The Cavs need to be tougher above the neck when things start going awry, or they always will

Rarely is there a phrase in the English language more disagreed upon than “it’s all messed up” or some variation of that phrase. To one guy, the car just needs new tie rods and brake pads and she’ll be up and running in no time; to someone else, the car needs new tie rods and brake pads so you may as well start looking for a replacement vehicle.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are in trouble if you ask the Cleveland Cavaliers, specifically J.R. Smith, who lit into the team via the media after what he called a “thrashing” by the Washington Wizards on Sunday.

Smith thinks they don’t play very tough; Coach Tyronn Lue thinks that they don’t play very hard; who knows what Lebron James thinks; the Toronto Raptors now sit a 1.5 games behind the Cavs and they probably think they have a shot at the top seed.

The Cavs operate in some stratosphere of constant “Days of Our Lives,” where success or failure doesn’t dictate drama, simply getting up in the morning does. Whether it was the “does Kevin Love fit in and does anyone even like him?” of last year to firing David Blatt right before he’d have coached in the all-star game this year with the best record in the East, no one does constant drama quite like the Cavs.

That’s when all the lazy narratives come gushing out.

“These guys are no good without Lebron. He’s still doing too much.”

Well, no team is very good without their highest paid player, especially when said highest paid player is also one of if not the best player in the game. Salary caps exist to assure this, for the most part. For one, the Cavs, the Heat, or anyone else who employs James to play basketball is not going to be as good of a group when he’s out.

On top of that, no matter what was going to happen in Cleveland, so long as it didn’t end in constant lollipops and rainbows, there was always going to be “Lebron’s carrying them just like before!” Cleveland has done not an amazing job at surrounding James this time around, but certainly has put up a respectable effort.

They have the highest payroll in the league, have a young, homegrown star they drafted in an otherwise weak draft class alongside him, and have been willing to overpay on guys like Tristan Thompson and Love to get the roster loaded with good NBA players without looking at the bottom line as the top decider.

There are no greater indictments of a team than “toughness” and work ethic. It’s important to note that in Lue’s answer after the shelling in Washington about who was playing hard, the name of the aforementioned Smith didn’t come up. So the guy calling for more toughness isn’t being called out by the coach as a guy working his hind end off.

That’s a problem, right there.

The Cavs in the Return of Lebron Era have made everlasting drama and constant rush to judgement as their mantra, without actually saying that, of course. Do the Cavs need to be better to compete for a title? Yeah, they do, but it sure seems like every time there’s a small stretch of time where losing happens, the sky starts falling awfully quickly.

If that’s the mindset in the locker room, one of panic and inability to deal with negative events, that’s not the makeup of a championship team. The Cavs need to take a collective deep breath, not only in the locker room, but overall as an organization that has taken high expectations and assumed that unless they’re being met immediately, something dire is wrong.

When Lebron came to Cleveland, he said it’d be tough. You know what? He was right. It wasn’t going to be easy. It still doesn’t mean it can’t happen, though.

As a group, the Cavs need to come together instead of calling the used car lot every time the breaks squeal a bit.