It’s always been a tough go of things for the Cavaliers when LeBron James isn’t on the team.
They won 19 games two seasons ago, then 19 games again the season after that. Last year, they finished 22-50. The Athletic picked them to finish 13th in the 15-team Eastern Conference this season.
But hey, none of that really matters. Now, they are looking to take the next steps behind a young nucleus that consists of guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, forwards Isaac Okoro, Lauri Markkanen and rookie Evan Mobley, and center Jarrett Allen.
“To be honest, the Cavs haven’t been very successful the last couple years,” Allen told reporters. “We don’t know what it takes to be a high-level team. We haven’t really felt what it’s like to win. Our goal is to play meaningful games at the end of the season.”
The Cavs haven’t played a meaningful game at the end of the season since before You Know Who bolted for Los Angeles. Without James, who also left in 2010, they have compiled the NBA’s worst record over the past decade.
They’ve made big promises … but gotten little results beyond the “bright future” that every bad team touts.
This year, they’re banking on all that youth taking another step, as well as some veteran help off the bench. That’s probably the role for power forward Kevin Love, who is likely to become the league’s highest-priced reserve. Markannen and point guard Ricky Rubio are also expected to add some actual depth.
“Being young is good and bad,” Rubio said. “It’s good because you have all the energy, you’re hungry, but bad because you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. Do we learn from those mistakes quickly or not quickly enough?
“Are we sick of losing or are we just tired of losing? Two different things.”
Still, some moves could be to come for coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s club. Cleveland spent the offseason exploring the idea of not only trading Love, but also Sexton, who is up for a contract extension.
But for now, Sexton says Cleveland is precisely where he wants to play.
“They love me, my teammates love me, and I love being here.” he said. “It’s about leading by example and showing my teammates that I’m here for you. I feel like I’m the hardest worker here and one of the hardest workers in the league.”
Should the Cavs fail to compete for a spot in at least the play-in game, there are likely to be some changes. Sources told Hoops Wire if that’s the case, and the Cavs aren’t competing by the trade deadline, general manager Koby Altman will likely look to shake up some things.
Allen, Sexton and the rest are banking on that not being necessary.
“We want to show people that the Cavs are back,” Allen said.