LeBron James is growing impatient with the direction the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers appear to be heading and is calling for the franchise to do something about it.
After Cleveland’s fifth loss in its past seven games — 124-122 to a New Orleans Pelicans team that was without Anthony Davis on Monday night — James unloaded on what he believes is a roster ill-equipped, in its current state, to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June.
“I just hope that we’re not satisfied as an organization,” James told a small group of reporters who regularly travel to cover Cleveland’s road games. “I just hope we’re not satisfied.”
The Cavs broke their city’s 52-year championship drought last season, eliminating a Golden State Warriors team that went an NBA-record 73-9 in the regular season. This season, Golden State added former MVP Kevin Durant and veteran big men David West, Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee — and leads the league with a 38-7 record. James says the Cavs, on the other hand, have regressed.
“We’re not better than last year,” he said, “from a personnel standpoint.”
Cleveland opted against re-signing Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov during free agency and waived Dahntay Jones. In their place, the Cavs added rookie point guard Kay Felder, acquired Mike Dunleavy (who has since been shipped out in the Kyle Korver deal) and signed Chris “Birdman” Andersen, who went down with a season-ending knee injury.
Meanwhile, James listed other free agents — Raymond Felton, who signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, and Michael Beasley, who was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks — as players who could have helped the Cavs make it through the regular season.
“It’s great to have bodies,” James said. “Obviously, in the playoffs, you go down to what, eight max? And if somebody gets in foul trouble, you go to nine. You’re not playing back-to-backs. You have two days in between. You’re able to lock in.”
He contrasted that with the Cavs’ schedule this week, which includes five games from Monday to Monday: at New Orleans, home against Sacramento on Wednesday, home against Brooklyn on Friday, home against Oklahoma City on Sunday and in Dallas on Monday.
“It’s like when you don’t have bodies. It’s tough,” James said. “The f—ing grind of the regular season. We’re a top-heavy team. We have a top-heavy team. We top-heavy as s—. It’s me, [Kyrie Irving], [Kevin Love]. It’s top-heavy.”
As he has done for several weeks, James continued to call for a backup point guard or playmaker to be added to the mix to help lessen the load for him and Irving, in particular. James played 44 minutes against New Orleans, racking up 26 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his fourth triple-double of the season. Irving played 42 minutes and scored a season-high 49 points.
James made it clear that his frustration is not aimed at any one teammate or person in the front office.
“I’m not singling out anybody,” James said. “I’m not. Yeah, we won [the championship], but f—, you know what, let’s see if we can do something.”
He said he has already voiced his thoughts about the roster to general manager David Griffin face-to-face. Realizing how it could look to call for a point guard with Felder and DeAndre Liggins on the roster, James said it would not be fair to expect either of those young players to fill such a significant role on a title-contending team.
“We need a f—ing playmaker,” James said. “I’m not saying you can just go find one, like you can go outside and see trees. I didn’t say that.”