The Cleveland Cavaliers traded six players three days ago, brought in four news ones, and already, in 72 hours, everything seems so much brighter than it was. The Cavs blew out the Celtics, 121-99, in a game that was decided in three quarters, and LeBron James hasn’t looked this happy in years!
The Cavs’ new pieces came up big on Sunday afternoon. Jordan Clarkson finished with 17 points on 11 shots, George Hill had 12 points, Larry Nance Jr. added five, and Rodney Hood had 15. That’s huge, and Cleveland has hardly had any time to practice.
An added bonus for LeBron: He got to spoil Paul Pierce’s jersey retirement on the road in the same week his team was the victim of serious scrutiny.
Look how freakin’ happy he was!
James — in a raspy voice, probably from cheering on the bench — spoke about his new teammates’ hunger for success beyond the regular season given the limited experience they’ve had. That can only help spark a team that’s been nothing but disappointing over the last month. From a distance, it looked like LeBron himself was playing with a purpose for the first time all year.
It’s important to remember that this was just one game, and players who were shooting poorly suddenly went berserk. J.R. Smith had 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting, and Cedi Osman had 12 points on eight shots. That’s not going to happen every night, but this performance was exciting nonetheless.
The most telling sign of the improving dynamic was when James and Smith gave words of encouragement to Osman after the rookie blew a wide-open layup. There’s nothing that indicates that the same would have happened a week ago with Cleveland’s old roster.
The upbeat atmosphere was contagious throughout the Cavs bench as role players went above their typical role.
This was as good a start as any Cavs fan could’ve asked for from their brand new team, though it was just one game. But there’s now reason to be excited for where this team can be by April.