Ineligible Man Downfield: Don't rush to crown the Cavaliers

Are they fun? Yes. But give them time to grow.

The Cavs are better, but there’s still work to be done.

To paraphrase Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, the Cavs got their butts kicked on Sunday against the Celtics. They came in riding high off two wins over the Nets (and maybe the defining performance of Collin Sexton’s career) and fell on their face. No one really played all that well. Sexton, notably, didn’t score 20 points for the first time all year. And the offense cratered, finishing with an offensive rating of 95.3.

This kind of loss is also ok — really. It’s not fun to watch and the Cavs themselves won’t feel great on the plane ride home and in prepping for Monday’s game against the Lakers. But this kind of loss is also part of the process of a team growing. Cleveland clearly was feeling itself — Bickerstaff said he knew a minute into the game that the vibe was off — and it got beat down by a Boston team licking its wounds after two losses to Philadelphia. Going forward, it’s a teaching moment of what not to do the next time the Cavs go on a winning streak or beat an elite team.

The Cavs also shouldn’t be rushed into something it’s not ready for. Sexton is ascending. Darius Garland is on his way to being good. There’s a lot to like about Isaac Okoro. (Imagine if they’d had actually taken Obi Toppin!) Larry Nance Jr. is wildly underrated. Jarrett Allen should be the team’s starting center for the foreseeable future. The foundation is definitely strong — stronger than it’s been in any non-LeBron sense in a long, long time.

But it’s not time to hit the gas just yet. This is a feisty team that is improving now and will be in most games, but will still go through growing pains. Sunday was an example of that, and there’s more to come. And that’s ok — it’s how it should be. It’s a sign that the franchise is actually going somewhere. — Chris Manning


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Who we are

Chris Manning: Site Manager at Fear the Sword, co-host of the Locked on Cavs podcast, words at places like Cleveland Magazine and Forbes. On Twitter @cwmwrites

Jordan Zirm: Social editor at @TheCheckdown. Formerly of ESPN Cleveland. Words at B/R, SB Nation and UPROXX. Host of The Rebuild podcast. On Twitter @clevezirm

Alex Hooper: Contributor at Fantasy Sports Insight. Former Cleveland Baseball Club beat writer for 92.3 the Fan (WKRK), and contributor at Sports Illustrated, Let’s Go Tribe, and the News-Herald. On Twitter @lexhooper.

Photo: Getty