Updated 12:38 PM EST, Thu, Nov 26, 2020

Cleveland Cavaliers News and Rumors: Have LeBron James and the Cavs Given Up?

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Pundits scoffed when LeBron James, during his Cleveland homecoming last August, professed shaping the Cavaliers into title contenders was "going to be a process."

They downplayed James' call for patience, focusing on struggling All-Star talent around the two-time NBA champion rather than his comparison to building a car from scratch. The Cavs were 1-2 at the time and reeling from a 19 point loss at Portland. But this was early November; surely first-year head coach David Blatt would turn it around. For a while he did.

Cleveland riled off eight straight wins from Nov. 24- Dec. 9, highlighted by victories over Washington, Indiana, and two over Eastern Conference-leading Toronto. James averaged 24.8 points per game, Kevin Love notched five straight double-doubles, and the Cavs' docile defense allowed 20 fewer point per night (82.3) than the previous 12 games.

Just as haughty championship aspirations seemed realistic, as if early-season struggles had come and gone with the ebb and flow of adjusting to new teammates, Cleveland's locker room was hit with the injury bug.

Mike Miller, whose time in Miami was marred by injuries, missed seven games after suffering from concussion-like symptoms during the team's Dec. 4 win over the Knicks. Days later, Kyrie Irving sprained his left knee against Oklahoma City; an injury he hasn't fully recovered from, along with a bruise along the same knee that kept the point guard out of acting last weekend.

Anderson Varejao's torn Achilles tendon is the most devastating setback. Losing the veteran center - who was averaging 9.8 PPG while shooting 56 percent from the field- won't significantly affect Blatt's game plan, but it does leave him without a big man to lean on. The Cavs already rank 23rd in points allowed per 100 possessions and 21st in blocks per game. Take away a rim-protector like Vaerjao and a vulnerable defense becomes a liability.

Love and Tristan Thompson up the middle are short-term solutions for a long-term problem. The Cavs can't compete without a dependable presence under the basket. They were already in the market for a center long before Varejao was injured, inquiring into Memphis' Kosta Koufos and Denver's Timofey Mozgov. Minnesota's Corey Brewer was briefly in play before Houston snagged Brewer's $4.7 million contract.

The Cavs have a first-round draft pick ready to be shipped and, according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, they may spend it on one of the Lopez brothers.

"League sources say the Cavs have an interest in both Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (clearly on the market) and Portland Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez (Brook's twin brother). But salaries would any sort of move involving the Cavs and either Lopez both unlikely."

Most of the franchise's money tied up in James and Love, leaving little wiggle room for big-name acquisitions. In all likelihood, this is the club Blatt is rolling into the postseason with. If he lasts as long.

Sunday's 103-80 home loss to the six-win Detroit Pistons dropped the Cavs 3.5 games behind Central-division leading Chicago. Two weeks earlier, Atlanta hammered them for 127 points at Quicken Loans Arena. Since Dec. 11, Cleveland has only one won contest against a club over .500. Needless to say, there is cause for concern at the Q.

King James' return to the Forest City is near disastrous levels just three months into the 2014-15 NBA season. At 18-12, the Cavs would reach the playoffs as a fifth seed if only for the fact that they compete in the dreary Eastern Conference where all but six teams have more losses than wins. No other NBA team allows more assists and only one Eastern squad allows a higher opponent field goal percentage.

James sporadically reiterates his desire to turn the Cavs into a winning organization, but can opt out of his contract at season's end. So can Love, who's rumored to be eyeing a move to Laker Land. If they don't mesh with Blatt's style nothing is stopping them from leaving, even if that means alienating a downtrodden fan base.

As Cleveland.com's Chris Haynes put it, any coaching changes won't be a result of James' displeasure.

"James has not and will not, throughout the course of the season, go to management seeking Blatt's removal, a league source said. That level of authority is not in his job description." Haynes wrote. "Listen man, I don't pay no bills around here. I play,' James said following Monday's practice."

Haynes went on to say that James wouldn't "hesitate to make the appropriate business decision if it means bolting," though sources were not given.

Mounting injuries. Lack of a proven center. Miscommunication between player and coach. James knew there would be growing pains, but it's doubtful he expected anything like this. Come summer 2015, he doesn't have to be around to see it through.

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