By: Adam Tortelli ~Staff Writer~
Entering November 2013, the Cleveland Cavaliers had one job — finish the season around .500, good enough to be in playoff contention.
Fortunately, the playoff contention is still intact due to a poor Eastern Conference outside of Indiana and Miami.
The Cavs ride a four-game winning streak into Tuesday’s matchup in Philadelphia only sitting four games out of the eighth and final spot in the playoff picture, not too bad for a team that has underperformed from the top down. Some wonder why such negativity surrounds a hot team going into the second half of the season.
Some never watched games like the 124-80 loss to a Sacramento Kings team that is a measly 18-35 (two games worse than Cleveland).
Some also failed to encounter the Cavs in the first month of Mike Brown 2.0, where the offense was identically painful to watch, just as in the LeBron era.
Weeks passed as Kyrie Irving was forced to uncomfortably dribble around the court for 20 seconds before frantically hoisting up a long shot or throwing a disarrayed pass to one of his teammates lifelessly standing in the corner.
Now in his third year, Irving himself proclaimed that this is the most important season to justify his jump to being a superstar that will carry his team to victories or a lesser star that will simply pack his stats.
The lack of offensive structure is the reason for players’ frustrations on and off the court. After an offseason of bringing in firepower for scoring and a defensive guru as head coach, there is no reason the team shouldn’t be in the top half of the conference, right? Unfortunately, not all of the pieces have fit into place as they had been expected to.
Center Andrew Bynum, the biggest offseason acquisition, never panned out and was traded for Luol Deng, hoping that his leadership would turn the team around.
Deng has put up good numbers, but a lack of leadership remains despite his presence and veteran guard Jarrett Jack — another free agency bust.
With 27 games remaining in the season, the Cavs are still not completely out of the playoff picture.
When speculation of Irving demanding a trade in the offseason surfaced, the team came together and rattled off a miniature winning streak going into the All-Star break, showing that the potential for great things is definitely there.
The future of the season lies in whether or not a coherent offense can be devised by the coaching staff.
In the best case scenario, Irving learns from his All-Star game MVP and attacks the remainder of the season, accepting his role as a leader for the first time in his short career.
Worst case: Cleveland ends the season in the same place as every year in the post-LeBron era, competing for the top draft pick.