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NBA Daily: A Lot To Figure Out In Cleveland

The only thing known about the Cleveland Cavaliers is the unknown, writes Spencer Davies.

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The only thing known about the Cleveland Cavaliers is the unknown.

LeBron James took a trip west and it’s essentially led to a dismal 0-6 start to the season, where things have gone south in a hurry.

This year was supposed to be a breath of fresh air. It was supposed to be something new and exciting. It was supposed to prove the organization was finally prepared to move on from the superstar that kept professional basketball in Cleveland relevant.

Instead, it’s been the opposite. Veterans are growing frustrated with the on-court product. Whether it’s been scheme or effort, nothing has been sustained throughout the entirety of a game. And, in some instances, younger players have failed to learn their coverages and have remained silent rather than communicating defensively.

So, what happens from here? We’re a mere six games into things. Nothing is set in stone, besides the fact that the Cavaliers have their work cut out for them.

Let’s start with the head coach…or lack thereof.

In case you’ve been out of the loop in the last 48 hours, Cleveland relieved Tyronn Lue of his duties late Sunday morning. Taking his place as the “voice” of the team—not the interim head coach to make that clear—is Lue’s assistant, Larry Drew.

As far as a label goes, it’s just semantics, but there’s a reason no commitment has been made. Drew’s representation has been in negotiations with the franchise to restructure his contract and make him the head man for the long haul.

While in charge, Drew plans on adjusting the struggling defense in a multitude of areas. He specifically mentioned transition defense, as well as being better on the ball individually. On the other side of the ball, he wants to become less predictable and keep the opponent guessing.

With over two decades of experience under his belt and having faced a similar situation with the Atlanta Hawks earlier this decade, Drew feels he has “what it takes” to help guide the Cavaliers in the direction they’re desiring to go in.

Of course, it would be easier if the organization knew the path they wanted to take.

Evaluating what he’s seen on the floor, general manager Koby Altman can’t put his finger on what the team plans on doing as far as changing priority goes. Cleveland could concede in lieu of playing for a postseason spot, or it could stay the course and aim for the playoffs—but he’s not ready to pledge towards either path.

If the bottom of the barrel rankings on both ends of the floor is an indicator of what’s to come, then the franchise may have no choice but to lean towards the former. It’s difficult to come to grips with such a realization, especially with a roster comprised of seasoned players. However, it could be a necessary evil.

Being the devil’s advocate, it is not even November yet. Say this move leads to a few wins right off the bat and, more importantly, results that the Cavaliers are looking for—should the front office see that version of the team as what they truly are? Or are the first six games more consistent with their natural identity?

These are difficult factors for Altman to judge. It’s going to become even harder with the absence of Kevin Love.

After he missed the last two games, Cleveland learned this past weekend that its All-Star big man would miss at least a month of action, according to reports. Altman confirmed such news Monday afternoon.

Terming it vaguely as soreness in the toe and foot, Altman doesn’t want to speculate on the injury until team doctors consult outside help to determine the diagnosis. From there, the organization will send out a press release and estimate a timetable for Love’s return.

He hasn’t been the perfect number one option with lackluster shooting numbers, but to say he won’t be missed would be foolish. Love is the Cavaliers’ top scorer and rebounder by a wide margin, not to mention a fine leader in the locker room.

Others are going to have to step up while he’s on the sideline, and, to be quite frank, “others” translates to everybody wearing a wine and gold uniform.

Righting this ship is not going to come easily. A new head coach and healthy reset can do plenty for a team’s morale. What it can’t do is control how a team competes and gives effort on a game-by-game basis.

Ultimately, that’s a big part of the reason why Cleveland is in this mess.

Now it’s on the players to clean it up.

Spencer Davies is a Deputy Editor and a Senior NBA Writer based in Cleveland in his third year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past five seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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