Two weeks ago, Kevin Durant returned to the Oklahoma City Thunder lineup against the Phoenix Suns and set an NBA record for points scored in return after missing 5+ games (44 points) as he led the Thunder to an overtime win over the Suns in OKC.
Then two days ago, in only his second game back from an extended absence, Zach Randolph scored a season-high 27 points against the Suns in a double-overtime win in Memphis.
Now, is it LeBron James' turn? All signs point to James returning to the reeling Cavaliers lineup tonight in Phoenix against the Suns. He worked out and practiced hard with the team yesterday at Grand Canyon University, where former Suns hooked up to reminisce: Dan Majerle (coach at GCU), Shawn Marion (Cavs player), Raja Bell (Cavs FO) and David Griffin (Cavs GM).
- What: Phoenix Suns vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
- When: 7:00PM AZ Time
- Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix AZ
- TV: FoxSports Arizona
- Radio: 98.7 ArizonaSports.com
This team is a real mess. What looked like a dream job for GM David Griffin, formerly with the Suns under Steve Kerr, has turned into a pressure-cooker about ready to boil over.
He had LeBron James drop into his lap and performed some roster magic to create room for James and other veterans, and eventually traded for Kevin Love to supplement a young core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson.
On paper, it seemed like Griffin had concocted one of the best teams in the NBA a year after the Cavaliers were bad enough to earn ANOTHER #1 overall pick - Andrew Wiggins.
But alas, only LeBron James had been a superstar on a winning team before. Love's Timberwolves had never made the playoffs, and Irving/Waiters/Thompson's Cavs had never even sniffed a winning record. Apparently, that makes a difference when it comes to actually winning games, especially when you've got a rookie NBA coach (David Blatt).
Remember, LeBron had joined Dwyane Wade in Miami. Already, Wade was an NBA Finals winner beside Shaq and all they had to incorporate was Chris Bosh. Now, an older James has to "teach" everyone on the team how to win.
The Cavs were barely okay before James went on the shelf a couple weeks ago and have gotten a lot worse without him. While still sporting two max players in James' absence, Irving and Love, the Cavs are 1-8 without James. ONE AND EIGHT. And they lost by 5000 points to Sacramento just two days ago.
Now, the Cavs have swapped Dion Waiters for J.R. Smith, and brought in Timofey Mozgov to replace the injured Anderson Varejao. Maybe this team will gel with the new pieces.
Let's just hope they wait until after tonight.
Seeing the Cavaliers struggle ought to give you that much more respect for what Jeff Hornacek has created in Phoenix with players who'd never previously won anything either.
Hornacek hasn't been given any superstars, and his roster isn't even that balanced. Yet he's mixing and matching to find effective lineups and generally creating a winning culture on a team full of kids.
One such lineup - the triple threat of point guards on the floor together - has created a firestorm of controversy on its effectiveness. Yet I showed today they comprise many of the Suns most effective lineups, both offensively and defensively, this season.
It will be interesting to see the team continue to grow and improve.
Now if they can just take some "veteran savvy" pills in the final minutes of these close games...
How they compare
Out on a limb
LeBron James will return and, like Zach Randolph and Kevin Durant before him, will set a season high in scoring and push the Suns to the limit.
But this is still the Cavs who aren't playing well together, while the Suns are starting to feel their oats at home.
Suns 110, Cavaliers 104.
Just because I'm a home and this is Bright Side of the Sun.