They have the anointed savior of NBA basketball, and said savior also doubles as the NBA's most dynamic young player and one of the league's top players.
They are the defending Eastern Conference champions.
They should only get better in the years to come.
And somehow, the Cleveland Cavaliers don't compel me at all as of late.
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It seems like this shouldn't be the case. After all, I'm the guy who loved the 2005 Finals between the Spurs and Pistons, maintaining that both sides engaged in beautiful team basketball throughout. Watched every minute of that series. This Cleveland team has the man they call The Chosen One. Yet even when the Cavs were a wonderful surprise story last year, it took until LeBron's epic Game 5 against the Pistons to get me really interested, and that only lasted so far as the beginning of the Finals, prior to the stomping at the hands of the Spurs. Now that they aren't playing quite so well early on this season, forget it.
What I can't figure out is why this is.
Watching the Lakers -- often a one-man show in their own right -- is a blast. If Kobe Bryant is more compelling than LeBron, however, it is only slightly so. This makes my disenchantment with the Cavs all the more mysterious.
So perhaps it is a combination of two major causes that lead to this increasingly evident effect of the Cavs' losing intrigue, at least for this observer:
- Team identity, or lack thereof: The Cavs are nothing special one way or the other so far as getting up and down the floor. This is evidenced as they sit right smack in the middle at 15th in the league in pace (94.1 possessions per game), and as a result of that and the team's mediocrity this season, it doesn't seem that they have a truly defined identity yet. The Cavs aren't a slow-it-down-and-strangle-you defensive team, and they sit at just 22nd in the league in defensive efficiency. Further, they are 21st in offensive efficiency and have neither a potent fast-break offense nor a particularly well-executed halfcourt setup. Even last season when the Cavs were ranked much higher in defensive efficiency, they didn't garner a rep as a group that throttled opponents the way the Pistons and Spurs have over the years. With the defense far weaker this season (how much of that can be accounted for by the early-season lack of Anderson Varejao?), there really isn't a defined identity here besides "Bron."
- The lackluster supporting cast: Without being a fan of this team, it is hard to really get into this group of role players. Sasha Pavlovic is an interesting commodity and a nice shooter, but he has yet to develop into much more than that. Zyrdrunas Ilgauskas plays a decent game in the middle but isn't a dynamic defender and spends more than his share of time looking for high-post jump shots rather than really posting hard down low. Larry Hughes has been a colossal underachiever, and, as Cavalier Attitude's Amar Panchmatia is all too happy to point out, it can be painful to watch him play, especially on nights when he is forcing shots. Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall have been flops in Cleveland. Daniel Gibson's development is crucial to this team, but watching young guards seems a lot more enticing when those guards have names like "Williams," "Paul," "Roy," "Rondo" and "Felton." Gibson needs to become more fully established before he gets priority. Drew Gooden plays a nice game at the four, but he isn't as athletic as the likes of Antawn Jamison and Sean Williams, and he doesn't have the same lunch-pail appeal of players like Jason Maxiell and Paul Millsap. Further, his production isn't good enough to really establish himself in the upper echelon of power forwards in the league. Anderson Varejao adds some much-needed energy to this team, but he has garnered a reputation around the league as a flopper, and he still has a long way to go to make himself a better all-around player. The guys scrapping in places such as Atlanta, Washington, Indiana, Memphis, New Orleans and Portland seem a lot more intriguing, just to name a few spots. Better athletes, more upside, just as much youth and for a variety of reasons, games that are more fun to watch.
Maybe I'm missing something here. It could be some overriding reason why I can't get into this team. Or it could be some reason that this team should compel me a lot more than it does. But as of now, in a year in which there seem to be more intriguing storylines across the league than ever, watching a team that both went to the Finals last year and currently features LeBron James continues to drop further on my list of priorities this season. And I need a better explanation as to why that is.
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Am I alone in my boredom with the Cavs? Or is there a growing sentiment? Feel free to send in your comments and let us know where you stand on this year's edition of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the level of intrigue they generate.