Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - On Thursday, LeBron James cited the already immortal quote from Green Bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers: RELAX.
While personal preference would've loved the citing reference to have been Frankie Goes to Hollywood, the message was clear. Everyone needs to exercise some patience regarding the 1-3 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Rodgers' words were uttered on his radio show and both he and the Packers have backed it up. The Packers are a game behind in the NFC North and James' Cavaliers will easily vault up the Eastern Conference standings.
Since it's 2014 and the world revolves around immediacy, panic has struck the NBA. Cleveland has looked bad at times and fell to 1-3. Two losses came against teams that missed the playoffs last season - the New York Knicks and Utah Jazz.
The Cavs have looked bad at times this early in the campaign. They managed six assists as a team in a loss to the Utah Jazz. That's pathetic, no two ways about it.
"There's no way you're going to win a basketball game like that, just having six assists," said James.
The disconnect thus far in Cleveland appears to be between James and Kyrie Irving. The two-time All-Star point guard and MVP of this summer's FIBA World Cup does not have a single assist in his last six quarters, despite jacking up 36 shot attempts, per ESPN.
It shouldn't shock anyone then, that Irving had a slightly different take on "Assist-gate."
"No, sometimes things happen in a game where you see a shot and you have to take it," Irving said when asked if the low assist total was a concern going forward. "We have to try and avoid it as best we can."
All of these early-season struggles have caught the national eye, but were to be expected. The Cavaliers couldn't rely strictly on talent. Plenty of NBA teams are talented. There needs time to jell and the Cavs have played exactly four games together in meaningful situations.
James committed eight turnovers in his re-debut for the Cavaliers. He said some of those instances were miscues stemming from thinking a teammate would zig when they zagged.
It all comes with time and four games is no sample size. Cleveland could literally go 78-0 the rest of the way and we could share a laugh about the concern we showed over cocktails.
However, this four-game slate is all we have and it's been discouraging. Those numbers from Irving, the team's point guard, are troubling. His job out there should be facilitating and scoring as the team's third option.
Nothing's that easy, not even the Jumble.
Irving has been a score-first point guard his entire life. Two coaches - Byron Scott and Mike Brown - needed him to be the primary scorer. That's two seasons worth of an NBA career, let alone high school, AAU and his two weeks with Duke that Irving is just supposed to erase from his mind and body in four games.
That's not easy, but should come by at least 2015. Personally, it's been a tad discouraging to see Irving jacking so many shots considering how unselfishly well he played with fellow All-Stars in Spain this summer. It seemed like a promising foreshadowing to what was headed to Cleveland this season.
But, when things go poorly, we, as humans, revert back to old ways. In golf, if a player is knee deep in a swing change, as soon as he or she hits a few balls wayward, the old swing creeps back in. That could be the case with Irving.
James is the best player in the league. He has struggled personally at the start of the season and some are questioning if his physical skills have diminished. Maybe they have.
James has played in 158 playoff games over the last nine seasons. That's six short of two extra regular seasons. That puts a lot of tread on the tires.
James is lighter than seasons past. His size was what separated him from other forwards. Imagine taking a charge from a steaming, slightly undersized offensive tackle. A lighter James might pay dividends in the long run, but it's probably taking LBJ some time to get comfortable with his new body.
The alpha dog status belongs to James, without question. Irving, Kevin Love and everyone in the Cleveland Cavaliers organization will realize such in due time. The single most important development in the Miami Heat's run to a title came when Dwyane Wade acquiesced top billing to James. They won the title that same season. It too, shall happen with Irving.
Irving will have his "Come to James" moment and things will get better. However, this transition isn't a totally one-way street. James has never in his life played with a high-quality scoring point guard. Due respect to Eric Snow, Boobie Gibson and Mario Chalmers, but put them all together and you don't have the singular talent of Irving.
Maybe, James needs to adapt a little better. He will be 30 in December and with the wear and tear on his body (don't forget three Olympic appearances), maybe it's not the worst idea in the world, to, at times, let Irving handle the offense. So there's no confusion, James is clearly the man, but a slightly lighter workload might be beneficial come summer time.
Amidst the sluggish start, the Cavs have reportedly become a little testy. ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported after a lopsided loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday. Windhorst described it as "healthy" according to his sources.
James is trying to teach these guys how to win. That's a learned skill. Against Portland, James didn't score a point in the second half. At times, James was distant from the offense. It appeared he was sending a tough message as if to say, "you clowns want to play this way, we will lose by 20."
All of these lessons learned in November should pay dividends in the postseason. Irving and Kevin Love have never made the postseason. Other than the Spurs Big Three and Kobe Bryant, James has appeared in the most playoff games among active players.
The question is, if things don't change, does LeBron go from teacher to dominator? How long can he be patient.
Everything will get sorted out. Teams aren't built in two weeks.
"Rome wasn't built in a day," said James.
Everyone needs to listen to LeBron, Frankie and Aaron: RELAX
- Gregg Popovich's checks are signed by the San Antonio Spurs. That's the only loyalty he needs to show. Perhaps, the NBA should just admit its mistake and not schedule them for Thursday night TNT games because he's going to play Rizzoli & Isles before Duncan, Parker and Ginobili.
- I picked the Houston Rockets to miss the playoffs, so I'm smart. Granted, their six wins came against Boston, Utah, the Lakers, Sixers, Heat and a depleted Spurs team. You have to beat who is front of you, but not exactly the Celtics' dynasty teams.
- Kobe Bryant leads the NBA in scoring and I'm going to say he will finish the season in the same spot. With Kevin Durant hurt and Carmelo Anthony sometimes struggling within the Knicks new triangle, Bryant is going to chuck 'em up in order to give the Lakers any chance of winning games.
- The Sacramento Kings have been awesome. DeMarcus Cousins for MVP. A four- game road trip against Phoenix, OKC, Dallas and Memphis will really show where they're at.
- Movie moment - I'm overjoyed for "Toy Story 4" in 2017, assuming I live that long. Where do they go with it? Does Andy buy the toys back for his kids? Wait, maybe that's exactly what happens. Remember this.
- TV moment - Excited for "The Newsroom" to return on Sunday. Love Aaron Sorkin. Bet there will be a moment where Will defends his group. Or, they will do a story no one else does.