You would have to be a totally reprehensible human being to not feel at least a little bit bad for the Cleveland Cavaliers this year. With a loss to Detroit last time out their losing streak stretched to 26 games. To say that no one reading this has ever seen a worse losing streak in any sport isn’t even an exaggeration -- with their next loss they will set the all time, all sport records for consecutive losses to go with their current NBA record. The only two teams to match the Cavs at 26 straight losses are the 1976-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and baseball’s Louisville Colonels in 1889.
The saddest part of this current streak is it isn’t even like this team is overachieving. They really are this bad. No team built around Antawn Jamison in his prime was going to be good, but when a 34-year-old Jamison is your offensive leader you have issues. Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao have been hurt, so it has fallen on guys like J.J. Hickson, Christian Eyenga, Ramon Sessions, and Manny Harris to carry the load. I have nothing but respect for all of those guys -- especially Harris, a star for my beloved Michigan Wolverines -- but none of them have any business starting in the NBA, never mind trying to lead a team.
This team isn’t losing because they can’t catch a break. They are losing because they are a worse team than every team they play. I’m not even kidding when I say I don’t even think they are the best team in Ohio right now -- if Jared Sullinger had a good day the Buckeyes could quite possibly beat the Cavs.
It’s doesn’t take a genius to figure out what has gone wrong with this team. Management, in one of the biggest displays of incompetence ever -- based their future entirely on Plan A -- the return of LeBron James. They had no Plan B. For some reason they didn’t think they needed one. When LeBron torched his reputation and became Public Enemy No. 1 the team was, to put it bluntly, screwed. Without LeBron no one wanted to play for them, and they had waited too long to get any worthwhile free agents anyway. Even with LeBron the talent level on the team wasn’t great, so without him it was a disaster. Add to that the fact that the departure sucked the soul out of the team and the city and this is where we are.
This team is proof that the power of a coach is limited when situations are out of control. Byron Scott took over this team in the offseason -- a good sign, I guess, that at least some people believed James was staying in Cleveland. Scott is a good coach -- a very good one. He took the Nets from nowhere to the finals in two years, and was named Coach of the Year in New Orleans. He knows how to run a team, but he is powerless to run this team. He has them working hard, but that just isn’t enough -- even though he has been up against several different coaches who don’t have the chops that he does.
So, when is this madness going to end? That could be an ugly question. Next up is the Clippers. Blake Griffin and company haven’t been great recently, but they are still the better team. They are a very lousy road team, though -- 4-18 -- so Cleveland has a fighting chance here.
If they lose that one then game No. 28 is a good reason to be optimistic -- the Wizards come into town. Do you know how many of their 25 road games Washington has won this year? None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. We’d be talking about that accomplishment if it weren’t for the Cavs. That’s sure reason to feel optimistic -- if a team that has lost 27 in a row has the ability to feel optimistic.
If the Cavs don’t win one of those two games then it could get ugly. They aren’t going to beat the Lakers. Houston isn’t great but would still be tough. The Knicks were the last team Cleveland beat, but they are playing too well to lose to this team twice. Philly and the Spurs round out the home stand. I could go on and on, but you get the point. If Cleveland doesn’t win one of the next two then this streak could be even more epic than it already is.
The obvious question to close with is if it makes sense to bet on this team to break their streak. The answer, as I see it, is clear -- absolutely not. I like betting on teams on losing streaks because there is a ton of value as the public deserts them. That value requires a team that is good enough to win but isn’t doing so, though. That’s obviously not the case for the Cavs. They aren’t a decent team in a rough patch. They are a lousy team only slightly playing below expectations. With the exceptions of the game against the Wizards, any game they win will be more because of luck and circumstance than skill. Betting on the Cavs, then, is not betting -- it’s gambling. If you want to gamble, play some roulette or something -- it’s less frustrating and you’ll get free drinks.