INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Cavaliers forward Antawn Jamison wore a wine-colored practice jersey Monday. Maybe it should have been a much deeper shade of red.
Because after being torn apart in lopsided losses to Chicago and Atlanta, Cleveland is in danger of seeing the life drained from its season.
“We have to stop the bleeding,” Jamison said.
After a shocking 6-7 start, the Cavs have lost their last two games by a combined 66 points, blowouts in which they were overwhelmed by two quality opponents who made them look silly. It won’t get any easier as Cleveland visits Miami on Tuesday, when the Cavs renew acquaintances with LeBron James, their former teammate who decided to chase an NBA championship on his own.
Last season, the Cavs collapsed after James returned to Cleveland and laid a 28-point thrashing on his former team, who went on to lose a record 26 straight games in one stretch and finished 19-63. Jamison, for one, isn’t worried about the Cavs following a similar destructive path.
“Last year is last year and that (stuff) is not going to happen,” the 13-year veteran said “This is a different team. This is a better team, so what happened last year happened last year. The biggest thing for us is that we’re 6-9, we’re tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference, and the most important thing is to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible.”
They may need a tourniquet against the Heat.
Miami is smarting after a 91-82 home loss to Milwaukee on Sunday, and if the Cavs aren’t careful, they’ll be humiliated again.
After coach Byron Scott suffered through watching video of the 114-75 loss to the Bulls — Cleveland’s worst home loss in history — and the 121-94 shellacking by the Hawks, he decided it’s not the time to do anything rash. Scott’s not changing his lineup or benching anyone — at least not yet.
Rather, Scott believes the Cavs can heal themselves.
“We have two bad games and everybody wants to panic and make all these changes,” he said. “Like I told our guys today, we’ve had two bad games, and if the playoffs started today, we’d be in the seventh spot or the eighth spot. So it’s not all that bad.
“We’ve just got to make sure that we go back to the basics and do the things we did the first 13 games, which was compete on the defensive end, play hard. Our effort was unbelievable. We had second and third efforts. The last couple games we haven’t been getting that. It’s just getting back to the little things we were doing the first 13 games.”
Scott said rookie forward Tristan Thompson is questionable against the Heat because of an injured ankle. Thompson, who scored a season-high 16 points and added five rebounds in 23 minutes before he got hurt in the loss to the Hawks, was kept out of Monday’s practice to get treatment.
For Thompson and fellow rookie Kyrie Irving, the chance to face James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the powerful Heat will be another learning experience in a season of firsts. Scott isn’t concerned about his youngsters getting caught up in all the history between James and his former team.
“They don’t realize what’s going on,” he said. “They probably don’t even care. I think most of those guys just want to get back on track of playing good solid basketball. All the hoopla and all that stuff that’s going on, those guys who weren’t a part of it, I don’t think they could care less about it.”
Jamison has been through difficult stretches before, and said this one is no different.
However, what concerned him was that the Cavs didn’t bounce back from their pummeling by the Bulls. Instead, they repeated their mistakes and failed to play with effort against the Hawks.
“That’s unacceptable,” he said. “Teams know that we play hard. Teams are going to play hard against us for 48 minutes and for us not to come back and hit first and to continue to get hit and not do anything about it is unacceptable. The biggest thing for us is that we still have some tough opponents coming up but we have to stop the bleeding because you don’t want to get into a situation where you dig yourself a hole, and in the last month you’re trying to climb yourself out.”
Scott put the Cavs through a defensive-heavy practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts before the left for Miami and their date with James.
Scott had been especially critical of Irving’s defence over the weekend, but said the point guard had his best practice this season and understands he has to get better.
“He’s 19. It’s going to take some time,” Scott said. “But I think he’s headed in the right direction on that end of the floor.”