The Cavs weren’t able to make any moves at the trade deadline and GM Danny Ferry was left saying how much he liked the roster that he had in place already. Really? That’s like saying you don’t mind losing all your chips in a no-limit hold ‘em tourney because you just enjoy playing the game. It is a justification of an inability to get it done, pure and simple. Danny Ferry looked like a real dummy for not getting anything done at the deadline and giving us that typical general manager’s answer.
That was on February 22nd.
But maybe Ferry wasn’t completely off base in his statement. Despite my detractions, the Cavaliers responded to the lack of change positively. They started playing like a team. Even as “flu-like symptoms” overtook the team like the black plague, they put up big efforts. And LeBron James, who had been sitting in the shadow of criticisms like “least improved player” because of a lethargic first half performance, started playing the way he did in the playoffs a year ago. Larry Hughes also started playing more up to the level that was advertised when he was signed to his huge free agent deal before last season.
Maybe all the Cleveland Cavaliers needed was to realize that there were no reinforcements coming. The Cavs were actively trying to make something (anything) happen at the trade deadline as names got passed around, three-team deals were discussed, and many articles were written about possible point guards including Mike Bibby and Jason Kidd. As the deadline arrived, and subsequently departed with nothing happening for the Cavs, most people were critical at best.
And then basketball games finally became more important than roster moves again.
The Cavs lost by five in Miami on February 25th, and then ripped off four wins out of five games. The one loss was a three-point loss to Dallas that was about as close to a moral victory as there could possibly be. The Cavs smashed the Raptors by 23 points. They stood up to Houston, beating them by six as Yao Ming returned to the court. Finally, last night the Cavs hung in against Detroit and pulled out a big win in overtime despite some questionable officiating that had the Cavs at a free-throw deficit at halftime 39 to 10 in favor of Detroit. In all these last six games LeBron James has led the team in points and assists. His scoring has jumped too. He has scored 29, 35, 39, 36, 32, and finally, 41 last night against Detroit.
Wait a minute. I thought this was an underperforming team. They were desperately looking for a point guard a few weeks ago. Despite some decent win totals prior to the trade deadline, this team was painful to watch before the All Star break. They played lethargic offense and bad defense. They settled for jumpers rather than forcing action in the paint. They had awkward mixes of players on the court that seemed like oil and water most of the time. Their spacing was atrocious, even when they weren’t standing around watching LeBron dribble at the top of the key on offense.
The only thing that I can think of is that it finally sunk in that the Cavs had no reinforcements on the way. That realization must have provided the clarity the Cavs needed to play in the best ways that they are capable of playing. And now the world-view of this team, this season, the playoffs, changes. When you consider the amount of intensity and chemistry that the Cavs have played with over the last six games, you wouldn’t want to mess with it now anyway.
Maybe Danny Ferry knew this would happen and maybe he was just spewing GM speak. We will never know for sure, but if this team keeps playing the way they are right now and shows up for the playoffs, he will look like a genius, even though he couldn’t get anything done at the trade deadline.