Expected to be an up-and-coming playoff contender this season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have instead begun 2013-14 with 12 losses in 16 games. Following the team's latest defeat, a 103-86 shellacking in Boston on Friday, star guard Kyrie Irving stood up in front of reporters and publicly took responsibility for the team's losing ways, via Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer:
"I'm taking full responsibility of all this. I'm the head the snake of all this. I've just got to be better. I've got to do more. I've got to do extra stuff out there on the floor, off the floor, with these guys and and have got to ramp up my level of play. I've just got to be better ... It's starts with me. I've just got to be better and I will be a lot better.''
With the Cavaliers scrambling to figure things out as losses pile up, it's been easy to point to the team's backcourt -- once the greatest source of hope in Cleveland -- as a key culprit. Between the recent trade rumors concerning second-year guard Dion Waiters and Irving's struggles on the court, the Cavs simply haven't gotten the production they were anticipating on the perimeter.
Irving in particular hasn't looked like himself this season. With many analysts expecting a breakout season for the former No. 1 overall pick, he's instead stumbled to career-worst efficiency numbers almost across the board. While his per-game stats look alright -- 20.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists per contest -- it's hard to ignore the drop in true shooting percentage from .553 to .492, per Basketball-Reference.
After things nearly boiled over for Cleveland during a players-only meeting earlier this month, it's clear the team's veteran leadership wants to steady the boat. And while Irving may only be in his third year, he's been on the team as long as practically everyone sans Anderson Varejao. Ultimately, this is Irving's team and he's clearly aware of that.
The all-star still needs to deliver on the court, though, and he hasn't done that this season. While he's had the occasionally electric game, Irving is still a maddeningly inconsistent defender who brings most of his value as an elite offensive player. The Cavaliers need more right now, especially on the end of the floor where Irving is supposed to shine.
When you have players like Irving and Waiters, you shouldn't be one of the league's worst offenses, but according to NBA.com only the Jazz and Bucks are scoring at an inferior clip. That's a major concern, particularly when head coach Mike Brown does most of his work on the defensive end. This scenario was built around Irving powering the offense, something he hasn't done yet.
But as bad as Irving has looked at times this season, he's also dealt with a number of minor injuries, the kind of stuff that doesn't sideline you but undoubtedly affects your on-court ability. Over his past four games, he's gone 1-of-16 from three-point range. Realistically, that's not going to happen again anytime soon.
We're at a low point in the Cavaliers' season, though. Less than a quarter of the way through the schedule, this may be rock bottom: Waiters trade rumors, horrid wing production, Kyrie calling himself out -- you can only hope that their problems things get better with time. Maybe it all starts with a little public self-reflection, like we saw from Irving on Friday.