On nights when Kyrie Irving isn't good offensively, the Cleveland Cavaliers' offense isn't good. This might sound like an obvious oversimplification, or a way to deflect blame from Mike Brown's game plan, but that doesn't make it any less true.
When Irving asserts himself offensively and embraces a leadership role like he did by going for 39 points and 12 assists against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, everything else opens up for his teammates.
It's Irving's approach and aggressiveness, specifically–more than any scheme scribbled on a dry erase board–that provides Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack an opportunity to combine for 83 points in a three-guard lineup alongside Irving that would've made Don Nelson proud of Coach Brown's offensive innovation.
But when the 21-year-old All-Star comes out shooting 5-of-19 like he did against the Chicago Bulls on Monday, it's almost impossible for these Cavs to overcome.
They finished Monday's road loss with 13 assists and 18 turnovers as a team, according to ESPN, while allowing Chicago to dish out 24 dimes and only commit 11 turnovers. The Cavs also got out-rebounded (41-38), out-hustled and out-classed by a Bulls team who expects to compete with the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat for an Eastern Conference championship.
I'm not mentioning this to heap blame on Irving one game removed from a superstar performance against the Sixers because that's not really the point. What I am saying, though, is that we're watching a progression of growth and development play out from a leadership standpoint on a nightly basis that does relate to Kyrie.
It also extends deeper than the low-hanging-fruit narrative of Mike Brown's offensive coaching style in determining wins and losses for a team who finished with the third-worst record in the East last year.
Andrew Bynum needs the basketball when he's on the floor
When Andrew Bynum starts, comes out aggressively and asks for the basketball in the post, the Cavs guards need to get him the ball.
Joakim Noah had absolutely no chance of guarding Bynum last night and the Cavaliers *starting* center could've done more damage than 11 points and six rebounds if he was afforded more than five (!?!?) shots in 21 minutes.
When Bynum collected the ball in the post against Noah in the one-on-one situation, he did unstoppable things like this.
And when Chicago sent a double-teams in his direction, Bynum then passed over the defense to find guys like Alonzo Gee for wide-open dunks.
But the Cavs failed to feed Bynum's hot hand through a combination of neglect and poor entry passes and that can't happen next time he offers up his knees for 21 minutes of game action.
Cavs could be back to even by Saturday morning, though
As bad as it seemed for most of Monday night in Chicago, the Cavs (3-5) could beat the Minnesota Timberwolves (who they already beat) and then the Charlotte Bobcats (who they should've beat) and even their record at 5-5 by Saturday morning.
Despite the ups-and-downs we've seen from Irving, Bynum, the coaching staff and everyone else thus far, a .500 record is exactly where I expected this 43-win team to be after their first 10 games of flushing out a losing culture and building back up a winning one.
So hopefully that happens.
Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast, AP