EVELAND, Ohio – The good news is that the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t getting up for the little ones.
Six of the 14 teams that have beaten them have losing records. The Chicago Bulls, who have beaten them twice, are at .500.
Focus, schmocus. Check back with the Cavs when it’s April, and the playoffs are here.
A gloomier view
That, at least, is a more reasonable response than crying, “They lost to New Orleans without Anthony Davis, and to Sacramento, and who cares who suited up for them? It’s Sacramento! Heavens to Jiri Welsch, who’s next, Brooklyn? Will they even let us keep the trophy?”
The Cavs have beaten the Brooklyn Nets twice and are done with them for the season.
The Cavs will keep the championship trophy.
Last season banished forever the ghost of former Cavalier Jiri Welsch, who fired up a corner 3-pointer when 14-year veteran LeBron James was in his second NBA season. The ball bent in curving splendor, like a draw in golf, and landed in the middle of the lane, untouched, as players stared at it, aghast.
With the curiosity of youth, James said to Welsch, “What the (bleep) was that?”
The dog days
These pre-All-Star Game exercises, while yielding no Welschian moments, are taking place near the tail end of the dog days of the regular season. Actually, that’s an insult to dogs, but so is the Westminster Kennel Club’s decision to also have a competition for cats this year.
Man’s best friends will survive the insult, and so will the Cavs.
It’s not only that J.R. Smith will eventually return, and Kyle Korver is beginning to fit in, and surely coach Ty Lue won’t have to activate himself as the backup point guard.
It happens every spring
The difference is that the playoffs are different.
More off-days mean more rest. The Cavs can use it. LeBron James and Smith are 32 years old. Before the NBA Finals end, Channing Frye will be 34, Korver 36, James Jones already is 36, and Richard Jefferson will be only a few days short of 37.
More time means a better chance to lock in on deterrence although “hustle back on defense” is not exactly a secret to success. The Cavs have violated that precept with abandon in the regular season.
The effects of the schedule are even more dramatic between regular season and postseason in baseball. On the way to the World Series, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona short-rested starters and went to the bullpen in the early innings and used Andrew Miller in all kinds of relief roles, unlike during the 162-game grind.
With the Cavs, the major difference will be that Lue will shorten the rotation to eight players, nine at most, except in mop-up duty.
Matchups will mean everything. Players such as Frye and former backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova played important roles in getting the Cavs to the Finals, then were little used against Golden State’s small ball lineups. Jefferson’s role increased.
A likely third straight Finals
In a famous scene in the movie “Hoosiers,” coach Gene Hackman has his players measure the distance from the backboard to the foul line and the floor to the rim at the state finals to make the point that it is the same game the team had played all season.
In the playoffs, that’s not strictly true.
In jazz, the melody only serves as the departure point for improvisation, adjustment and creativity. It’s the same in the NBA playoffs. The “scaffolding” of the game lets players reach the ceiling of their talent.
James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love made magical plays in the final moments of the Finals last season.
The Cavs play in the much weaker Eastern Conference. They will get that opportunity again