Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers Scribbles: Is it time to worry? — Terry Pluto (video)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Scribbles in my Cleveland Cavaliers notebook:

1. When Cavs general manager Koby Altman made his huge deals at the trade deadline, it was about addition and subtraction. He was adding younger, fast players. He was subtracting mostly older players — some who didn’t want to be with the Cavs.

2. But Altman had something else in mind. It’s something we’ve yet to see. He believes the true version of the new Cavs won’t be seen until Kevin Love (broken hand) is healthy and plays several games.

3. That’s why Cavs fans shouldn’t panic. It’s worth remembering the Cavs were 24-7 in the previous two seasons when LeBron James and Kevin Love played — but Kyrie Irving was injured. Love tends to thrive — and the Cavs play well — when he is the obvious second scoring option behind James.

4. One more stat: The Cavs were 23-13 this season in games where Love and James played — but without Isaiah Thomas. In those games, Love was the second scorer.

5. The Cavs biggest problem is defense. And you can add defensive rebounding, which is a big part of defense. No one will accuse the 6-foot-10 Love of being an intimidating shot-blocker or defender at the rim. But the man is one of the best defensive rebounders in the NBA.

6. The Cavs picture Love cleaning the defensive boards and triggering the fast break with some of his long outlet passes. The addition of Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and even 31-year-old George Hill raised the team’s speed. But to fast break, you need defensive rebounds. Steals also help. But rebounding is the key.

7. Love ranks No. 8 in the NBA with 7.4 defensive rebounds per game. James is at 7.3. Then comes Nance (5.8) and Tristan Thompson (4.2). Thompson can be an elite offensive rebounder when healthy and motivated. He has never been especially strong on the defensive glass.

8. Love broke his hand on January 30. He was already an All-Star, averaging 18 points and 9.4 rebounds. He was shooting .463 from the field, .403 on 3-pointers. He was the natural second scorer to James.

9. That has been the problem since Love’s injury. The Cavs were 29-20 when Love was hurt. They are 10-8 since.

10. Since the trades, James has been the team’s leading scorer. Then comes Clarkson (12.5), Nance (12.3), Hill (10.3) and Hood (10.2). A team is not going to win a lot of games with one player having to carry such a huge scoring load — even if the player is James, who is having an MVP caliber season.

11. The Cavs have been hit hard with injuries. Love is the biggest. But Tristan Thompson (ankle) also is out for a few weeks. This has been a miserable season for Thompson in terms of health and production. But he would help right now.

12. The hustling Cedi Osman may be out for a few weeks with a hip injury. Hood recently strained his back. The 33-year-old James and 36-year-old Kyle Korver are the only Cavs players to appear in every game this season.

13. Here’s the point: Maybe the trades won’t work. Maybe this is a season that’s destined to be a clunker for the Cavs. But until Love is back on the court (hopefully in a few weeks), I still think there is no reason to panic.