hand, Brown is likely not the long-term solution, and as far as the early going was concerned, it's hard to name another coach who seems to occasionally alienate his players.
The foundation for an adequate offensive system just isn't there, which means unless Irving or Deng or Waiters goes off, the team will have to fight for every point.
Bottom line: Brown has not exactly had a glowering history of players enjoying playing under him. The body language, albeit improving, just hasn't passed the eye test more often than not.
Ultimately, the team will go as its culture goes. The Cavs have made enough errors in judgment to fill this season. Let's hope they've learned enough from this season to build on for the next season.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats provided by NBA.com and are current through Monday, Mar. 24.
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