INDEPENDENCE — Team meetings never occur when things are going great. The Cavaliers held one prior to practice Tuesday.
Losers of three straight, four of their last five and seemingly getting worse every time out, the Cavs took some time to clear the air during a long day at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
Whether it helped will begin to be known tonight when Cleveland (3-4) hosts the Indiana Pacers (4-3) at Quicken Loans Arena.
Coach Tyronn Lue didn’t want to divulge specifics of what was discussed in the meeting, but said “everyone talked” and it was beneficial.
“Off the court, they’ve got great chemistry and a great bond,” Lue said of his players. “On the court, we’ve just got to be better, like talking and communicating, enjoying the game together and having fun. Right now, guys are not having fun.”
Cavs players had plenty of fun Monday night at LeBron James’ elaborate Halloween party, where most everyone went to great lengths to put together costumes.
The good vibes seemed to carry over into the team meeting and practice.
“The slow start that we’ve had prompted us to all get on the same page and kind of figure out what we need to do,” power forward Kevin Love said of the meeting. “We feel like we need to get in better shape. That’s going to help us out at the defensive end.
“(We talked about) communication, energy and just getting the new guys well-adjusted and more time together on the floor. Time will tell how it’s going to play out, but we have a lot of really good, positive energy from today.”
Love shaving his trademark beard to enhance his costume of former WWE star Sting, host James opting to be Pennywise the Dancing Clown from the movie “It,” Kyle Korver coming as Willy Wonka and rookie Cedi Osman showing up as “Cedi Krueger” is one thing, even if it took Osman four hours to remove his makeup afterward.
Playing better on the court is another.
Lue, who used five starting lineups in the first seven games, agreed with Love by saying his players have to get in better shape, including four-time league MVP James.
“Getting hurt (with a sprained ankle) the second day of practice really set him back as far as being able to fly around and push the pace offensively, defensively fly around,” Lue said of James. “He’s trying to work himself back into shape, but with games coming so fast, it’s hard to really do that. The best way to do that is by playing more minutes.”
As for the array of lineups, Lue is hoping to stick with Derrick Rose, J.R. Smith, James, Love and Tristan Thompson, who started together for the first time Sunday in an ugly 114-95 home loss to the New York Knicks.
“We’re just trying to figure it out,” the coach said. “Today is the start, with film and practice. I think guys are getting a clear understanding of what we need to do.”
At the top of that list is being ready to play from the opening tip. That’s been far from the case so far, as the Cavs have been outscored by a whopping 54 points in the first period over their last five games.
Much of that has had to do with an increasingly porous defense. Despite holding their first two opponents to fewer than 100 points, the Cavs are allowing 110.1 a game, which ranks 25th in a 30-team league.
Cleveland has been particularly bad on the perimeter with opponents shooting .402 on 3-pointers, which ranks 29th.
“Whether guys are great shooters or not, if you give them good shots, they’re going to be able to make shots,” Lue said. “We’ve got to do a better job of contesting shots. If we do that, we can live with the results.”
Finally, the Cavs have eight new players on the roster, and Lue said some of them have been deferring too much to James and Love.
“I just told Jae Crowder and D-Rose and the new guys, ‘Play your game. Be aggressive. Be who you are,’” he said. “‘LeBron and Kevin and those guys are unselfish, so they’re going to be able to adjust to you.’”
- Cavs guard Iman Shumpert underwent an MRI on his sore right knee. No structural damage was found, but he’s expected to be out five to seven days.
- Rose, who returned Sunday after missing four games with a sprained ankle, was held out of the scrimmage portions of practice, but Lue expects him to play tonight.