LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have had no shortage of critics and ‘haters,’ as they’re called. This season, with likely the highest expectations in franchise history, the Cavs themselves have set high hopes for the playoffs after winning 34 of their last 43, including 18 of 20 in the middle of January and February.
Their championship hopes, however, took a huge hit last week when Kevin Love suffered a severe shoulder injury that would sideline him for four-to-six months.
Charles Barkley, who now works as an analyst on the NBA on TNT, says Cleveland will really miss Love this postseason.
“They can’t win without Kevin Love,” said Barkley during Monday’s broadcast. “He never got enough credit for what he did. He’s a terrific rebounder but the game comes down to space. They are not going to get bigger by Wednesday and they are going to miss J.R. Smith again. Even when they had Kevin we thought they were the best team in the NBA because of their upside.”
This isn’t the first time LeBron was criticized or had a verbal run in with Barkley. After a couple of bad games by Dwyane Wade a couple years back, Barkley said Wade was “starting to lose his athletic ability.” After that, James said Barkley simply needs to shut his mouth.
“It means Charles Barkley needs to shut up. I mean, the man [Wade] is shooting 80 percent from the floor the last couple of games,” said James of Wade, who combined for 52 points on 20-25 shooting in two games. “That’s like, crazy, right? That’s why he is who he is. Unbelievable.”
Kenny Smith, who works with Barkley, didn’t exactly agree with him, but did say they’ll have to change it up.
“I thought Cleveland had size with Love,” Smith said. “Now they become a small team.”
Smith did have a legit reason for what he said. In Game 1, the Cavs played small starting LeBron at power forward and often keeping a lineup with him at the 4-spot. The older Mike Miller, who was forced to stay in front of Mike Dunleavy, couldn’t. Dunleavy went off in the first quarter for 13 points and that set the tone for the Bulls perimeter players. Although that was bad, the Cavs defense was absolutely burned on the pick-and-roll as Pau Gasol was a perfect 8-for-8 on mid-range jumpshots.
“This is a different Bulls team,” Barkley said. “Derrick Rose doesn’t have to do it all by himself. He has a lot of weapons.”
Its apparent that this is a different Bulls team, but the Cavs are also going to be a different team in Game 2 as the ‘feel out’ game is now over the Cavs are basically in ‘must-win’ mode.
“I think I may have to change my mindset a little big obviously with Kev being out,” said James after the game. “It’s something we all haven’t been accustomed to this year with him being out for an extensive period or another of the Big Three being out for a long period of time since I have my injuries. It might be a different mindset for myself and Kyrie (Irving).”