By Gene Cherry
SALVO, North Carolina (Reuters) - The downtrodden Cleveland Cavaliers are on the verge of a record-setting tailspin just one year after being the NBA's best regular-season team.
A Cleveland loss to Denver on Friday would equal the longest single-season losing streak ever by the once-proud franchise, which has been in a nosedive since the offseason departure of LeBron James.
Not since 1982 has a Cleveland team dropped 19 consecutive games.
"That's something that we don't need (reminding about)," Cavaliers forward Antawn Jamison told reporters after loss number 18, a demoralizing 112-97 defeat at Boston on Tuesday.
"The biggest thing for us is to go out there and compete, and not worry about what's being said in the news, and how many we lost in a row, one off whatever record."
The Cavaliers, with James leading the way, compiled a sparkling 61-21 regular season a year ago.
But James, an Ohio native, has taken his All-Star game to Miami, and the Cavaliers, an NBA-worst 8-37 and losers of a team-record 22 consecutive road games, are dredging up memories of the franchise's wretched 1981-82 and 1982-83 teams.
Those Cavaliers combined for an NBA record 24 consecutive defeats over two seasons, not winning a game from March 19 until November 10, 1982. (The single-season record is 23 by Vancouver, in 1996, and Denver, in 1997-98.)
Without a big-time player, Cleveland dropped a franchise-high 19 consecutive games to close out the 1981-82 season and lost five more to start the 1982-83 year.
Like baseball's bumbling New York Mets of the early 1960s, the Cavaliers stumbled often, winning only 15 of 72 games in 1982 and a mere 23 the next season.
Despite a rash of injuries making a difficult year even more challenging, current Cleveland coach Byron Scott is hoping to avoid those kind of numbers.
"I come to practice every day (thinking) that we've got another chance to get better as a basketball team," Scott said after the Boston defeat.
(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)