In his latest video, Coach Nick of Basketball Breakdown went back to the tape to assess the validity of reports questioning the Cavs' effort. Here is the analysis (queued to start with the breakdown of film from the game against Portland):
As Coach Nick notes, it is "insanely difficult" to definitively show that players are intentionally playing with less effort than usual. NBA players are athletic enough to make spectacular plays look mundane, and do sometimes "take a play off" if extra hustle is unlikely to have an effect, or if they need to avoid foul trouble. That being said, James' effort on several plays does appear suspect - most notably the decision to completely ignore a wide open Allen Crabbe at the 3:36 mark of the above video.
Coach Nick's full video focuses on more than just the Dec. 26 Cleveland vs. Portland game. He also analyzes why the Cavaliers have been unable to compete with the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors thus far this season, and questions whether their poor play in those games is the result of questionable coaching decisions from former coach David Blatt, or a lack of engagement from the players.
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