Are there signs of a rift forming between the Cleveland Cavaliers’ front office and coaching staff?
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue spoke with the media after this morning’s shootaround prior to tonight’s game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena, and he was complimentary of former general manager David Griffin, while at the same time, deflecting trade questions to first-year decision-maker Koby Altman.
“I don’t know,” Lue said when asked if the Cavaliers were involved in any trade talks to bolster the roster.
“A little jolt? I don’t know. We’ll see. You’ll have to talk to Koby.”
Although the Cavaliers have remained dormant as Thursday’s trade deadline approaches, Altman has made one big deal already this year.
Point guard Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers early in the offseason, and on August 22, that wish was granted in the form of a deal with the Boston Celtics, whom Irving and the Cavaliers defeated in the Eastern Conference Finals last summer.
In exchange for Irving, a four-time All-Star, the Cavaliers got point guard Isaiah Thomas, himself an All-NBA performer in 2016-2017, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and draft considerations, including the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Limited to just 13 games while recovering from a hip injury, Thomas has made just 36.4 percent of his shots, 23.7 percent of his three-pointers and averaged 2.8 turnovers. The shooting percentages are the worst single-season showing of his career thus far, and his turnover average is his second-highest ever.
“When things were not going so well, Griff did a good job of making sure,” Lue said. “I don’t know how he did it, but he always pulled something out. We’ll see.”
Currently, the Cavaliers are 7.5 games in back of the Boston Celtics for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings, and just 4.5 games ahead of the No. 9 seed, which is currently held by a fellow Central Division foe in the Detroit Pistons.
Last season, the Cavaliers blew a four-game lead over the Celtics in the Eastern Conference, and instead settled for the No. 2 seed in the East before cruising their way through the first three rounds of the playoffs and back to The Finals for the third consecutive year.
Since defeating the Chicago Bulls, 115-112, at Quicken Loans Arena on December 21, the Cavaliers have won just six of their last 18 games.
Of those 12 setbacks, the Cavaliers have gotten beaten by 10 or more points nine times, at least 14 on six occasions and taken losses of 28 at Minnesota (January 8), 34 at Toronto (Jan. 11), 24 against Oklahoma City (Jan. 20) and 32 against the Houston Rockets last Saturday (February 3).
“Win a couple games. Win a couple games,” Lue said of how to get things going again should the Cavaliers not make a deal ahead of the deadline. “We just have to play better, like we’ve been saying, but if you win a few games, that helps a lot.”