CLEVELAND - Through the first seven games of the season, LeBron James had taken an even-keeled approach to the Cleveland Cavaliers' shaky start.
Chill mode, one might call it.
The Cavs' eighth game, however, was different. Falling to the Indiana Pacers by a score of 124-107 on Wednesday night, Cleveland lost its fourth straight game -- its third in a row by double-digits -- to move its record to a measly 3-5 on the year.
Standing in front of his locker at Quicken Loans Arena after the game, James took a noticeably more direct -- and frustrated -- approach while addressing the game.
"It's a new month," James said when asked what had changed in his attitude.
The losing likely hasn't helped and it's not just that the Cavs have been losing, but losing by a lot, and largely to bad teams. Of the four teams to beat Cleveland in the last week -- Brooklyn, New Orleans, New York and Indiana -- only the Pacers made the playoffs last season.
“We can’t sustain anything for 48 minutes," James said.
It's not necessarily surprising that the Cavs are still trying to find their footing at this point. The team entered the season with eight new players from a season ago and has already started five lineups in eight games thanks in large part to a sprained ankle suffered by Derrick Rose in its second game. All this after James played in just one preseason game after suffering the same injury.
On Wednesday, the Cavs' health took another hit when center Tristan Thompson left the game with a left calf strain. According to the team, he's projected to return in three-to-four weeks.
“We’re just trying to figure it out on the fly and unfortunately we don’t have time to practice a lot," James said before noting Thompson's injury. "Our team is kind of depleted as well both on and off the floor.”
Factor in that the Cavs lay claim to the league's oldest roster and perhaps it shouldn't come as a shock that the team ranks second-to-the-last in the league in transition defense according to NBA.com and last in 3-point defense. Add Cleveland's own shooting struggles and you get a team stuck in a rut unlike any other James has seen in his 15-year NBA career.
So is it time to panic?
History would say no, even as the "easy" portion of the Cavs' early-season schedule ends and a four-game road trip looms. James may be down, but his team is hardly out -- at least not now, not in November.
“For us, we’re lucky that this is happening now and not in April, not out there the last game of 82," forward Jeff Green said on Wednesday. "It’s going to take some time, but we’ll fix it. I know that for a fact.”
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