When LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he knew the team would have an adjustment period.
“It’s something that I was ready for,” James told ESPN.com on Nov. 24. “I knew that it was going to be my biggest challenge of my career thus far, so I accept the challenge, and when we lose, I take full responsibility. When we win, the team wins. That’s what it’s about.”
And a transition it has been. Through their first 16 games, the new “Big 3” of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and James have gone 9-7 and currently sit in sixth place in a weak Eastern Conference.
However, it takes time for everything to play out.
But what is everything though? Everything consists of team chemistry to off-court relationships and both offensive and defensive playmaking. James knew that the Cavs would go through all of this. And it’s because he’s done it before.
Many fans and media expected the Cavaliers to start the regular season being a great team, and with James’ first “true” point guard in Irving, many thought this team could rely on its playmaking alone.
Despite having a 5-3 record through the middle of November, the Cavs lost four straight, causing many to wonder if coach David Blatt was the right coach for one of the most talented teams in the NBA. Some fans have even wanted Blatt fired, as James has taken on a coaching role because Blatt has never played or coached in the NBA before.
Blatt played collegiately at Princeton and then went on to play and coach in Israel, as well as coach the Russian national team in the 2012 Olympic games, leading the team to a bronze medal.
But the NBA is different from any place Blatt has coached before, and it shows.
Coming into Tuesday’s game against Milwaukee the Cavs, despite being 11th in the NBA in points per game with 103.3, ranked 24th in total rebounds per game with 41.1. Defensively, it ranks 17th in total points allowed per game with 99.3. They are also 27th in assists allowed per game with 24.8.
Love was also on the record saying that his new team was going to have a transition period.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time, but we’re going to clean this up, I guarantee you that,” Love told ESPN.com. “Team morale is great. We get along, but we know we have a ton of work to do.”
Through everything the Cavs have gone through this season, many fail to mention that James and his former team, the Miami Heat, had a transition period of nearly a month and a half, before the team started to get a feel for one another’s style of play.
It wasn’t until Dec. 2, 2010, when the Heat played the Cavs, in what was James’ first game against his former team, that the Heat turned the corner. Despite Cleveland going into that game with two straight wins, the Heat beat the Cavs, 118-90. After that, everything seemed to click for the winning team. From there, the Heat continued their three-game winning streak and won 20 of their next 21 games.
Before going on that run and heading into 2011 at 25-9, some were calling for the firing of coach Erik Spoelstra.
Despite taking the Heat to the NBA Finals in his first two seasons coaching the team, its start was something many didn’t expect.
In their first 18 games together, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and James went 10-8, with key wins coming against the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers, who both made the playoffs that season. Rumors had spread that Heat President Pat Riley would relieve Spoelstra of coaching duties and take over. Instead, Riley did nothing, and the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals that season.
Sixteen games in, the Cavs have key wins against the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards and are still going through some growing pains, but have won four-straight.
But like the Heat, it doesn’t matter what is going on now, the future is more important. That’s why people say it’s not how you preform in the first half of the season, it’s how you preform in May and June.
So while fans may be worried about how the Cavs preform, remember that it just takes time.
Time is one of the hardest things to live with as a sports fan because as a team is going through a rebuilding phase, the product you see on the floor isn’t necessarily the product you’ll see at the end of the day.
By the beginning of January, I guarantee Blatt and the Cavs will have figured something out and will continue to fight toward a potential birth in the NBA Finals. Only so much can be learned during training camp, and time for adjustments in the regular season has to be learned in practice and during in-game situations.