When the losses begin to pile up, blame is often sought. This is no different for the Cleveland Cavaliers, for whom the past four years losing has been the regular.
When this season began to go south, Mike Brown was the original scapegoat. Then it shifted to Andrew Bynum, which then led to Chris Grant being fired.
While all this was talk was occurring, there was another internal issue. This was between Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
It all started back in November during a players-only meeting in which Waiters called out Irving, who was defended by Tristan Thompson. This was blown up in the media; trade rumors for Waiters became daily talk. It seemed that all hope for having Irving and Waiters coexist for years to come was lost.
All that talk and media focus led to no change. Waiters is still a member of the Cavs, albeit currently hurt, and the talk of his toxic relationship with Irving is a thing of the past. In fact, local media members often mocked the reports by tweeting about how the relationship seemed fixed every time Irving passed the ball to Waiters.
The Cavs’ most recent game was a miraculous 114-104 win over the Thunder in which Irving had 31 points and nine assists. Waiters did not play a minute of the contest as he is still recovering from a knee injury.
One could say that beating the top team in the West without Waiters shows that the team is better without him. This is easily not the case considering the Cavs lost to the Raptors twice and the Wizards once without Waiters. Calling it a fluke may not be right, but it was easily the best, and most complete, game the Cavs have played all year. Not to mention that the recently acquired Spencer Hawes has helped in the absence of Anderson Varejao.
All this above has been sort of a tangent from the question asked in the title. The answer to it is a simple yes. But this answer is not just for Kyrie and Dion, but for players on all teams in the NBA. Other sports feature styles that allow for some internal issues to not drastically impact on-field performance, but the nature of basketball itself requires chemistry for success.
In baseball, a team with A-Rod can still win a title. In football, the roster is so large that there are bound to be some clashing personalities. With basketball, the simple act of passing is such an unnoticed aspect of team chemistry. If Kyrie Irving truly wanted to ice out Dion Waiters then he could do so. This would be obvious and the media would jump all over it, but it has yet to happen. It would take a truly horrible person to completely ice out a teammate, especially as a point guard. To clarify what I mean by “truly horrible person,” see Ricky Davis.
Essentially, talk of issues with chemistry come up whenever things are going bad for a team. The Cavs have had more moral victories than actual victories since LeBron has left and that leads to frustration, both for the players and the fans. It also led to Chris Grant losing his job, which shows how serious Dan Gilbert is about winning.
Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters may not be friends, but there have been so signs of them not getting along on the court recently. Pictures are often publicized of them celebrating together, and that is just typical of teammates. This issue will hopefully die down, and can be eradicated if the Cavs put themselves in the playoff race.