The Cleveland Cavaliers “have a long way to go.”
Fresh off of a 100-92 loss to the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday night, small forward LeBron James used those words to describe the Cavaliers at this point in the season despite their 3.5-game lead in the Eastern Conference and 8.5-game advantage in the Central Division standings, and he is okay with that.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” James said. “We’ve got a long way to go. That’s a good thing. That’s a positive thing. We’re in January. We’ve got a long way to go. We added a big piece that will come down to a big piece later in the season in Kyle Korver.
“We’re missing a huge piece in J.R. Smith that will hopefully come back in late March or early March. We’ve got a lot of room for improvement, and that’s a great thing to have. If you’re peaking right now, that’s not good, but we’ve been playing good ball.”
One of the things James wants to improve on is the distribution of the basketball.
In their loss to the Jazz, the Cavaliers handed out just 15 assists, which was hampered by two things, Utah’s defense and Cleveland’s inability to knock down shots. The Cavaliers hit 31 of their 85 attempts from the field and just nine of their 31 looks from three-point range.
“You get assists when you shoot the ball well,” James said. “We haven’t shot the ball well. We were in the 30s again. When you’re making shots, that accounts for assists sometimes, but we’ve got to get that ball moving a little more and get back to the way we’re capable of playing. We’ll figure that out.
“When you’ve got (Rudy) Gobert in the middle, he clogs things up, so a lot of seams aren’t there for a lot of our penetration. We also had some good looks that we just did not knock down. We had a great first quarter. The second quarter, we just kind of tailed off.”
The usage of newly acquired shooting guard Kyle Korver from the Atlanta Hawks is another thing in which James would like to see improvement in as the season continues.
During the first three months of the 2016-2017 season with the Hawks, Korver converted 44.1 percent of his shots from the field, including 40.9 percent of his 159 three-point tries, and averaged 9.5 points over 32 games, 21 of which he started.
Over 27.9 minutes of play, Korver averaged 3.4 made baskets and two successful three-pointers per game in Atlanta. Known for his three-point marksmanship, Korver proved versatile enough to average 2.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 0.7 steals per game this season.
In his first game with the Cavaliers, Korver converted just one of his five attempts from the field and pulled down three rebounds with one turnover in 18 minutes of play.
“More space, more space, lethal shooter,” James said. “It’s going to take a few games to learn the sets, learn the system, but we’ve got to give him the ball. We’ve got to put him in positions, but that’ll happen over the next few weeks.”