LeBron James, Cavaliers eager to 'turn this thing around' amid struggles

WASHINGTON -- Judging by the bags under coach Tyronn Lue's eyes, not everyone is taking the Cleveland Cavaliers' early-season slide lightly.

"Look at me," Lue said before the morning shootaround prior to Friday night's game against the Washington Wizards (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). "I ain't slept in days."

Having lost four in a row and five of their past six games, Lue and his coaching staff have tried to turn things around schematically. Cavs superstar LeBron James, meanwhile, is not letting the losing streak affect him spiritually.

"We're definitely struggling right now, which is OK," James said Friday. "I felt that we would struggle at some point throughout the season. I think it's surprising to all of us that it's happening right now, but hey, it is what it is and it's exciting to see how we can turn this thing around."

Despite record payrolls during the past several seasons and three straight trips to the NBA Finals, seeing the Cavs trip over themselves in the regular season is nothing new. They were just 4-7 in their last 11 regular-season games before last postseason, in which they reeled off 10 straight wins.

It's just the timing of the current slump and its severity -- Cleveland lost its past three games by a combined 58 points -- that is alarming. However, Lue would rather get the bad basketball out of the way now and build until April, rather than be as uneven as his teams have been in the past, he said.

"I think it makes us better," Lue said. "I think going through it now early in the season, instead of going through it late when you want to hit your peak and playing great going into the playoffs. Right now, it's a rough patch, but it's no excuse. We have to be better and we will."

James said last week that he thinks the Cavs just need one win to reset their season. Their next chance comes Friday night against the Wizards (4-3), who would be 6-1 if not for blowing big second-half leads against the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns.

Washington, James said, "will be very excited to play" Cleveland on Friday. James wants that same sentiment out of his team to help get out of its rut.

"I think that it's going to be challenging on the guys that's been here the last few years to continue to try to motivate themselves to want to get back to the Finals," James said. "That's always the challenging thing. When you've done it three straight years, or some guys two straight years, then complacency can sometimes creep in, or the short summers or things of that nature, or you feel like you can turn it on when you want to.

"Got to figure out a way to motivate yourself to get back to that top level of game. I know where my mind is. I've done it seven straight years, so I know how to get back into the flow of things. I know how to mentally prepare myself for a long haul, so it's going to be challenging, but I think we should be up for it. We still have a 30-point scorer, All-Star point guard that's coming soon. That's exciting."

Even before Isaiah Thomas returns, the Cavs will get two other new faces in the rotation starting Friday: Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic.

Lue, along with his coaching staff, showed up to shootaround an hour early to take the swingman and center through the offense so they will be ready to contribute in the absence of Iman Shumpert (knee) and Tristan Thompson (calf).

"We're down a couple guys, so they'll get an opportunity, a chance to play a little bit," Lue said.