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Cavs losing streak is not end of world for organization

by | Special to

CLEVELAND -- When you lose 24 in a row, you have to choose your words carefully.

"Just like I told the guys, words don’t mean a whole lot," said Cleveland coach Byron Scott. "We don’t take a lot out of moral victories."

At this point, maybe the Cavaliers should. Because after Saturday's 111-105 home loss to Portland, moral victories may be the only ones coming their way.

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Two seasons after finishing with an NBA-best 66 wins, and one season after finishing with an NBA-best 61, the Cavs have become proof that this is not just a players' league -- it is owned by superstars, and superstars only.

LeBron James left and the Cavs are far and away the worst team in basketball. And that may not even do it justice. The Cavs, after setting the league record for consecutive losses Saturday, could be the worst team ever.

That, of course, should be debated at a later date, maybe 10 years down the road. All we can really talk about is the here and now. And while it seems downright embarrassing, it's not the end of the world for the organization.

After all, there is more to this than just James' departure.

Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas also left in free agency -- and those two old-timers just happen to start at center for the two best teams in the East (Boston and Miami, respectively).

That's not all.

Delonte West was traded. Holdovers Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams have been injured. Scott replaced Mike Brown as coach, and Chris Grant took over for Danny Ferry as general manager.

Yes, James' big decision played a major role in everything that's happened since. (Or in the Cavs' case, what hasn’t happened since.)

Yes, the Cavs needed an unexpected player to have a career year just to fight for a playoff spot. And no, they haven’t gotten anything close to that from anyone -- unless you count Daniel Gibson, and he's a 6-foot shooting guard.

Cleveland has lost 34 of its last 35 games, another NBA record. (Getty Images)  
Cleveland has lost 34 of its last 35 games, another NBA record. (Getty Images)  
Had LeBron stayed, other big names would have come. Maybe not Chris Bosh, but someone. Even Amar'e Stoudemire said had he been traded to the Cavs from Phoenix last season (as was rumored), he would've re-signed in Cleveland and LeBron would've, too.

Instead, the Cavs are putting something entirely different on the floor, a mish-mash of older veterans such as Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker, and guys who never even got drafted in rookies Manny Harris and Samardo Samuels.

And let's face it, had the Cavs not picked Christian Eyenga with the final selection of the first round in 2009 … well, he would have gone undrafted too. But that was back when the organization could afford to take risks, back when all was right in this part of the pro basketball world.

Miss on a pick or free-agent signing? No big deal. LeBron will cover for you.

Now, there is no room for miscalculation. If the Cavs hope to fix this, they will need to be smart and lucky. They will need to draft a Kevin Durant when everyone else is telling them to take a Greg Oden.

They will need to follow the blueprints of other small-market successes such as Utah, Oklahoma City, and especially San Antonio -- and find the type of people who don’t mind playing in places with little night life and less glory. And they just might need to try to build a team in the truest sense, then make it work in a superstar's league.

As for today, they just need to try to end this wicked streak, mostly for the sanity of no one but themselves.

"With any team, I think losing is contagious," Gibson said. "A lot of times, it turns into more [losses]. You just have to continue to work at it, and we have been. I think that’s the part that is most troublesome. We are putting in the work and not reaping the benefits."

Oftentimes, that’s just the way it goes when you don’t have a LeBron James. When you have one, you’re usually in first. Without one, you can quickly become the worst.


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