December 22, 2014

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LeBron on Cavaliers: ‘We’re worse’ than last season

INDEPENDENCE — LeBron James was brutally honest following a workout Monday afternoon at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
An astute basketball observer, James knows the Cavaliers didn’t have enough talent to beat the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals last season. A four-game sweep simply drove that fact home.
More troubling to the fifth-year pro at the moment is the undeniable fact his team has even less talent right now with restricted free agents Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic holding out.
“We’re worse,” James said following the Cavaliers’ first workout since an eight-day stint in China. “We’re not as good when we don’t have those guys. We all know that. Those two guys are a big part of our team.”
Varejao, Cleveland’s best big man off the bench, remains in his native Brazil, while Pavlovic, who started at shooting guard in the playoffs, was in Montenegro at last report.
Compounding matters, the Cavaliers’ only significant additions — if they can even be called that — since the end of last season have been combo guard Devin Brown and power forward Cedric Simmons. Brown might end up earning a spot in the rotation, while Simmons is a project who has missed most of camp with a left ankle bone bruise.
“We didn’t do any reshaping,” James said matter-of-factly. “We didn’t do any regrouping. You start to think a little bit, ‘How are we going to continue to get better?’”
Just when it sounded like James was upset with the job being done by general manager Danny Ferry, however, the
22-year-old changed gears and said he would do everything in his power to make the Cavaliers successful in the absence of Varejao and Pavlovic.
“Me being the leader, I am geared for them not being here,” the 6-foot-8, 250-pounder said. “As an individual, I know I am ready. When I’m ready, I know our team is ready.”
What concerns the small forward, though, is the uncertain status of his two teammates.
“Their names are still in the locker room (above their lockers),” he said. “They’re still a part of our team. At the same time, we have to go with who we have. … Some things are going to happen in the next week or so where we know for certain what is going to happen with those guys.”
The Cavaliers open the regular season at home a week from Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks, then go on a tough six-game West Coast trip, so there’s a good chance Cleveland will struggle out of the gate.
“I’m going to give it my all,” James said. “I’m going to do anything that has to be done for us to win ballgames.
“I’m not going to pick up the charges Andy took. I’m not going to hit the open threes Sasha made. I’m not going to do that. That’s not who I am. I’m going to continue to lead my team and help us win ballgames. Regardless of whether they’re here or someone’s injured, I’m going to continue to do what I do best.”
Whether that will be enough — even if Varejao and Pavlovic both report — remains to be seen.
In going 1-4 in the preseason, Cleveland’s starters have looked very good, but the second unit has been woeful. In fairness to the Cavaliers, though, coach Mike Brown has been doing a lot of experimenting in an attempt to determine exactly which backups should get consistent minutes in the regular season. The problem is, other than perhaps young center Dwayne Jones, no one has stepped up.
“We still have a long way to go,” James said. “We still have some things to wrinkle out.”

Passport problems

When the Cavaliers flew from Shanghai to Macao, arriving at 5 a.m. Thursday morning, Donyell Marshall’s passport, which was with those of all the other players, somehow got lost.
Marshall spent three hours in a police station, then had to take a 15-minute helicopter ride to Hong Kong to get a new passport. He was accompanied by his wife, a friend, an NBA security official and Marvin Cross, the team’s director of security.
“I was nervous about the whole situation, especially when I got to the police station,” the veteran power forward said. “I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I could tell something was wrong.”
The good news was Marshall and his wife, who were planning to visit Hong Kong anyway, managed to get two hours of shopping in while the passport was being processed.

Tip-ins

The Cavaliers, who arrived home Saturday at 11:30 p.m. and were given Sunday off, conclude the exhibition season with a game in Toronto on Thursday and a game in Boston on Friday. Mike Brown said his starters will see increased minutes in those games and his rotation will be shortened in preparation for the regular season.
Cleveland’s Nov. 7 game in Utah will now start at 10:30 p.m. and be televised on ESPN. Also, an April 11 game in Chicago will start at 6 p.m. and be shown on ESPN2 instead of ESPN.
Simmons has resumed working out and could play in one of the exhibition games. Devin Brown has a bruised big toe and is day-to-day.
Rick Noland may be reached at (330) 721-4061 or rickn@ohio.net.