Cavaliers with serious hangover post-LeBron
October 31, 2018 3:00 AM
by Tony Mejia
Back in 2010, the first time LeBron James left Cleveland, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote his fan base a passionate letter where he personally guaranteed his team would win a champion “before the self-titled former ‘king’ wins one.” That promise didn’t work out.
Gilbert wrote that “bad karma” was headed Miami’s way. After James’ second stint with the Cavs came to an end this past June, the billionaire was more diplomatic, but that ill will he wished upon James and the Heat has doubled back and parked itself right out in front of Quicken Loans Arena. It may as well have taken up residence where LeBron’s “We are all Witnesses” mural used to be before being painted over with art paying homage to “Guardians of Transportation” and technological advances in that field.
The Cavs were without a win through six games entering Tuesday’s date with Atlanta, the team projected by most to be the worst in the East this season. After announcing the firing of head coach Tyronn Lue, replacement Larry Drew wouldn’t even accept the interim tag since he’s looking for fair compensation for all the strife involved with replacing his good friend and former boss.
Forward Kevin Love is likely out into December due to a sore toe, so the plan to take what’s left of James’ supporting cast and make a run at the playoffs has hit a major snag. Lue is out of a job is because he didn’t see eye-to-eye with Gilbert and GM Koby Altman over whether a youth movement should begin immediately. Drew, previously a head coach for the Hawks and Bucks and an assistant under Lue since 2014, is a capable replacement. A players-only meeting in which guys demanded more from one another transpired too, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Cavs beat the Hawks in their first game without Lue. That’s possible, but not what I’m recommending here.
Nuggets at Cavaliers (Thursday): This is a game that interests us. After emotions settle following this shakeup that sent the only living coach to ever bring a professional title to the city of Cleveland packing, all that’s left is a bad basketball team that must host the Nuggets on Thursday night. Denver will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back after visiting Chicago on Wednesday, so I don’t expect it to be laying double-digits at the Q. Look for the visitors to be roughly an 8 or 9-point favorite and count on them to win comfortably behind center Nikola Jokic and a defense that has held three of their first six opponents over 100 points. NUGGETS
Raptors at Lakers (Sunday): My other play can be kept in your back pocket for Sunday night and utilized whether you made out nicely on the Week 9 NFL card or need a bailout. Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors visit the slumping Lakers, the team many feel he’ll inevitably join via free agency next June. Toronto lost for the first time this season with Leonard resting in Milwaukee on Monday and have now seen how impressive the best two-way player in the league can be when healthy. With big men Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka emerging up front and backup point guard Fred VanVleet expected to be healthy enough to anchor the second unit, the Raps have the depth to win and cover at Staples as a road favorite of roughly 4-to-5 points. RAPTORS
Last week: 1-1