Assessing the Cavaliers at the All-Star break

CLEVELAND -- The Cavaliers closed out their pre-All-Star break slate with a tidy 113-104 victory Wednesday over the Indiana Pacers, their seventh win in eight games since the calendar turned to February.A season that started with ring night and the euphoria...

Assessing the Cavaliers at the All-Star break

CLEVELAND -- The Cavaliers closed out their pre-All-Star break slate with a tidy 113-104 victory Wednesday over the Indiana Pacers, their seventh win in eight games since the calendar turned to February.

A season that started with ring night and the euphoria of the Cleveland Indians' World Series run, has had its share of drama despite the Cavs' command of the Eastern Conference standings, up 2½ games on second-place Boston.

Let's list it, shall we?

J.R. Smith's contract holdout lasting most of training camp.

Mo Williams pulling the rug out from under their backup-point-guard plans by not reporting to camp then undergoing surgery without consulting with the team, which made him difficult to trade.

Smith walking off the court in the middle of a live possession against the Bucks to say hello to Jason Terry and then wearing a ski mask during his postgame interview.

The three-game losing streak in late November/early December prompting LeBron James to say "we’ve got to get out of the honeymoon stage."

Smith undergoing surgery after breaking the thumb on his shooting hand in December.

Chris "Birdman" Andersen undergoing season-ending (and potentially career-ending) surgery to repair a torn ACL.

Losing to both the Golden State Warriors (by 35) and the San Antonio Spurs in the span of six days in January.

James calling for roster adjustments in January, including the addition of a "playmaker."

James dropping his seemingly annual cryptic tweet in late January.

The Cavs finishing the month of January with a 7-8 record.

Kevin Love undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee this week, keeping him out of the All-Star Game and sidelining him for an estimated six weeks.

James at the center of controversy for when he does rest (the "forfeit" game in Memphis) and for when he doesn't (his league-leading minutes-per-game average as a 14-year veteran has rattled some cages).

Of course, that list fails to mention James, Love and Kyrie Irving all playing well enough to be named All-Stars. Or the team's honor of being the last NBA title-winner to visit the White House while President Barack Obama was in office. Or their Christmas Day win over the Warriors thanks to Irving's clutch jumper. Or their 7-1 record against the teams currently seeded Nos. 2-5 in the East. Or the addition of Kyle Korver, who is shooting 52-for-101 from 3-point territory since joining the Cavs. Or, on a 10-day contract, the find of the century in Derrick Williams, who has completely revolutionized Cleveland's second unit as a big, floor-spacing offensive machine and switch-everything defensive group.

Mix it all together and there was a pretty sunny outlook from the Cavs as they dispersed from the Q on Wednesday for a week off.

"This is the way we wanted to play coming into February and the guys are excellent so far in this month," said James, continuing his personal hot streak by going 12-for-17 from the field, lifting his February shooting percentage to 63.4. "It sucks because we have a great rhythm right now and you hate to have the break. But the break is going to be good for everybody. It gives guys an opportunity if they have some nicks and bruises and things of that nature. Just get away and decompress for a little bit, but we've been playing some good basketball."

For Cavs coach Tyronn Lue -- as hoop-obsessed as they come -- reaching that level of good basketball has involved letting go in ways that can be uncomfortable for a young coach.

"My biggest thing is if you're going to play guys [extended] minutes," Lue said, "then practice has to be cut down. So, we don't do a lot of practicing. We try to save our legs. So, we do walk-throughs defensively, guys get their shots up, we're out of there."

Out of there, and off to the races, it would seem.

"I think everyone is in a comfortable place," Irving said. "It just takes time. It takes time to integrate another guy into the team, to fill in a particular thing that we're looking for. Our identity was all over the place, guys were going down, guys were in and out of the lineup. It was a learning experience in January; coming into February we're just a great team again by all accounts. We've stayed the course and understood that everything that happens in this locker room all matters to us and we're completely honest and trust each other. When we're playing at a high level, we're tough to beat."

Check out the team site for more game coverage

Check out the team site for more game coverage

It's tough to say just yet what it all means to the Cavs' chances to repeat.

"I haven't really put too much on the title defense," James said. "Every year is its own year and you can't worry about last year. Last year is over and done with. We've played some good ball. Obviously we know January wasn't such a good month for us, but overall, for the season, we're in a good place."

And some of the Cavs, like Lue, are using the break to escape to an even better place. As the coach walked out of his postgame news conference, he paraphrased longtime Chicago Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach.

"It's a good day to die," Lue said with a smile.

And certainly a good day to have the noise from the first half of the season to die down a little bit before the volume kicks back up again in a week.

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