Cavaliers players send anonymous message to front office: We need help

Following Monday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors, a number of “prominent” Cleveland Cavaliers anonymously shared their concerns with ESPN, The Athletic and Cleveland.com that the team is not equipped to recover from its current January swoon the same way past iterations of the roster have.

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This is not merely frustration from losing to the reigning NBA champions for the seventh time in eight meetings or mounting anger over dropping eight of their last 10 outings. This is also a clear message to the front office that something has to change before the trade deadline, because the theme from Cavs players who let the team’s three primary beat reporters behind the curtain was, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, “an aging roster, defensively challenged personnel and a glut of redundant role players.”

And, via The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd:

Players on both teams Monday were quietly acknowledging that [Kyrie] Irving’s absence has changed the entire complexion of this rivalry.

And, via Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon:

“Rotations are awful. IT [Isaiah Thomas] is so much worse than Kyrie defensively it’s insane,” said a league source. “There is not a great feeling anywhere. They need to limp into the All-Star break and get away from each other.”

Thomas is the elephant in the Cavaliers’ locker room, and his struggles were a central focus of the three postgame dispatches from Cleveland. He’s shooting 36.1 percent on 14.4 shots and averaging almost as many turnovers (2.4) as he is assists (3.4), and they are allowing a mind-boggling 116.8 points per 100 possessions in the 116 minutes he’s been on the floor. Meanwhile, Irving is an MVP candidate for the East-leading Boston Celtics, who now lead the Cavs by 7.5 games in the standings.

This should not be surprising. Thomas required seven months of rehab for a torn hip labrum, and Lloyd counted seven occasions that the two-time All-Star point guard has lamented the team’s lack of practice as reason for his ineffectiveness. “We don’t practice,” Thomas added Monday, via The Athletic. “So [the] only thing that’s going to help me is getting reps and running up and down the floor.”

The problem, though, is that Thomas told reporters this past weekend it could be 15-20 games before he finds his rhythm, and that brings the Cavaliers to the All-Star break, when GM Koby Altman will be faced with a decision — to chase a fourth straight Finals appearance by trading future assets, including the first-round pick from the lottery-bound Brooklyn Nets that the Cavs acquired in the Irving-for-Thomas swap, or to keep them as rebuilding insurance should LeBron leave in free agency.

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LeBron James through the years
File photo of high school basketball star LeBron James getting set for a foul shot during the annual Jordan Capital Classic high school all-star game in Washington, April 17, 2003. James will hold a press conference at his high shool in Akron, Ohio April 25, 2003, where he is expected to state his intentions concerning the upcoming NBA draft. James is expected to be the number one pick should he make himself available for the draft. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn-Files GMH/HB
Lebron James announces his entrance into the NBA draft, during a press conference at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, April 25, 2003. The six-foot-eight James, 18, is expected by many to be the number one selection in the draft on June 26. REUTERS/Jason Cohn JC/HB
LeBron James (R) shakes hands with National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern after being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft at Madison Square Garden in New York, June 26, 2003. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton PM
Cleveland Cavaliers first draft pick LeBron James speaks with reporters following a picture session at Gund Arena, in Cleveland, October 2, 2003. REUTERS/Ron Kuntz RK/ME
Cleveland Cavalier rookie forward LeBron James (23) shoots over New Orleans Hornets defenders Baron Davis (1) and David Wesley (4), in the fourth period of NBA action in Cleveland, Ohio, December 23, 2003. James 22 points was the high scorer for the Cavaliers who defeated the Hornets 97-86. REUTERS/Marc Serota MS
Paul Pierce (R) of the Boston Celtics and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers chat while the scoreboard is fixed during the fourth quarter of their game at Gund Arena, February 9, 2004. The Cavaliers won, 97-89. REUTERS/Ron Kuntz RK
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (C) gets a layup as Seattle Supersonics forward Rashad Lewis (L) and Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki look on, during the first half of the 54th NBA All-Star Game in Denver, February 20, 2005. REUTERS/John Gress JM
Eastern Conference forward LeBron James holds the Most Valuable Player trophy at the 55th NBA All-Star Game in Houston, Texas February 19, 2006. The East defeated the Western Conference 122-120. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James questions a call during their NBA playoff game against the Washington Wizards in Washington May 5, 2006 Cleveland defeated Washington, 114-113, to advance in the NBA playoffs. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Forward LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, works on his jump shot at morning practice during the first day of training camp for the USA men's basketball team in Las Vegas July 19, 2006. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) shoots over New York Knicks forward Quentin Richardson (L) and guard Stephon Marbury (R) in the fourth quarter of their NBA basketball game in New York's Madison Square Garden, November 13, 2006. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James is seen on the court during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, California, February 15, 2007. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James goes through his pregame powder ritual prior to the start of Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first round NBA playoff basketball game in Cleveland, Ohio April 25, 2007. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James answers media questions before practice for their NBA Finals basketball series against the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio, Texas, June 8, 2007. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James (L) celebrates after dunking against the New Orleans Hornets David West during the NBA All-Star basketball game in New Orleans, Louisiana February 17, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James (L) is guarded by Chicago Bulls Thabo Sefolosha (R) during the first quarter of their NBA basketball game in Cleveland, April 3, 2008. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James drives to the basket during the third quarter of their NBA basketball game in Cleveland January 9, 2009. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers Lebron James sits with his girlfriend Savana Brinson and son Bryce Maximus during the Rookie Challenge at the NBA All-Star basketball weekend in Phoenix, Arizona, February 13, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James speaks after being named the NBA Most Valuable Player during a ceremony at his alma mater St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio May 4, 2009. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James celebrates after Mario Chalmers scored a three pointer against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, December 25, 2010. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James (R) stands with Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade during Game 5 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Dallas, June 9, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James watches a shot against the Dallas Mavericks through the net during the second half in Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Miami, June 2, 2011. REUTERS/David J. Phillip/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James dunks against the Washington Wizards in the first half of their NBA basketball game in Miami, Florida December 15, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James speaks at a press conference after his team defeated the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of their NBA Finals basketball playoff in Miami, Florida June 20, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Dec 19, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) makes a pass against the Brooklyn Nets during the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James wears an " I Can't Breathe" t-shirt during warm ups prior to the game against the Brooklyn Nets in Brooklyn, New York, December 8, 2014. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo
June 14, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James speaks to media following the 104-91 loss against the Golden State Warriors in game five of the NBA Finals. at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates with the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy after beating the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 21: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers pauses on the court during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at Quicken Loans Arena on January 21, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Spurs defeated the Cavaliers 118-115. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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According to McMenamin, “several league sources told ESPN that the Cavs would prefer to hold onto the pick as a potential franchise-resetting asset should LeBron James leave as a free agent in July.”

LeBron’s unwillingness to inform Cleveland of his plans this coming summer leaves Altman in a bind, and if the four-time MVP is one of the prominent players all but asking for reinforcements through the media, then that bind becomes more like the vice that Joe Pesci used as a torture device in “Casino.”

It’s become clear that the Cavs no longer have a roster equipped to compete with the Warriors in another championship rematch, and it’s becoming clearer that they may not be able to hold off the Celtics and Toronto Raptors in order to get LeBron to his eighth straight Finals — no matter how many times James tells us, “I love our potential,” or Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says, “We’re not right now, but we will be the best team in the East. We’re not playing the best right now, but we will be.”

Will the Cavs mortgage their future for what could be one last run with LeBron and/or one last shot to convince him they can continue competing for titles? We’ll find out by the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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