The Cleveland Cavaliers are the overwhelming favorite to win the Eastern Conference.
LeBron James is a four-time league MVP.
Still, there is uncertainty about the Cavs as the NBA’s regular season winds down.
Winning the East isn’t enough, as LeBron James’ stated mission is to bring an NBA championship to “The Land,” so angst will be high if the Cavs fall short.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
It doesn’t help that the Golden State Warriors are as dominant a team as the league has seen. They have forced the Cavs to continuously search for ways to improve.
Cleveland already has fired coach David Blatt and made roster moves to bolster the bench. The Cavs are trying to play faster and figure out how to implement Kevin Love as a post player.
Still, it would be shocking if Cleveland did not win the East.
When asked the difference with Tyronn Lue as coach, Cavs guard Kyrie Irving said, “Just a faster-paced team. Having a (former) player as coach, having that communication, having that open-door policy where we can go talk to him anytime. He understands what the (grind) of the season is like, and he understands the importance of getting on a roll going into the playoffs.”
The Cavs are 16-7 (.696) under Lue after firing Blatt, who was 30-11 (.732). The team is 6-4 in its last 10 games.
That’s not exactly dominating, but the Cavs (46-18) entered Saturday with a 2 1/2-game lead over second-place Toronto in the East.
Lue has tried to speed up Cleveland’s offense to maximize scoring chances while keeping his best players aggressive.
“We want to play at our pace,” Lue said. “We want to attack downhill; we want to get easy open threes; we want to get to the basket. If we don’t have it, then pull it out and run something.”
Perhaps struggling a bit will benefit Cleveland in the postseason. The team was competitive in the Finals last year, even after losing Love and Irving to injuries, before the Warriors’ depth became too much overcome.
So rather than rest and get ready for the spring, Cleveland figures to go all out to fend off Toronto and prepare for the postseason.
“Teams are going to continue to compete,” Irving said. “We just know how to execute in those, going into the fourth quarter having quality possessions and understanding the importance of every game.”
Rich Cho might be named the NBA Executive of the Year.
Charlotte’s general manager must be pleased by how the team is playing at this time of the season. The Hornets had won six straight games entering Saturday and were just 1 1/2 games behind Miami for fourth place in the East.
Offseason roster moves have helped the Hornets emerge as one of the league’s improving teams.
The Kings looked like a playoff contender before the season. But since ascending to No. 8 in the West in January, Sacramento has fallen off.
Rather than playing its best basketball at this time of the year, the Kings are 5-16 in their last 21 games with only one victory against a winning team since Jan. 23.
The Kings appear headed to another offseason of uncertainty.
“As far as Matt goes, to say that we had history before the incident would be an exaggeration. We played together for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2010–11 season and a couple months in the lockout-shortened 2011–12 season. That’s it. That’s the history.
“During that time, we were teammates and never had any issues. We never had any real relationship off the court, either. Our kids didn’t hang out; our families didn’t interact. There were no birthday parties. There were no postgame dinners. We weren’t friends, and we had no mutual friends.”
– Former New York Knicks coach Derek Fisher writing in “The Cauldron” for Sports Illustrated, on Memphis forward Matt Barnes. The two had an altercation in October. Fisher is dating Barnes’ estranged wife, Gloria Govan.