On Tuesday night, the Cavaliers were embarrassed by the Magic. At one point up 21 points only to lose by double digits. It felt like rock bottom.
After the game, I informed the Complex Sports crew that if the Cavs didn’t make any moves by Thursday, I was going to freak out. Freak out to the point where I was ready to tear into Dan Gilbert like never before.
The team was broken. The Isaiah Thomas experiment was failing. He wasn’t healthy and it got to the point where they needed him out of the locker room. I wasn’t sure what Cavs management would do.
They were tied to rumors but nothing seemed close. I was a nervous wreck. Could this be the end of the Cavs run? Are we really going to make LeBron James go out like this in Cleveland? Luckily, Koby Altman—the Cavs’ 35-year-old GM—is a magician and nobody knew about it until yesterday.
With two moves before the trade deadline, the Cavs completely changed the trajectory of their season by replacing IT, Jae Crowder, Iman Shumpert, Dwyane Wade, Channing Frye, and Derrick Rose with Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood, and George Hill. They got younger, more athletic, and at the same time sent IT and Crowder out of town to help rebuild the culture of the team.
It takes balls to trade six players in one day. It also takes balls to admit your mistakes, and that’s exactly what Altman and Gilbert did yesterday. Just like IT, Rose was a bad fit. IT isn’t ready to help a championship team because of his health. Jae Crowder didn’t mesh with the personnel. Wade was helping the Cavs off the bench, but both LeBron and the team knew he wanted to be in Miami. Frye getting traded hurts—he was on the 2016 title team and great with the rest of the team. But as far as on the court, the Cavs upgraded across the board with more athleticism.
With these moves, the Cavs have once again become the favorites in the Eastern Conference, especially with the fact that the Boston Celtics failed to make a move before the deadline. It will surely take the Cavs a few games and maybe even a few weeks before the new squad figures out how to play together.
But more importantly, the Cavs now have a rejuvenated and reinvigorated LeBron James. Just look at Wednesday’s game against the Timberwolves. LeBron was brilliant, with 37 points, a triple double, and the stunning game-winning shot. Now think about that performance with the knowledge that the team made LeBron aware on Tuesday night that moves were coming. Is that a coincidence? Maybe, but if it’s a sign to come from LeBron James going forward, then the Cavs are going to be more than fine, without even factoring in the new additions.
Things still have to play out on the court and as we know, anything can happen in the NBA, but the Cavs got better at the deadline. Much better than they were before. There wasn’t a guarantee that they would be able to improve the roster, but they went for it. They doubled down on LeBron James, and as we know, that’s never a bad gamble.