Originally written March 18, 2012 on Fox Sports Ohio:
CLEVELAND -- Someday, the Cavaliers will win games like these. Theyll come out with energy, play some strong defense, hit the open shot and beat a good team at home. But theyre not there yet. Not with two rookies in the starting lineup. Not with two veterans in the final year of their contract. Not with a rotation that suddenly looks to only go about eight deep. Case in point: The Hawks 103-87 victory over the Cavs on Sunday at The Q. Thats not a shot at first-year men Kyrie Irving or Tristan Thompson, or established men Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison -- or anyone anywhere who wears a Cavs uniform. Its just reality. Its just what we are likely to see more of from Clevelands pro basketball team this season. And when you think about it, it makes sense. The Cavs point guard and biggest threat is 19 years old. Their new starting center is 21, and really more suited to play power forward. Their backup point guard is no longer Ramon Sessions, who was traded to the Lakers last week. Instead, the Cavs will try to get it done by committee. That makes them a mostly young, vulnerable team. As of today, anyway. On the bright side, theyre still almost certain to steal a few games in which nobody gives them a chance. Sort of like their wins at Boston, at Denver and at Oklahoma City. That makes them a team worth following. But again, there are likely to be plenty more games like Sunday, when the Hawks pounced on the Cavs early and pretty much had their way the rest of the afternoon. They sort of came out and punched us in the mouth, and we never really responded to that, was how Cavs coach Byron Scott described it. There were definitely some bright spots. Not many, but some. One was the play of Alonzo Gee, who is beginning to look more and more like the teams Small Forward of The Future. Gee finished with 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including his usual dose of nasty dunks. Irving was also hot, scoring 19 points, passing for a game-high 10 assists and even blocking a team-high two shots. That makes you think the Cavs are on the right path. But this is clearly a long road, especially when it comes to defending. The Cavs just dont have the manpower to do it well for sustained stretches. At one point, the Hawks were shooting 60 percent (and finished at 51). They started by making five of their first seven 3-pointers. And All-Star guard Joe Johnson tallied 28 points. Thats a pretty good basketball team, Scott said, and he speaks the truth. The Hawks (26-19) have had mostly their same unit in place for about five years now. They are battling for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Theyre balanced, deep and athletic. Meanwhile, the Cavs (16-26) seem to fall further from the playoff race by the day. Theyre playing with one eye on the future, hoping to develop good habits with good people as they change and grow. As badly as they want it, the result is unlikely to be the postseason. Thats OK. Theyre not ready for teams like the Hawks anyway. Not Sunday. Not this year. Maybe soon, though. Aside from the occasional surprising win, right now, thats about the best for which Cavs fans can hope. Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO
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