Cavs go into toilet

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

King James temporarily has become a court jester.

But no one in the rock-and-roll city is laughing.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have lost six games in a row. Not that the losing streak necessarily is James' fault, but apparently having the best young player in the NBA on your roster does not make you immune to ugly skids.

Stealing a page from the Raptors' book, the Cavs locker room is seething with tension. Losing always leads to frayed nerves, but the uneasiness in Cleveland has been sparked in part by the memory of an eight-game losing streak last spring that ultimately left the team a game shy of a playoff berth.

"We just have to get a win, some way, somehow," James said on Sunday after his team heard some boos from the home-town crowd during a lopsided 102-82 loss to the Miami Heat. "If I have to play 48 minutes to get us a win, I'm going to do it from now on, because this losing thing isn't for me."

Hmmm ... was that bit about needing to play 48 minutes a tad disrespectful to James' teammates?

Well, we'll give James the benefit of the doubt, chalk it up to youthful competitiveness and move on.

The Cavs began the season brilliantly and appeared to be on their way to clinching one of the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Prior to the all-star break, Cavs players and coaches regularly were asked questions about the post-season, as if James' first playoff game already had been written in stone.

But now the Cavs find themselves only four games above .500 as the standings tighten up. Heading into play last night, the ninth-place team in the Eastern Conference was only one game below .500.

That means the Cavs are far closer to falling out of the playoff picture than they are to overtaking the first-place Detroit Pistons in the Central Division.

"I'm not going to get into that nonsense," Cavs coach Paul Silas said when asked about his club's precarious playoff position. "I don't really care about that now. I care about how my team is performing, and if we continue to play as we have, everything is in danger."

Including Silas' job.

When Silas was hired prior to last season, it was thought he would be a good mentor for the young James through the early years of his pro career. But many believed back then, and still believe today, that it won't be Silas who guides James and the Cavs to the promised land.

There will be no shortage of big-money and big-ego candidates to be LeBron's new father figure if the Cleveland coaching position comes open. Who will ride in on a white horse? Phil Jackson? Larry Brown?

The Cavs have a new owner, Dan Gilbert, and it remains to be seen how patient he'll be. The Cavs are 0-3 since Gilbert assumed control.

The Cavs will play host to the Orlando Magic tonight and the Indiana Pacers on Friday. The Magic and Pacers are two of the teams with whom the Cavs are jockeying for playoff position.

Somehow the Cavs have to get their swagger back before it's too late.

"I just don't see the fire," Silas said. "I don't see the intensity or the passion."

Silas went on to accuse his team of developing a "loser's mentality." James may be only 20, but he knows an insult when he hears one.

The thing is, James agrees with his coach.

"We don't know what it takes to win right now and that's very concerning," James said. "We easily could go in the toilet and not make the playoffs."

Easily?

James and the Cavs still have two games to play against the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre, on March 20 and on April 20, which is the last day of the regular season.

As unthinkable as it might have been a mere month ago, that April 20 game could wind up being a must-win situation for the best young player in the NBA.

NUMBERS GAMES

Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash has a chance to become only the fourth player in NBA history to shoot better than 50% from the field, better than 40% from three-point range and better than 90% from the foul line over the course of a season. At this point, the native of Victoria, B.C., is just below the mark in free-throw shooting, at 87.8%, while his field-goal shooting is at 51% and his three-point shooting is at 42.7% ... Former San Antonio Spur Sean Elliott had his No. 32 retired by the club on Sunday ... The Heat is 13-0 against its foes from the Southeast Division this season, with just three more games remaining against divisional rivals (two against Charlotte and one at Orlando). No NBA team ever has gone undefeated against its own division.

CHRISTIE CRACKS

The Orlando Magic placed ex-Raptor Doug Christie on the injured list because of bone spurs in his left ankle, but only after a long meeting between Christie, his agent and Magic general manager John Weisbrod on Saturday. Fishy, isn't it? Many feel the simple truth is that Christie still is not over being traded from the Sacramento Kings earlier this season, and he may not play for the Magic again, whether his ankle requires surgery or not.

GREEN GIANTS

New Minnesota Timberwolves coach Kevin McHale is the fifth member of the 1985-86 NBA-champion Boston Celtics to become a head coach. The others? Larry Bird, Danny Ainge, Dennis Johnson and Rick Carlisle.

DIFFERENCE-MAKER

Jeff Bzdelik was fired as coach of the Denver Nuggets when the club had a 13-15 record. Bzdelik was replaced on an interim basis by Michael Cooper who went 4-10. But heading into play last night, the Nuggets had gone 13-4 under new coach George Karl and had vaulted themselves back into playoff contention. "I liked this team when I watched them on film and on TV," Karl said.

HE'S GOT YOUR NUMBER

Al Jefferson broke with tradition and did not insist upon a cash payment for giving up his No. 8 to returning Celtic Antoine Walker. Interestingly, about six weeks ago Jefferson was heard saying it would cost Walker big-time if he came back and wanted No. 8. "I said it then," Jefferson said, "because I didn't think in a million years he was going to come here."


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