The Cleveland Cavaliers are a young team. Kyrie Irving is a rookie and many of the players on the team are still relatively new to the NBA. Young teams struggle and the crunched and rushed schedule has not helped anything.
Add the weight of sudden expectation makes things all the worse as the team comes to grips with its position in the standings. It is safe to say no one had the Cavaliers contending and fighting for a Playoff spot at the beginning of the year. But with that carrot of the Playoffs within sight, the team needed to play at a higher level.
It is becoming increasingly clear, and increasingly more frustrating to coach Byron Scott, that this team just is not at that level yet.
The Cavaliers have fallen back to 17-26 and are 3.5 games out of the final Playoff spot. But Cleveland has gone 4-6 in its last 10 games and is 4-8 since the All-Star Break. The Cavaliers went from in the Playoffs to fighting to stay in it. And it does not seem Cleveland is going to win that fight.
One reason certainly appears to be the youth and some of the youthful mistakes that young teams make. Another part might be simply not realizing what it takes to succeed at the NBA level. That is a hard lesson to learn, and his team's struggles with running his basic sets is starting to wear on him. The mistakes and frustration are starting to seep over as Scott tries to find the right combination for his team:
"There's no reason why guys shouldn't go home and take a look at the playbook or video or something to figure out other things that they need to do," Scott told Tom Read of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "We gotta have guys that understand exactly what we're doing at all times. I'm not just pointing out Omri [Casspi, who was mentioned in the question to which Scott was responding], it's a number of guys and we have to get better at that."
So is this a young team learning how to play in the NBA and dogging it in the doldrums of the middle of the season? Or is this something else?
That might be an assessment for later. One thing Scott knows is that his team loses focuses and repeatedly makes some of the same mistakes. And that can be frustrating for a coach with a promising young team and is not seeing the results. He may feel like he is not reaching his team.
The fact is, this kind of a problem is to be expected when the team does not have a whole ton of time to practice. Mistakes don't get corrected in games, Scott cannot stop the game and tell the player what he is doing wrong and then immediately run another repetition for him to get it down. Practice is that time.
Every team is dealing with this issue. The teams that are relying mostly on rookies and teams that have new coaches are struggling to adjust and these coaches have to simplify their gameplans to make sure the team is running somewhat smoothly. A lot of coaches are not playing with a full deck of cards.
Again, though, this is a problem every team is going through this season. Scott and the Cavs are not going to use their inexperience or their lack of practice time as an excuse. They can still prepare and play hard.
And the Cavaliers have raised the bar for this season with the Playoffs in sight. Scott can only hope his tough love gets Cleveland where it can go this season.
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