Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The really, really bad Cavaliers

How bad are the Cavaliers? So bad, calling them the Cadavaliers is a compliment.

They are so beyond bad, there might not be a descriptive enough adjective to pin an accurate label on them.

Eight victories in their first 38 games is more than enough to conjure up thoughts of the club’s inaugural season. Not since the 1970-71 expansion club has a Cavaliers team been this awful. That first team won only 15 games in its initial season, an ignominious number that will clearly be threatened by the current team.

A perusal of the two teams reveals some extremely interesting similarities and some surprising differences.

For example, seven of those 15 victories in the first season were at the expense of the Buffalo Braves, a fellow expansion team. Two others were against another expansion club, the Portland Trail Blazers. The current team doesn’t have expansion cupcakes on the schedule.

Those pioneer Cavaliers of coach Bill Fitch, playing in a 17-team league (compared to today’s 30 teams), averaged a surprising 102.1 points a game in the first campaign, a more than respectable number by today’s standards. Imagine that. Scoring 102 points a game and winning only 15 games.

If the current Cavs, who average nine points a game less at 93.3, scored that well, there’s no way they bring up the rear of the National Basketball Association.

Flip that coin and you’ll notice the expansion Cavs gave up 113.3 points a game, compared to the 103.9 this season’s team permits. Chalk one up for the current crew.

Long losing streaks were common to Fitch’s team. They wrapped 15- and 12-game losing streaks around their first victory on Nov. 12, 1970, a 105-103 triumph in Portland. Following the 12-gamer came their first home victory (against Buffalo). Then they rang up a seven-gamer. So after 36 games, they were an astonishing 2-34.

Which means they were a very respectable, comparatively speaking, 13-33 the rest of the season.

The newest edition of the Cavs has come close to matching those embarrassing statistics. If it weren’t for a 109-102 overtime victory at home against the New York Knicks on Dec. 18, the Cavs would now be riding the crest of a 22-game losing streak.

That victory shattered a 10-game losing streak, but they since have outdone themselves with an 11-gamer during which they have removed yet another 1970-71 stain from the record books. They’ll plumb even greater depths with visits to Utah and Denver this weekend.

Their way-beyond-embarrassing 112-57 loss to the Lakers Tuesday night in Los Angeles was their 17th straight game on the road without a victory. The best the expansion Cavs could do in that department was a 16-gamer. Somewhere, Fitch is smiling.

Some more startling stats: The expansion team put up numbers of which today’s Cavs would be jealous. It scored fewer than 90 points only nine times in 82 games. This season’s team has already scored fewer than 90 points in 12 of its 38 games.

The expansion Cavs held opponents to fewer than 100 points only five times, but won three of those games. By contrast, this season’s Cavs are 5-5 in games limiting opponents to fewer than 100 points.

With the team playing at its current level, there’s no reason to believe they won’t ultimately set other team records for futility before the season concludes. No one seems to be taking charge. There appears to be no will to win.

It’s almost as though the Cavaliers are tanking the season with the hope of garnering the largest number of ping-pong balls for the lottery in June. Unlike their last journey into the lottery, there’s no LeBron James this time.

All they can hope for now is for Mo Williams and Daniel Gibson to suddenly develop consistency; Antawn Jamison to remain healthy enough to be relevant to the cause; J. J.Hickson to finally step up and play as well as he did last season; and Manny Harris to surprise everyone and become a scoring threat.

Without all those factors, the club’s record for futility is definitely on the line.

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