There's been no shortage of drama surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers of late. An inexcusable loss to an extremely short-handed Memphis Grizzlies team on Monday night just raised more questions about the Eastern Conference favorite.
One of those questions involves the relationship between stars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and The Vertical's Chris Mannix reports a disconnect between the two players. One scout who recently watched the Cavaliers described to Mannix an on-court chemistry that's "basically non-existent." Naturally, sources from within the team told Mannix the relationship is fine, although there's also an admission that James is working hard to improve that chemistry. There's an understanding that there's plenty of room for that chemistry to improve.
Given their respective skill sets and some of the injury problems, it's no surprise there are still kinks to work out, just like there were when James and Dwyane Wade played together. Whenever two ball-dominant players share the floor for large chunks of action, it's going to take time to mesh, especially when you toss another high-usage player into the mix like Chris Bosh or Kevin Love.
Irving still needs to get used to playing more off the ball, and he's clearly not as comfortable doing that compared to running pick-and-roll and isolation sets, where he's one of the most dynamic players in the league. That kind of development may come, but the Cavaliers don't have much time to wait for it.
Even with some of these issues, Cleveland has still been a dominant offensive team when James and Irving share the floor. The Cavaliers have scored over 113 points per 100 possessions in 805 James-Irving minutes and have a record of 26-9 in games in which they've both played, per NBA.com. That's an elite offense and a record that's extrapolated to nearly 61 wins in 82 games.
The defensive end of the floor has been more troubling, as opposing point guards make it a habit to feast on Cleveland. Irving has never been particularly good on that end, and he's especially struggled as he works his way back from offseason knee surgery. James has declined on that end as the minutes have added up, and when you toss in Love's well-documented defensive shortcomings, it's more difficult to see that core operating at an elite level defensively.
There's still over a month left in the regular season, so the Cavaliers have some time to get on the same page as head coach Tyronn Lue continues to tinker to try to find an optimal rotation. Cleveland has shown flashes of the dominance that makes it so terrifying when things are firing on all cylinders, but the consistent focus and execution haven't been there. Getting James and Irving more on the same page would help, but it's also on the coach and the rest of the roster to do their part.
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