Patience, while not always fun, is a virtue. Especially if you’re a Cleveland Cavaliers fan. Especially this season. This is not just true for you, the reader, though. This goes out to the entire city of Cleveland and it’s fans.
Remember the early struggles the Miami Heat faced in the first year of the “Big Three Era?” I know you do because if you, like me, are a Cleveland fan, you were likely rejoicing in their struggles. Alas, you, like me, were inevitably shut up when the Miami Heat made four straight Finals and won two Championships. But back to my point . . .
Oct 17, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forwardLeBron James
(23) reacts in the third quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
It wasn’t always sunshine and fairy-tales for the Miami Heat; struggles were a plenty. And, to be honest, it’s to be expected. Then, with Miami, and now, with the Cavaliers.
Something that the Cavs have going for them, though, is that LeBron has already been through this once before and now has a much, much better understanding of what is to come. The first time around in Miami, it was new to everyone; no one knew how long it would take, how hard it would be, or if it would work. Of course, ultimately, it did work in Miami. All three players made the required sacrifices and put the team over individual success. This will have to happen in Cleveland, as well.
Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving have never not been the guy. In the past, both players have had full control of the reigns, so to speak. And have faced little-to-no pressure to win. Those days are over with.
Love and Kyrie are both legitimate All-Star players. There is no denying that. They’re both amongst the elite at their respective positions. They have both shown a consistent ability to take over a game on the offensive end and produce at a very, very high level. There is no arguing against their greatness as individual players, but, yet, neither of them have played in big games. Neither Irving nor Love have ever been on an elite title contending team; in fact, they’ve yet to even reach the playoffs. That, of course, will end this season.
Oct 22, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guardMike Miller
(18) attempts a shot against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Memphis defeated Cleveland 96-92. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
The playoffs, though, are not this teams goal. In previous years, Love and Irving would have been ecstatic just to reach the playoffs, but, with LeBron at the helm, and a bevy of veteran teammates with championship experience, the goals are much, much higher.
Sacrifices are going to have to be made in order to reach those lofty expectations, though. Both Irving and Love are going to have to take a back seat to LeBron. Now, that’s not to say they won’t both have huge roles; that would be silly to say. Their roles will just be different.
Neither will be the number one options on offense. Neither of them will be able to afford to take series off on the defensive end in order to save their energy for the offensive side of the ball. Everything they do, every defensive breakdown, every mental error, every minor mishap, will be put under a microscope. They’re going to be held accountable like they’ve never been held accountable before. This, like their new roles, will be something different, but it’s nothing that they won’t be able to handle.
Bosh was in a similar position as both Irving and Love coming from Toronto. He had basically single handedly made a name for himself by his individual statistical success. Bosh, though, did make two playoff appearances, which is more then either Love or Irving can say, but, for the most part, had a similar career prior to joining LeBron and Wade in Miami.
Bosh made it work. He took a back seat to both LeBron and Wade and he developed other parts of his game, such as his defense and his outside shooting, in order to coexist and compliment his two ball-dominant All-NBA teammates. Bosh took a lot of unwarranted criticism in Miami. The average NBA fan knocked him for his underwhelming statistical production, but those same fans ignored his much improved defense, range, and efficiency.
Bosh’s sacrifices were both incredibly selfless and invaluable to the team’s success. Both Irving and Love will have to make similar self sacrifices in order to better the team.
The good thing for Irving and Love is that, unlike Bosh and Wade, they’re both already fantastic outside shooters. Which, in theory, should help their transition to playing off the ball a little more seamless and, therefore, speed up the process, but it’s still going to take time.
Oct 22, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guardMike Conley
(11) drives around Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) as forward Kevin Love (0) looks on at FedExForum. Memphis defeated Cleveland 96-92. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
But like Bosh, Irving and Love will both have to improve their defensive prowess and efficiency. Irving and Love are both considered below average NBA defenders, but neither of them have ever been held accountable for their defensive effort; with LeBron in town, that’s going to change.
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As for their efficiency, Irving’s shooting percentage, both from the field and from three, has dropped in each of his three NBA seasons and Love is just a career 45% shooter. Now, in all fairness, they were both asked to do a lot in previous seasons. In previous years, they were both the go to option, and, in most cases, the only option. As a result, they were forced to take a lot of tough, contested shots because no one else was capable of scoring on a consistent basis. That, too, will change with LeBron in the picture.
This team is going to be good. Very good. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be growing pains. This isn’t going to happen over night. Both LeBron and head coach, David Blatt, have both eluded to the fact that this is a process that is going to take time to get right. Listen, putting together the talent is the easy part. Getting it to mesh, gel, and grow together is the hard part.
As LeBron has said on numerous occasions, winning a championship is incredibly difficult. It takes time. While the exuberance and jubilation throughout the fan base is understandable, everyone needs to be patient. This isn’t going to be a finished product come opening night; this is going to be a process, but, in time, this team is going to be incredibly, ridiculously, insanely, wildly, stupidly, unfathomably, (insert more adjectives here), good. Enjoy it, Cleveland.