Created on Thursday, 30 January 2014 Written by TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — The Cavaliers' season is sliding toward serious danger, if it's not there already.
General manager Chris Grant just knows it needs to stop. Now.
Making a rare mid-season appearance before the media to address some of Cleveland's most pressing issues, Grant said he's troubled by the team's will in recent games.
"The lack of effort is just not acceptable," Grant said following Wednesday's practice. "It's not who we are and who we want to be. It's got to be addressed head on. There's no excuse for that, but we've seen our guys compete and execute consistently and that's really what we've got to do a better job of."
Cleveland completed a 1-4 homestand with a 100-89 loss to New Orleans on Tuesday night. Following the poor performance, which came after an even worse one against Phoenix, Cavs coach Mike Brown questioned his team's motivation.
"Our competitive spirit is non-existent," said Brown, whose second stint with Cleveland has been a disappointment through 45 games. "Maybe I need to shake some things up."
Perhaps prompted by Brown's remarks, Grant made himself available to reporters during the season for the first time in more than three years for something other than to comment on a trade.
Grant said there is plenty of blame to be shared for Cleveland's sorry state. The Cavs are just 16-29 and currently out of the playoff race in the weak Eastern Conference.
"We're all accountable for it, including myself," Grant said. "It's frustrating. It's disappointing to our fans. The fans deserve better. That's hard, but we've got a very experienced, creative dynamic group of people who are working on a daily basis to help us become more consistent. We know it's there. Our guys, they're learning, they're growing and we have expectations for them and for ourselves.
"It's disappointing. We feel that every day."
On Sunday, the Cavs scored just six points in the third quarter and blew a 20-point lead before losing to the Suns.
The back-to-back clunkers at home were in stark contrast to the team's play during a recent West Coast trip in which Cleveland went 3-2 and seemed to have found its groove. But the Cavs have fallen back on bad habits and Grant said it's imperative the club gets back to winning quickly.
"We've seen this team play well together and click and it hasn't been consistent and that is the piece that we have to a better job of," Grant said. "You've heard Mike talk about it — we have execute better, we have to move the ball better and we have to trust each other. You've heard those terms before and we've got to get back to doing that. The group is capable of it."
The Cavs begin a three-game road trip in New York on Thursday. They'll also face Houston and Dallas before coming home.
After Tuesday's loss, All-Star guard Kyrie Irving said he and his teammates believe in Brown, who has struggled trying to get his players to buy into his defensive-minded system.
Although it's not showing in the form of wins, Grant thinks Brown has bonded with his players.
"Mike has done a fantastic job with these guys individually," he said. "He spends an enormous amount of time watching film with guys, teaching, coaching. I believe he has connected with the guys."
One positive Cavs on Tuesday was the performance by rookie Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick. He scored a season-high '15 points in 31 minutes. Grant has taken some heat for not sending Bennett to the D-League to work on his game, but it seems the team's patience could be paying off.
"I think the priority should be here for him working with our coaches, being on the floor getting those experiences," Grant said. "Last night was great. He performed well and played well and you could tell he was ready for the opportunity."