Doc Zeus is gonna ball like Bobby Sura
There is a 98.3% chance that we are not here right now.
Up until the moment that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called their name first for the third time in four years, my beloved Cleveland Cavaliers were staring deep into the outer frames of basketball abyss. After a hilariously incongruent season that Cavs fans had euphemistically dubbed “The Season Of Huh”, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ fortunes had never seemed so apocalyptically bleak.
Nothing had gone right for the Cavs last season. Our potato-headed coach? Fired. Our bespectacled general manager? Fired mid-season. Our centerpiece free agent signing? Andrew Bynum was traded in December after the disgruntled ex-Laker decided to spend an entire practice sarcastically launching mid-court three pointers whenever he touched the ball. Things escalated quickly.
Meanwhile, a series of comically “unconventional” draft picks by the franchise’s former general manager, Chris Grant, had finally manifested itself into a team with the on-court chemistry of warring prison gangs. At one point, it was rumored that our mercurial 2-guard Dion Waiters had allegedly punched the team’s lone all-star Kyrie Irving in the face after Irving had allegedly conspired with teammates to freeze Waiters out from the ball. Our number one overall pick in the draft Anthony Bennett came into the season with the doughy consistency of a retired security guard, leading to a year that re-defined the conceptual notion of a draft bust. By the end of the disastrous campaign, the Cleveland Cavaliers were nothing less than pure tragicomic farce.
I should be talking myself into Doug McDermott right now and wondering if Anthony Bennett’s weight loss would translate into success in a wide open Eastern Conference. I should be worried about Kyrie Irving’s contract extension talks and the unsubtle thirst that the big market fans are heaping upon the Cavs star point guard. Hell, I should just be worried that the NBA would do something spectacularly idiotic as “lottery reform” to stop the non-existent scourge of “tanking.” After all, why should we believe that anything would be different this season? I didn’t expect that a few randomized spheres of cheap plastic would bounce our way again but it did. The Cavs cashed in on a 1.7% chance to win the NBA lottery and nothing has been the same since.
Things escalated quickly, again. The two-time defending champion Miami Heat fell apart in June, and after a few weeks of chaotic free agent speculation, LeBron James, Northeast Ohio’s prodigal son, wrote a letter to Sports Illustrated declaring his intention to come back home to the Cleveland Cavaliers four years after his infamous self-imposed exile. A month and half later, the Cavs traded away their overall number one selection, Andrew Wiggins, to Minnesota for franchise power forward, Kevin Love and suddenly the whole land scape of the NBA had shifted in a furious bounce of random chance. For a city that has been futilely raging against the possible wrath of a theoretical malignant sports god for generations, dumb luck has brought my hometown team closer to a professional sports title than any Cleveland team in nearly twenty years.
It is because of this sheer dumb luck that I have a crushing apprehension. Can this really end in ecstasy or is Cleveland staring at an Evil God’s cruelest trick? If the team can land the best player of his generation and another top ten player in a mere blink, then it surely can be taken away in a moment. Bones snap, sinew tears and egos can run amok. I am keeping my eyes open for the guillotine.
Don’t get it twisted. The Cavs are going to be magnificent to watch this season. I fully expect the Cavs to play a beautiful brand of triumphant basketball this season. With an outpouring of good will over the summer and with every home game surely to be something near a religious experience for Cavs faithful, I truly believe the freshly ascendant Cavaliers will gel quickly and become an awe inspiring offensive dynamo under the watchful eye of new coach David Blatt. King James is too seasoned and transcendentally dominant to let potential harmful issues like a lack of a rim protectors and nonexistent playoff experience from Kyrie and Love to derail the season on the court.
Nor am I particularly worried about their competition ending: the Heat are in shambles since the departure of LeBron. The Raptors, Nets and Hawks don’t seem particularly fearsome. The Cavs have been routinely ending the hopes and dreams of the Washington Wizards for over a generation. Meanwhile, the closest team the Cavs have to a true rival in the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Bulls, seem entirely too reliant on the surgically repaired knee ligaments of Derrick Rose to strike that much fear into the hearts of Cavs fan. (Joakim Noah’s bitch-assed-ness goes without saying.) Of course, there are a few looming juggernauts lurking in the West that could easily dispatch the Cavs this season but they have to run a grueling gauntlet to reach any Finals series.
Regardless, I’m still preoccupied by all the ways that this can go horribly wrong for the Cavs. Will a horrible injury at the wrong time derail it all? Will Dion Waiters give in to his worst impulses and shoot an ill-advised ISO jumper at the exact wrong time to curb a furious Game 7 rally? Will Kevin Love’s decreased role on offense loom large in his impending free agency? Will Dion attempt to poison Kyrie’s soft drink in order to assume his slot in the team’s pecking order? In a league as chaotic as the NBA, I’m not ruling out anything as potentially disastrous as any of these scenarios. In Cleveland, hope may spring eternal but despair is the basic rule of thumb.
I still believe in this team. LeBron will be LeBron. Love is going to beloved. Kyrie is going to make those ridiculous Damian Lillard and John Wall comparisons seem hilariously antiquated. I even think Tristan Thompson will have a big year in a reduced role that will better fit his strengths. I’m sure that I will be yelling angrily at Dion Waiters through my television screen more often than not but I’ve been perplexed by him since his days at Syracuse (my alma mater) so I’m used to this by now. This is going to rule.
After 50 years – 31 of which I have experienced on this earth – of sports futility, I’m ready for Cleveland to finally get its moment in the sun. LeBron may or may not be able to save my eternal soul but I know at the end of this season I’ll probably be on my knees crying. Regardless if they are shed in joy or in sadness, this can only end in tears and I can not be more excited.
82 to go.