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The Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2017 is off to a rough start.
The team has gone just 5-6 in the new year, its latest loss coming to the lowly New Orleans Pelicans, who are 18-27 this season and were playing without Anthony Davis.
Despite a 49-point performance from Kyrie Irving and a triple-double from James, the Cavaliers could not stop the Pelicans, ceding 69 combined points to Jrue Holiday and Terrence Jones.
After the 124-122 loss, a frustrated James unloaded on the Cavs’ roster depth, calling for the front office to help bolster parts of the roster.
“We’re not better than last year. From a personnel standpoint,” James said (via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin).
“It’s like when you don’t have bodies. It’s tough. The f—ing grind of the regular season. We’re a top-heavy team. We have a top-heavy team. We top-heavy as s—. It’s me, [Kyrie Irving], [Kevin Love]. It’s top-heavy.”
James stressed that the Cavs needed a “f—ing playmaker,” comparing their roster to that of the Spurs, who beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Saturday despite being short-handed. James also brought up a nightmare scenario for the Cavs: an injury to him or Irving.
“They’ve got bodies,” James said. “For the most part, all championship-contending teams has got guys that are ready to step in. Knock on wood, what if Ky goes down? For two weeks. Let’s say two. What if I went down for three weeks?”
According to McMenamin, a reporter then asked James about tapering his minutes as the season goes on, as Cavs coach Tyronn Lue has suggested doing.
“Yeah, y’all are worried about five minutes,” James responded. “What if I went down for two weeks?”
James said he was not calling out the front office or any players, specifically, and noted that good role players couldn’t just be found anywhere.
Additionally, some of the Cavs’ lack of depth is the result of bad luck. Center Chris Andersen is out for the year after tearing his ACL early in the season, J.R. Smith has been out for weeks with a thumb injury, and backup guard Mo Williams opted to retire just before the start of the season, reportedly unbeknownst to Cavs’ management. After letting Matthew Dellavedova walk in free agency, the Cavs entered the season with a glaring hole at backup point guard, which appears to be James’ biggest point of contention.
Still, James’ message is most likely reaching the Cavs’ office loud and clear. Any major injury to the Cavs’ “big three” or to the prominent role-players Tristan Thompson or Iman Shumpert could set them back in a big way. As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst outlined, it won’t be easy for Cavs general manager David Griffin to swing trades, given the Cavs’ lack of draft picks going forward.
Nonetheless, James has made his desires known, and if the Cavs fail to add more depth, it could be a turbulent season going forward.