CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers struggled their way through the month of January and blowout losses against the Houston Rockets and at the Orlando Magic in early February prompted the front office to retool the roster while keeping alive the goal of competing for an NBA Championship at season’s end.
GM Koby Altman pulled off three trades at the deadline that saw six players leave the organization and four new ones join the team. Those four players -- Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and George Hill -- have made immediate impacts for a Cavaliers squad in the midst of a four-game winning streak.
“I think Koby did a heck of a job understanding what our team needed,” Cavaliers small forward LeBron James said. “It just wasn’t working out for us. You guys saw some of his quotes, and he made the changes that he felt best fit our team.
“Then, it’s on me to make sure the new guys that come in, that they fit in and make it as seamless as possible. That’s my job. It’s the third game in a row that my voice is gone, and so, I’m just trying to have the communication at an all-time high for us, for the new guys and for the rest of the guys as well.”
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Since discussions of trades began last Wednesday night, February 7, the Cavaliers have won four straight games, including a last-season victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at home, as well as lopsided road decisions at Atlanta, Boston, and on Tuesday, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The wins over Boston and Oklahoma City came just weeks after each of those teams soundly defeated the Cavaliers.
“I’m not surprised,” James said. “We’ve seen it from the first walk-through, the first shootaround that we had before the Boston game, how fast they were able to pick up on things, but when the communication is early, loud and continuous, it allows them to be able to know what’s going on behind them. And even if they make a mistake, when you’re communicating, you can fly around and make up for it. It’s not surprising.”
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With the Cavaliers (34-22) in the thick of a race for a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference and in possession of a two-game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers for the top spot in the Central Division, James is doing what he can to provide good leadership for his newest teammates.
“Obviously, they’re very talented, and the change of scenery, I think they’re trying to take advantage of it,” James said. “For us, the guys that’s here, we’re just trying to make them as comfortable as possible, Jordan, Larry, Rodney and George, and just try to make them as comfortable as possible, make the transition as seamless as possible.
“We’re going to have some bumps, obviously, along this road because we’re all new together, but we’re trying to make it as seamless as possible with the transition.
“I’m the leader of this team, and these guys look for me to lead them every night. With the group that came in, they want me to be who I am, and it’s up to me to go out and do it, and that’s what I’ve been able to do as of late.”