Standing before reporters, Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin admitted it’s hard to classify his team’s situation as adversity.
After winning the franchise’s first NBA title in June, the Cavaliers lead the Eastern Conference. Griffin recently bolstered Cleveland’s perimeter shooting by trading for the Atlanta Hawks’ Kyle Korver.
Yet there was an uneasiness around the team after the star player told the media the roster needed improvement.
That’s why Griffin met with reporters before Wednesday’s game against the Kings.
Lack of identity on the defensive end is hard for us to figure out right now. That’s been disappointing, because I think we won last year because in part we did have a grit and toughness to us on the defensive end that we have not displayed to this point, and all those same people are still here.
David Griffin, Cavaliers general manager
Griffin did not appreciate LeBron James’ public complaints. But the Cavaliers have had a rough month that has left them on edge and raised questions whether they can repeat.
Perhaps Cleveland should worry about who needs to step up on its roster rather than hope more help is on the way.
The Cavaliers know their threats in the West. The Golden State Warriors added Kevin Durant last offseason, the San Antonio Spurs are still formidable, and the Los Angeles Clippers, when healthy, could contend for the conference title.
Cleveland, meanwhile, is largely the same team. The Cavaliers acquired Korver, who helps fill the shooting void left by J.R. Smith’s thumb injury.
Still, Griffin faces pressure to get the “(expletive) playmaker” James mentioned and add depth to the roster.
But what if that doesn’t happen?
“I think we have enough if we play significantly better, but we have a very fine margin for error right now,” Griffin said. “I would like to have a greater margin for error; I’d like to be more protected against injuries. But if we were 100 percent going into any series, I’d feel pretty good about our situation.”
Before feeling sorry for Cleveland, remember the team has three All-Stars in James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. The Cavaliers also spent plenty to keep Tristan Thompson and Smith while building the league’s highest payroll, and Griffin said he is under no financial restrictions to fortify the roster.
ESPN reported the Cavaliers rejected a proposed swap of Love for New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. Cleveland has an open roster spot if a veteran becomes available.
It would be shocking if the Cavaliers didn’t win the East. So all this chatter is really about beating the Warriors, the favorite to represent the West for the third consecutive Finals against Cleveland.
What if the Cavaliers don’t pull off another deal?
“The thing we have to do most is get better from within because this is the team we have and we like this team a lot,” Griffin said. “We believe in this team at a deep level, and we need to get better from within and play better, quite frankly. We need to have a great sense of urgency and develop a championship identity, and I think it’s clear we have not been doing that.”
The Cavaliers must buckle down and play defense like champions. Coach Tyronn Lue and Griffin pointed to defense as a concern. The loss of Matthew Dellavedova to the Milwaukee Bucks in free agency doesn’t explain giving up 124 points to the New Orleans Pelicans without Anthony Davis or blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in a loss to the Kings.
“Lack of identity on the defensive end is hard for us to figure out right now,” Griffin said. “That’s been disappointing, because I think we won last year because in part we did have a grit and toughness to us on the defensive end that we have not displayed to this point, and all those same people are still here. So I expect more of us on that end, and I know they expect more of themselves as well.”
The This Can’t Be Life Award
We’ve all seen players hit, kick or abuse a chair during a game.
That proved costly for Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter. He fractured his right forearm Thursday when he struck a chair in frustration and will miss up to two months.
The Keeping it Way Too Real Award
Twitter wars are fun.
Well, maybe not in politics. But in sports, it can be quite entertaining when Twitter fingers become aggressive.
The thing we have to do most is get better from within because this is the team we have and we like this team a lot. We believe in this team at a deep level and we need to get better from within and play better, quite frankly.
David Griffin, Cavaliers general manager
That brings us to Chandler Parsons of the Memphis Grizzlies vs. CJ McCollum of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Portland’s Twitter account needled Parsons for airballing a 3-pointer. Parsons, who received interest from Portland before signing with Memphis last offseason, then tweeted he wished the Trail Blazers “good luck in the lottery show this year.”
After signing a four-year, $94 million deal with the Grizzlies, Parsons has struggled while dealing with knee problems and playing restricted minutes.
Likely aware of Parsons’ season, McCollum tweeted, “We hit the lottery by not signing you.”