LOS ANGELES — The Cavs’ stay here isn’t finished. There’s an off day in Beverly Hills and a practice (gasp!) Tuesday at UCLA before departure for the Rockies.
But the first few days here in Los Angeles were so vintage Cavs, a picture-perfect snapshot of what it is to be on or around this team during the regular season, where virtually the only matter of import as far as basketball is concerned is to be ready come playoff time.
“We didn’t want to leave L.A. winless,” LeBron James said, following Cleveland’s 125-120 win over the Lakers Sunday night.
Here’s a rundown of what happened or didn’t happen, at least the things we know of. At the end, you’ll see this four-game, eight-day trip is already a microcosm of the Cavs’ 2016-17 season, and it’s only half over.
- Practices are already rare on this team, on which the average age for players is 29.5 years. Morning shootarounds on the day of games are becoming more rare. The Cavs didn’t gather on Saturday morning ahead of the Clippers game, which wasn’t entirely unusual because the game had a 5:30 p.m. start on the West Coast, but….
- Without shootaround, the media (and general public) didn’t find out James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love weren’t playing against the Clippers. The Cavs were the first team to “forfeit” a game when they sat their Big 3 at Memphis in December. Rest has been a season-long theme for this team. No need to rehash. So is losing on nights when James doesn’t play. The 30-point drubbing dropped the Cavs to 0-6 without James this season.
- The Cavs were ripped nationally for not playing their players. Per usual, coach Tyronn Lue apologized for them not playing, but defended the decision. Although it sounded like it was more general manager David Griffin’s idea for James to rest.
- James was definitely upset about not playing. Irving may have been too. But neither used his considerable clout to override the decision. James went to dinner after the game with close friend and Clippers guard Chris Paul.
- On Sunday, back at Staples Center, against the 20-win Lakers, Denzel Washington was in the house. Only, he spent a great deal of time in the expansive media room with the giant TVs, watching the NCAA tournament.
- James has a $21 million home in suburban L.A. Given that the Cavs are here for about five days, the whole family is in town and was at the game. Wife Savannah, boys LeBron Jr. and Bryce, and daughter Zhuri sat a few rows behind the Cavs’ bench with Griffin. James’ mother Gloria was also here.
- Seated near midcourt — on the floor at Staples Center, of course, where the stars sit — were Rich Paul and Nike executive Ted Curvy. It’s like they knew someone.
- Paul, of course, is James’ agent. Curvy is Nike’s liaison to James. Paul had to get up from his seat, though, in the second half and head to the locker room to check on another client.
- Remember, this is all about the trip to L.A. being a microcosm of the whole Cavs’ experience. Well, injuries are a part of that. Tristan Thompson, also represented by Paul, had his two front teeth knocked backwards by Julius Randle in the third quarter. Thompson was done for the game. The Cavs have lost 114 player games to injury this season. Doesn’t sound like Thompson will add to that.
- Paul recounted what happened to Thompson to Maverick Carter, James’ close friend and long-time business partner, who of course was also seated on the court at Staples. Carter runs James’ SpringHill Entertainment, a growing media company with offices on the lot at Warner Bros.
- Players have families join them on trips all the time. Some of them have summer homes in Los Angeles. Only one I can think of has a lifetime deal with Nike, worth maybe $1 billion, and owns a production company with game shows on NBC and dramas on Starz and all sorts of projects in between.
- The game was mostly a Trainwreck (pun intended), save for the final score. Lue was awesome afterwards.
- “We messed with the game,” Lue said. “We know there are times we can turn it up, but sometimes it’s too late. They played a good game, we had to fight to try to win this game.”
- He also said: “I know our team and the way we are. Sometimes you have to understand it’s not a show, it’s a competition. We get to L.A. and play teams like this, we consider it a show instead of a competition. And you get down early, teams get confidence and now you have to fight and struggle to win the game.”
- The Cavs’ virtually unmatchable talent (save for Golden State) of course shone through. Irving scored 46 points on 21 shots. James added 32. Both scored 14 in the fourth quarter, which the Cavs won 43-28. Oh, Love added 21 points and 15 rebounds.
- They clinched a playoff spot with the win.
- Richard Jefferson was to appear on ESPN’s The Jump with Rachel Nichols at 3 p.m. Monday. Paul is on the show on Tuesday. Jefferson will also tape his new podcast with teammates — you know, the one where Irving said the earth was flat.
- All that hand wringing Saturday, and here we are come Monday in L.A. with the Cavs locked into the playoffs, holding a 2.5-game lead over Boston for first in the East, getting healthier as a team and biding their time until the real season starts in mid-April.
- It’s been like this all season for the defending champs.
- It was like this all weekend in L.A.