Tag Archives: Dan Gilbert

David Griffin ushers in a Lue era in Cleveland

The Cleveland Cavaliers have set another record this week, though it remains to be seen whether it is one to be proud of or sorry for.

David Blatt celebrates with LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena on November 8, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Pacers 101-97. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
David Blatt celebrates with LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena on November 8, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Pacers 101-97. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Around 3:55pm on Friday, the Cleveland sports world let out a collective gasp when it was broken by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the sports world’s premier NBA insider, that the Cavaliers organization had terminated Head Coach David Blatt. Not only was this news shocking and puzzling but it was simultaneously reported that Assistant Coach Tyronn Lue was being promoted to the position of Head Coach.

Lue would not assume the title of Interim Coach as is the traditional procedure when a coach is unexpectedly fired. He was immediately given the moniker of Head Coach with even some rumors of a two to three year deal already having been negotiated.

The aforementioned record that was set, is that Blatt is the first coach, since the league separated into two conferences, to ever be terminated when his team had the best win/loss record in their conference. That is not exactly what I would have hoped for in terms of a ground breaking statement, but the effectiveness of this strategy is yet to be determined.

Cavs General Manager David Griffin held a press conference Friday and alluded to the team not showing an inability to “galvanize” under Blatt’s leadership. He felt that the team was at a crossroads in terms of fixing this problem and a change needed to be made in order to continue moving towards their common goal of bringing an NBA championship to the City of Cleveland.

The primary and obvious speculation is that the decision, as many have been in the past two seasons, was influenced directly by Lebron James. Both Griffin and James have denied publicly that James had any say or that he was consulted on the final decision.

Do I think James went to Griffin and “suggested” that Lue be promoted and Blatt let go? No, I do not.

Do I think that James has had ups and downs with Blatt in terms of their coach/player relationship and that he may have known in the back of his head that this would be the end result someday? Absolutely, 100%.

It is important to note that the decision of who to name as the head coach of the Cavaliers was made BEFORE James announced his intent to return to Cleveland in July of 2014, and that while Griffin favored Lue to receive the position, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert preferred Blatt. This must have spawned an interesting conversation over at Quicken Loans Arena when the Sports Illustrated cover was revealed.

OK, Blatt is out and Lue is now the head coach of our team. The next question is, how will the team’s strategy and performance change with a coach that is rumored to be more “in touch” with the players?

Our first test of Lue’s coaching prowess would be against our Eastern Conference rival, the Chicago Bulls, on our home court. The team can only improve if Blatt was such a hinderance to their success, correct?

The final score from our matchup against the Bulls at home? A 96-83 loss where the Cavaliers looked listless and unable to execute.

Now this could be explained by the suddenness of the coaching change or from some apparent shifts in substitution patterns that Lue put into place. Whatever the reason, this team should never lose on their home court when they hold their opponent under 100 points.

All they could muster on the offensive end over 4 quarters was 83 points?!? In this particular game the lack of offense was the fault of several factors.

As a collective group, our bench players shot 3/14 for 8 points. Obviously, that is not a typical set of stats for Dellavedova, Shumpert and Tristan Thompson but this certainly contributed to the lack of scoring overall.

The second factor was that we shot just under 41% (9 for 22) from the free throw line. Essentially, the Cavaliers contracted out all of their free throw shooting for the night to Clippers forward Deandre Jordan; quite an embarrassment in my eyes.

The last factor, in my estimation, relates to offensive strategy. The Cavs took 24 three point shots against Chicago and were only able to make four.

This abysmal 16.7% from downtown means that even though we were showing that the long range shots were not going down, we still continued to take them. Is this just an example of the new coaching staff urging the players to “shoot through” their cold streak?

Listen, I was as shocked as anyone to hear of Blatt’s firing. Too often, there is a Twitter explosion (which I engaged in on a small scale right as it happened) and a rush to be the first to write an opinion piece on whether Griffin is a hero or a zero for this.

I knew that I needed time to process everything, hear all sides of the story, and even see our newly appointed coach in action for the first time before I could give my honest opinion on the matter. Now that most of that has occurred I am ready to levy a judgment!

My feeling is that the Cleveland Cavaliers, while possessing the title of best team in the East, showed that under David Blatt’s coaching, that they could not compete consistently against the best teams in the West. Seeing as the goal of management is acquiring a championship, a change needed to be made.

I applaud our GM as he has put himself into the position of being called either a genius or a goat when it is all said and done. He has certainly volunteered to put this team on the back of his decisions, as great leaders should.

Griffin’s legacy in this city is at stake now more than ever. To me, that is the very definition of ALL IN.

Tristan Thompson Will Get Paid and Some People Will Hate It

The Cavs have had a pretty boring yet successful offseason to this point.

They re-signed almost all of their free agents, as they set out to. They didn’t draft anyone in the first round, therefore didn’t bring in any guaranteed contracts this way. They signed former Cav Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson. And Brendan Haywood was finally shipped off for the largest current traded player exception in the NBA.

But there are still a couple of things that haven’t been settled to this point.

For one, J.R. Smith is still an unrestricted free agent after opting out of making $6.4 million next year and becoming an UFA the following season. Smith has little leverage in this situation as teams have already done most of their spending and the market for him is slim at this point.

But the bigger question mark at the moment is what will happen with Tristan Thompson. His situation is pretty unique yet some fans think of it as business as usual. In other words, Thompson is a backup forward with no offense, and has one good skill (rebounding). So obviously he isn’t worth anywhere near the $94 million he reportedly wants from the Cavs (the maximum he can ask for).

But really, what Thompson is worth isn’t the most relevant thing when talking about what the Cavs should pay him.

At 23 years old, Thompson averaged 8.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in 26.8 minutes per game in his fourth NBA season. No big man at that age, at that point in his career, playing that many minutes has touched the kind of contract that Tristan Thompson is set to get, let alone the amount he’s asking for. That’s a big reason, even if subconsciously, why a lot of people are steadfast against him getting paid so much money.

We’re just not used to seeing a player of his skill set throw his weight around and give the demands that he and his agent Rich Paul have.

We also have a tendency to take two players making a similar amount of money and going down the line comparing their talents as basketball players. The one with the worse overall skills is labeled as overpaid.

In a lot of instances, especially in this one, the team that is doing the spending needs to be taken into consideration. The Cavs aren’t aloud to do some of the same things defensively without Thompson that they’re allowed to do with him, namely switching off or even hard hedging on the pick and role.

Should the Cavs offer Thompson his five-year, $94 million deal, he’d be making similar money per year as Blake Griffin. No one will tell you that Thompson is a better basketball player than Griffin, even those who think the Cavs should pay Thompson this year’s max. But nowhere in sports are contracts slotted based on talent. If it were, Kobe Bryant wouldn’t be set to make over twice as much as Steph Curry next season.

For the most part, market interest determines how much a certain player gets paid rather than specific traits players do or don’t have.

This isn’t to say that this comparison method is completely irrelevant in all cases (I’ve done it before and probably will continue to do it), but it’s less so here and shouldn’t nor will it be the determining factor for how much Thompson will garner, whether that be this offseason from the Cavs or next offseason from other teams.

What Tristan Thompson does, the multiple things he does at a high quality, not just one, are things the Cavs need to help them be a contender. His versatility and potency on defense, his rebounding ability on offense, his finishing around the rim, and his consistent improvement in most facets of his game are what the Cavs utilize often when Thompson is out on the floor.

Tristan Thompson games two bulls ccavs playoffs

This situation is complicated, but the decision should be a simple one if you’re the Cavs. David Griffin and co. could hope Thompson takes their “significantly less” offer. But then they run the risk of Thompson declining that deal and accepting the $6.8 million qualifying offer, which would make him an unrestricted free agent next offseason. This result yields multiple problems for the Cavs, one that hurts Dan Gilbert, and one that hurts everyone in the Cavs organization.

Should Thompson reach the open market next summer, he would be poised to make more money than he could make this offseason. Whereas he can make a maximum total of $94 million over five years this year, his maximum next year would be much higher given the expected $20 million rise in cap.

This isn’t to say Thompson would get next year’s max, but it’s still likely a team would offer more money to him next year since they’re able to do so.

One reason why teams will willing to pay Thompson what seems to be an absurd amount of money (remember, there’s still a season to be played [and thus, a case for Thompson to make himself more money] between now and next offseason), is the weak-ish free agency class set to hit next offseason.

Another reason Thompson will garner a lot of interest is for the same reason the Cavs are willing to offer him a lot of money: he’s a uniquely gifted player.

Thompson does things on the defensive end that just are not common with men at his position. He has the athletic ability to guard every position effectively at certain points in the game. He’s even shown he can do this when it matters the most in the playoffs.

https://vine.co/v/eZlduUj63Wz

He’s one of the best offensive rebounders in the game. He’s improved his shot and his overall game each year of his career. And at 24 years old, with his work ethic, there’s no reason to believe he’s done developing in any aspect of his game. This isn’t to say he’ll ever be a great offensive player, but I think it’s fair to expect overall improvement here.

Even if Thompson doesn’t get as much interest as projected, it will only take one team to move heaven and earth to grab Tristan Thompson away from the Cavs. If it comes down to Thompson becoming an UFA next season, either the Cavs pony up more dough than they would have this season, costing Dan Gilbert, or Thompson leaves Cleveland, hurting the Cavs’ chances at a championship.

Thompson’s unique set of talents makes him a hard player to replace, leaving the cupboard bare in ways the Cavs could play defensively.

And it may not even come to Thompson choosing between Cleveland and another team. That is, if you believe that reports about Thompson accepting the qualifying offer are more than just Rich Paul playing hardball.

There really isn’t much to decide here if you’re the Cavs front office. Sure, they could hope he takes $80 million over five years. But it’s unlikely that Thompson wouldn’t bet on himself by taking the qualifying offer and waiting for more money next year. The odds are in Thompson’s favor. He’s been trending upward each year and has played every game for the last three seasons. Health and work ethic are not a problem for him.

And even if Thompson does decide he would stick with the Cavs after a year of playing under the qualifying offer, the Cavs would most likely be signing him under a much richer contract than the $94 million he wants now.

Thompson already bet on himself when he turned down a four-year, $52 million extension in October. Now he’s aiming to get paid almost double that. What happens if the Cavs let him do that again?

Thompson could get paid his $94 million this year. He could get paid much more next year from the Cavs or some other team. Either way, Tristan Thompson will get paid and some Cavs fans will not be happy.

How Long Will Timofey Mozgov Remain a Cavalier?

The Cleveland Cavaliers are sitting pretty with their current roster. I say current because it will change at least slightly within the next week and a half *cough* BRENDAN HAYWOOD *cough*.

To what degree the roster changes within that period has to do with what the Cavs do with their own free agents, which include Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, and Matthew Dellavedova. Thompson, the only restricted free agent of that group, is expected to come back, as the Cavs are the team that can pay him the most and are expected to match any offer sheet from another team.

The reigning Eastern Conference champs will head into next season with much of the same roster in tact, including all of their projected starters: Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Timofey Mozgov. It’s valuable that the Cavs were able to keep a good amount of continuity considering last season was made up mostly of guys that played elsewhere the year prior.

Furthermore, of those starters mentioned, four of the five are (virtually) locked up for at least the next three years. Kyrie signed a five-year max extension last summer with a player option in the fifth year. Love signed a similar deal (different money) this season. Shumpert signed a four-year deal with a player option in the fourth year. As for LeBron, he’ll pretty much sign 1+1 deals (two years, with a player option) until it will be a financial risk for him (which probably isn’t anytime soon).

That leaves one Timofey Mozgov. The now 29-year-old was acquired in a midseason trade with the Denver Nuggets. Mozgov signed a three-year deal with the Nuggets in the summer of 2013 with a team option. The Cavs picked up that option, worth almost $5 million, this summer.

It’s not a given that Mozgov will be kept next summer. It’s not a given that Dan Gilbert will stop the cash flow next season. In short, it’s hard to tell one year from Mozgov’s contract expiring whether or not the Cavs will retain him. We could all use another season to get a better feel for which way the Cavs are leaning. But that won’t stop us from talking about it.

To keep it general, there are two major sides the Cavs will consider when deciding to re-sign Mozgov or not. And really, this goes for all free agents in any sport. One is financial, one is play on the court/field/ice/pitch.

It’s no secret that Gilbert has been throwing around the cash in order to assemble the best possible team for Cleveland.

Luckily for Gilbert, his wallet won’t be feeling as empty these next few years as it will this year.

Next year’s cap will see a significant jump, perhaps making the Cavs more inclined to sign the big man.

I now turn the mic over to WFNY’s Jacob Rosen, one of CavsTwitter’s resident NBA cap experts. Rosen laid out what the Cavs cap will look like going forward as of July 1.

Note that in this table the Cavs are financially committed to only seven players for 2016-17, are still over the cap, and just short of $3 million away from the tax line. And since this table isn’t meant to be a true projection, it doesn’t even include some factors that will bump the Cavs’ projected ~$105.2 million. These include, Mo Williams’s $2.2 million player option, the possible multi year deals of J.R. Smith and Matthew Dellavedova (as noted in the tweet), and of course the six or seven other roster spots that need to be filled.

And then you have Mozgov. The Cavs look like they’ll be in a similar situation next year, though not to the same degree (as in not paying a tax bill that is at least double the amount of the actual roster).

(It should be noted that since the Cavs own Mozgov’s Bird Rights, they could re-sign him even if they’re over the cap.)

But still, the Cavs will have to decide if keeping Mozgov is worth paying that much extra dough in tax dollars. Yes, Gilbert is a willing spender as he’s proven this offseason. But it doesn’t seem that he’s careless.

Starting this year, teams over the tax pay their tax bill at an incremental rate. The more the Cavs spend over the tax, the higher the rate of that tax. That could partly be why J.R. and Delly haven’t been signed yet (it also could have to do with the Cavs waiting on what to do with Brendan Haywood).

Then comes the matter of wondering just how much Mozgov is set to make next summer, which blends in with what kind of player he is on the court.

Timo will be 30-years-old when next summer comes around, with six NBA seasons under his belt. It would seem that he’s on the younger side of the 30 scale since he started his NBA career when he was 24. He’s also played in a total of 213 out of a possible 476 regular season games.

He spent the first four years of his career being an observer from the bench. It wasn’t until his last full year in Denver that he was playing 20 minutes a night. This was also the first time he played more than 50 games.

As with almost every Cav not named Kyrie, LeBron, and Love, Mozgov really found his peak niche when he was able to play a role that fit his strengths and didn’t make him do too much. This can be said with guys like Shumpert, J.R., and especially Thompson.

Though Mozgov will be a relatively fresh 30-year-old, this will probably be his last shot at big money. He certainly won’t be getting the less than $5 million he’s gotten each year of his career.

For reference, Kosta Koufas, who was another rim protector the Cavs were rumored to be targeting via trade last season, signed a four-year, $33 million contract with the Kings this offseason. This will probably end up looking like a discount for the Kings with the rising cap – which is why Mozgov will look to average more money per year. Another reason he’ll be looking for (a lot) more money is he’s just a flat out better player, which is not a knock against Koufas, who is a good player.

Here’s a profound statistic that favors the Cavs re-signing Mozgov: according to NBA.com/Stats, the Cavs outscored opponents by 11 points per 100 possessions with Mozgov on the floor. This is staggering on it’s own accord, but what makes it seem even better is when you see that number go down to 4.1 with Mozgov off the floor.

Granted, this statistic isn’t perfect. Three of the most common Cavs lineups with Mozgov in them also came with at least two of the Big 3. Even still, that Net Rating of 11 is eye-popping and Mozgov did a good amount to earn that statistic.

Something that miiiight go against the Cavs re-signing Mozgov is the arthroscopic surgery he had on his right knee about three weeks ago.

Also, paying $15-17 million a year for a guy in his 30’s who plays 25 minutes a night just sounds wrong, even with the spike in salary cap.

Cleveland Cavaliers center Timofey Mozgov (20), left, shoots over Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) during the first half of Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals in Cleveland, Thursday, June 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cleveland Cavaliers center Timofey Mozgov (20), left, shoots over Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) during the first half of Game 4 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Cleveland, Thursday, June 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The Cavs might also have reinforcements should Mozgov walk. The known one is Tristan Thompson, who is perhaps the most versatile defender on the team in terms of ability, position, and scheme and lineup adaptability.

The semi-known reinforcement could come by way of Mozgov’s homeland of Russian in the form of Sasha Kaun. The Seattle Supersonics drafted Kaun in 2008 (yes, 2008) before his rights were traded to the Cavs. Since then, he spent time playing for CSKA Moscow.

Kaun, who is 30-years-old, met with the Cavs last week and they might decide to finally bring him on. Should he show some promise, the Cavs might be more at ease with letting Mozgov go and having Thompson and Kaun man the center position.

The bottom line is there are a lot of variables at play here, some more important than others. Mozgov gives the Cavs their most legitimate relief in terms of rim protection. He’s mobile for his size and while that’s an asset, it will soon decline with the age he’s at. He also proved to be one of the better offensive rebounders in the league with an OREB% of 11, good for 20th in the NBA.

He’s a good pick-and-roll big, even if he’s not that great at catching the ball in traffic. He’s a safety valve for teammates who drive and get stalled. He also offers decent shooting range, although he might never be a great pick-and-pop player (although Anderson Varejao didn’t become a great mid-range shooter until the latter part of his peak.)

Mozgov offers some great traits for this Cavs team. But it’s almost inevitable that he’ll be able to grab a bunch of money. It’s up to Gilbert to decide if he wants to keep ponying up the dough.

At this point in time, I really don’t know if the Cavs should bring Mozgov back or not. That’s not a cop-out, it would just be irresponsible to make a hard assessment one way or the other a year before he hits the market. So much can and will probably happen between now and then that I’ll go back and forth about it. Until then, we should enjoy having one more guaranteed year with him because he is a darn good player.

Spending Dan Gilbert's Money

srw0wzagqbu5lwfswhtoThe Cavs are on a collision course with an unprecedented amount of salary due to its players. The thought of having zero cap space for the foreseeable future is problematic, but there is a good reason for it. It would probably be difficult to find a team in the NBA that wouldn’t want the problem of paying LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love what they are worth per the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.

The price of admission for having LeBron James on the roster is to not cut corners. The Miami Heat learned that lesson the hard way when they used the amnesty provision to cut Mike Miller. In the process, they saved $17 million in luxury tax due in 2013-2014 alone. However, it is well-documented that the decision to do so upset LeBron James. He, along with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, all took pay cuts in order for the Heat to have money to sign role players. It is easy to see how LeBron James could see that transaction as a slap in the face given the sacrifices he and his teammates made for the franchise.

This leaves Dan Gilbert and the Cavs in a bit of a predicament. LeBron James came back to the Cavs as a more mature veteran. He has made his intentions to finish his career in Cleveland well-known and barring unforeseen circumstances, it is likely how his career will pan out. Having said that, the Cavs absolutely have a responsibility to him to put the best possible team around him. He has given the franchise so much and they need to re-pay the favor to him.

In other words, cost-cutting moves should not even be considered.

The thought of paying an offensively-challenged power forward in Tristan Thompson close to a max contract is terrifying, but it is the only choice the Cavs have. He reportedly turned down a four year and $52 million dollar extension in October. Thompson bet on himself and he proceeded to have the best year of his career. Thompson averaged 8.5 points and 8 rebounds as a reserve for the Cavs last year. More importantly, his well-timed offensive rebounds in the playoffs were a big factor for the Cavs. Having someone around who can get the team more offensive possessions is incredibly beneficial. It is even more so beneficial when that player is willing to sacrifice and pass out to open shooters after securing the rebound.

There are also reports that J.R. Smith would like a 3 year and $24 million contract extension this summer. Smith’s disappearing act in the Finals was a major issue. He has more than his share of skeletons in the closet and is a veteran. At this point, Smith is who he is and will not be changing into another person simply because he plays on a team with LeBron James. Despite all of this, the Cavs are probably better off paying Smith than letting him walk.

The reason for this is because of the luxury tax apron that they will be entering. They are going to be severely limited in what they can do to improve the roster. They do not have many draft picks left in their disposal and they do not have cap space to sign players. They can sign players at the veteran’s minimum and they have the mini-MLE (about $3.4 million) to work with, but that is not enough to replace Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith.

The best asset that the Cavs have available is the non-guaranteed Brendan Haywood contract. As of July 1, it is worth $10.5 million. Cashing in on this trade asset will cost the Cavs a lot of money due to the luxury tax, but letting it expire without using it is a lost opportunity to improve the roster without having a way to replace it.

Dan Gilbert has earned himself a reputation as an owner who has deep pockets and who is willing to spend. It is time for him to put his money where his mouth is and to earn that reputation. Having this roster is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that the team should not take for granted.

What the Cavs Should be Thankful For

Thanksgiving is upon us. Here at More Than A Fan, we’re thankful for many things including family, friends, and sports. As Cavs writers for the site, Demetri Inembolidis, Eddy Jansen, and yours truly, we wanted to bring you a special Thanksgiving Cavs article for all of you.

We reached out to the fans, asking them what the Cavs should be thankful for.

They’re unlike regular people, but athletes, coaches, and members of the front office all have blessing to count. Luckily, we know exactly what members of the Cavs should be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

The Big 3

Kevin Love Kyrie Irving LeBron James Cavs

Eddy Jansen: LeBron James should be thankful for the fans welcoming him home with open arms. It was by choice, not because of a poor record after the era in which he left. Could the Cavs have built an NBA champion without its superstar like owner Dan Gilbert had foreseen? Probably not, but they could have become a contender by drafting the right players and finding the right coach. Neither of which happened, but that played a minimal role in Clevelanders’ warm welcome for James.

Demetri Inembolidis: Kevin Love should be thankful for being in the perfect situation. Sure, he hasn’t been playing up to his standards. That will come with time if he lets the game come to him. He hasn’t once scored 26 points this year, which happened to be his season average last year. That doesn’t matter so much because he is too talented and too perfect of a fit for this roster to not have everything fall into place.

Dan Armelli: Kyrie Irving should be thankful that he’s not “the man” anymore. He seems as relaxed as he’s ever been as a Cav. Even though he may not have less pressure than he’s had in the past, he’s not the one that has to answer to all of the Cavs’ struggles anymore. He doesn’t have everyone looking up to him and he doesn’t have to carry this team to wins every night. He has loads of help now and he can just go out and play, which is what he’s been doing.

Other Cavs

Jansen: Brendan Haywood should definitely be thankful for his salary. While his acquisition was clearly intended as a trade asset, Haywood in the meantime has logged a grand total of 19 minutes this season. Per hour, he is receiving more income than most full time emploWill Cherry Cavsyees make. And he is Brendan Haywood.

Inembolidis: Joe Harris and Will Cherry should be thankful for the opportunity that they have. Much like the Heat were, the Cavs are a top-heavy team. Miami rounded out the roster using ring-chasing veterans who were on their last leg. The Cavs are also doing that, but they have real rotation minutes available to guys like Joe Harris and Will Cherry. If they can play on this stage, it will do wonders for their careers.

Armelli: Dion Waiters should be thankful for Dion Waiters. This probably seems fitting to a lot of you, but I think it’s true. Dion gets criticized left and right, in wins and losses, in good personal performances and bad. Sometimes he deserves it, sometimes he doesn’t. But he’s had four different head coaches in four different years and it doesn’t seem that anyone hesitates to bury the guy. Thankfully, Dion is the type of player that will stick to his game – sometimes to a fault – but also tries to adjust to what his team is trying to do. Under so much scrutiny, I’m not sure many other guys could handle it.

 

Cavs Personnel

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers

Jansen: David Blatt could be thankful that LeBron is more or less a player coach, but truth be told, when power is taken away from a coach, the results can be undesirable. One of the great attributes of the San Antonio Spurs’ small market heroes Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli is that they let coach Gregg Popovich run the controls. LeBron seldom does that. But whether Blatt is thankful for that, is truly up to him.

Inembolidis: Dan Gilbert should be thankful for second chances. I’m older than LeBron James, yet I don’t think I would carry the level of maturity necessary to forgive Dan Gilbert for things that he said in the letter. I have consistently maintained that people are unfair to Dan Gilbert for the letter while completely glossing over the fact that the local-kid-turned-star-player left on reality TV. Having said that, there was some scathing stuff in that letter. LeBron James is a bigger man than I and I am glad that they were able to bury the hatchet. It seems obvious now that it happened, but having LeBron James return seems like the biggest of long shot odds if you take a step back and look at the situation.

Armelli: David Griffin should be thankful that patience is a virtue. This is a guy that stayed in the Cavaliers organization under Danny Ferry and Chris Grant, even though he had other offers elsewhere. Even after all the hell the organization went through after LeBron left, he stayed. This move paid off, as now he’s the GM of a championship contending team, with Griffin being a big reason for that. As a cancer survivor, we probably really shouldn’t be surprised that he made it through the toughest times with the Cavs. Thankfully for us, he’s here and has built a great team.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Jansen: The Cavs will be thankful for Matthew Dellavedova when he returns from an MCL sprain. No one figured his absences would through things this far out of the loop. Shawn Marion was forced into the starting shooting guard role; a position he has not played for almost a decade. Blatt has experimented with Dion Waiters, Will Cherry, Joe Harris, and Mike Miller at the two guard spot, but Delly should start immediately when he is healthy enough.Anderson Varejao dunk Cavs

Inembolidis: The Cavs should be thankful for the season being young. Their record is less than ideal and they are only beating teams by an average of 1.6 PPG after 13 games. Luckily for them, they are creeping up the ladder statistically in the defensive department. A few weeks ago, they were the 2nd worst defense in the NBA (ahead of only the Lakers). They are currently ranked 20th. The goal was always to be a respectable defensive team. The chemistry is improving and they should be able to get to a level of play that has mediocre defense and elite offense sooner than later.

Armelli: The Cavs should be thankful Anderson Varejao is staying healthy (KNOCKS ON WOOD/FINGERS CROSSED/THROWS SALT OVER SHOULDER). Andy is a guy that has connections to the old Cavs, like Kyrie, Dion, and Tristan, as well as the new Cavs – LeBron. Andy’s able to bridge the chemistry gap, and it’s shown. He’s been the primary pick-and-roll partner with both Kyrie and LeBron this season, and he was shooting 59.2% (2nd in the East among qualifiers) going into last night’s game against the Wizards. He’s not the rim protector the Cavs need, but he’s a reliable offensive player who makes the hustle plays and still provides that patented Varejao energy.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and thanks for choosing to spend part of your holiday on More Than A Fan.

LeBron's True Plan For The Cleveland Cavaliers And Dan Gilbert

by Ryan Isley

LeBron James just might be in the midst of his greatest plan yet. And so far, he has played it perfectly.

It all started by saying he wished he should have handled “The Decision” differently. Then he began dropping little hints over the past couple of seasons that he might be interested in a return to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers. His next move was to opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat, which he did. This of course led to speculation of a return. Then on July 11th, speculation turned to reality with the letter he wrote in Sports Illustrated to announce his return to the Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland.

The four-time NBA MVP continued to do and say the right things when he mic-dropped at his welcome home party in Akron.

After that, it was on to the commercials. He did one for Beats by Dre, where his mom Gloria James narrates about his return home. There was the Sprite commercial that chronicled LeBron’s first true home game at Patterson Park in Akron. And then the big one dropped just hours before LeBron and the Cavs took the floor for their regular season opener. It was a Nike ad all about Cleveland and coming together.

It all felt too good to be true. And it is. Because it is all just a hoax. No, LeBron’s plan is not to bring the city of Cleveland a championship. It never was. His real plan is to ensure that Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert NEVER wins one. This is all an elaborate plot to set up Gilbert and exact his revenge for Gilbert’s letter from 2010.

You think LeBron has forgotten about that letter? The one where Gilbert called him “THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’” and called what LeBron did a “shameful display of selfishness and betrayal”? Oh, LeBron hasn’t forgotten. Nor has he forgiven. He also doesn’t forget the way he was treated by the majority of Cleveland fans and media after he left. Those same people who are right back to supporting him now. But he remembers their true colors.

LeBron has reeled everyone into his trap, Gilbert included. He has put his plan in place and all of the pieces have fit like a glove. His goal is to completely sabotage Gilbert and the Cavaliers and make sure the cupboard is all but empty when he leaves, sans NBA championship.

Remember when LeBron signed a two-year deal with the Cavs and people were worried that it might be so he can leave again following the 2015-16 season? Yeah, all part of the plan. That trade for Kevin Love? Part of the plan.  But the part that worked out even better than LeBron could have hoped this offseason was that the Cavs gave up Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, plus a first round draft pick to get Love. That’s right – the Cavs traded the last two number one overall draft picks who are 21 and 19 years old, respectively.

That’s when LeBron’s plan went into overtime. After the Love trade, LeBron talked Love into not signing an extension, even though Love’s contract expires after this current season. The two have discussed the plan, and Love will be leaving after one season in Cleveland. After all, that letter not only hit home with LeBron, it resonated throughout the league with players. He also had to talk Tristan Thompson into not accepting a longer deal with the Cavs, so Thompson could become a restricted free agent. That way, the Cavs will probably have to overpay to keep the 23-year-old they took with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft.

Now, think back to those commercials we discussed earlier. Sure, the last one was all about the city of Cleveland, but the first two were focused on LeBron’s hometown of Akron. This comes as no surprise, as LeBron has supported his hometown even when he was a part of the Miami Heat. This part of the plan was never questioned, but sent a message nonetheless. LeBron was returning, but cared more about making sure Akron was taken care of than making sure Cleveland was helped.

LeBron even took the step of making a nice gesture of wearing a Browns hat when he attended a Browns game a few weeks ago and has made appearances at Browns practices. Again, this part of the plan came easily, because he is friends with Johnny Manziel, so nobody gave a second thought that this might be just some sort of scam. But LeBron doesn’t care about the Browns. Just like he doesn’t care about the Indians. Hell, he wasn’t even a Cavs fan in his youth. It is well-documented that LeBron is a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees and of course Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. So why care about Cleveland teams now? It isn’t because he is happy to be back, it is to pull more fans into his web. And it has worked.

The toughest part of the plan though? Actually making sure that the Cavs don’t win a championship with the team they put on the floor every night. This explains his 5-for-15 shooting and eight turnovers in the season opening loss to the New York Knicks. He led the Cavs to a win over the Bulls on Friday night, but still shot under 50%. All part of the plan. LeBron isn’t going to lose games on purpose, but will do just enough to make sure this team isn’t the number one seed in the Eastern Conference when the playoffs begin.

The playoffs will be where he pulls off the best part of the trick. The Cavs will be a favorite by many to win the championship, but LeBron is going to make sure the Cavs lose in the first round not only this season, but next season. That way, the team makes the playoffs which means they can’t get into the NBA Draft Lottery with a chance at a high draft pick but they also bow out of the playoffs early without a shot at a title.

After their first round exit in 2016, LeBron will announce that he is not going to sign long-term in Cleveland and will take his talents elsewhere to continue his pursuit of championships. While he will join a team that is already championship ready, the Cavs will be stuck worse than they were in 2010. Imagine the letter that Gilbert will write in the summer of 2016. And to think – had he not written the one in 2010, LeBron would have never launched this plan for revenge.

Revenge is a dish best served cold. And LeBron James is serving up a frozen cup of it for Dan Gilbert.

(Obviously, you guys realize this is just a joke, right? I in no way believe LeBron has actually hatched a plan to set up Dan Gilbert for the ultimate revenge – Ryan.)

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at ryan.isley@morethanafan.net. You can also connect with him on Twitter @isley23.

Cavs Unveil “New” Alternate Jerseys

Along with new players, a new video board, and a new court, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert revealed via his twitter account on Wednesday that the Cavs would be getting new navy blue alternative jerseys this season.

On Thursday morning, the navy blues were shown in its entirety via the Cavs official twitter account.

They look great. And familiar.

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Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; these are recycled alternates from the 2011-12 Cavaliers season. The only noticeable differences are the slight striping adjustments on the shoulders, neckline, waist, and knees as well as the “All for ne. One for all.” tag on the bottom of the jersey.

The uniforms are set to again first be worn at the home opener versus the Knicks on Thursday, October 30.

Though these uniforms have been used before, the Cavs are weirdly pumping this up as if this is the first time these uniforms will ever be worn: almost as if these last four years didn’t happen.

Even though I think the marketing of this jersey is already over the top – they sent out a press release for goodness’ sake – I can’t really blame them. People are already buying into this uniform’s hype. These jerseys should sell like hot cakes, not only because of how well Gilbert and the Cavs are selling this as brand new, but because who wouldn’t want to buy a navy blue LeBron James/Kevin Love jersey? I’ll definitely look into getting an Anderson Varejao one, myself.

Hand-me-done or not, this jersey does add some flair to their uniform lineup. The design is plain, but that just lets the colors stand out that much more. At this point, I’m just extremely thankfully they haven’t introduced sleeved uniforms (knock on wood).

And if you think Gilbert is trying to emulate a certain team up north with these navy blue alternates, you are sorely mistaken.

Cleveland Cavaliers lose first Summer League game amid trade rumors

Amid rampant speculation about a forthcoming trade for Kevin Love, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost their first NBA Summer League game last night against the Houston Rockets. Unfortunately, their first loss happened to come in the most important game of the tournament for them. The Cavs went 3-0 in the seed-determining games, but lost their first game in the one-and-done tournament. They will still play in the losers bracket against Miami tonight at 7 PST, but their chances of winning the tournament are over.

The main difference between last night’s game and the first three was that Matthew Dellavedova was absent for the former. Dellavedova left the Cavs early in order to prepare for the FIBA World Cup with the Australian national team. His absence was obviously felt by the Cavs. Point guard Will Cherry started in Dellavedova’s place and put up 21 points for the Cavs. His opponent, Isaiah Canaan, scored a game-high 28 points, however, and was the difference-maker in the game.

Andrew Wiggins, who had 21 points on 3-5 shooting, had a good game with the exception of the last minute. Wiggins showed off some aggressiveness throughout the game, getting to the line 20 times and converting 15 of those. He also had five boards and a block in 31 minutes of action. Anthony Bennett added 11 points on 4-11 shooting with six boards and a steal. Rookie Joe Harris went 3-6 from the field, nailing both of his three-point attempts and adding a board, steal and assist in 23 minutes of action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cavs shot 46 percent from the floor, but were outscored 40-28 in the paint by the Rockets. Donatas Motiejunas dominated down low, ending the night with 21 points. Overall, it was a pretty good showing for the young Cavs and rookie NBA coach David Blatt.

Owner Dan Gilbert, general manager David Griffin, and Kyrie Irving were all sitting court side to take in the action. The trio happened to be about 20-feet in front of me, and Irving was engaging in some good-natured smack talk with Canaan throughout the game. He was also vivaciously cheering on Wiggins as the game wound down.

While Wiggins has looked as good as advertised thus far and will likely be a great two-way player in a few years–especially playing alongside LeBron James–there are rumors he may never get the chance to do it in a Cavs jersey. While the Cavs initially claimed that Wiggins would not be included in any potential Kevin Love trade, it is now being reported by ESPN and most news outlets that the Cavs are in fact willing to trade Wiggins for Love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The apparent assumption here is that Love would be willing to re-sign long-term with the Cavs in order to play alongside James. The positives are obvious: pairing an all-star power forward with Kyrie Irving and James in order to attempt to win a title in the short-term, providing the Cavs with even more spacing, adding a dominant rebounder and freeing James and Irving up even more on offense. Love averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game last season while recording a 26.97 PER. Love is also only 25 and would give the Cavs an approximate 5-year window to win a title with a core of Irving, James and himself.

The negatives of a Wiggins/Love trade would be: sacrificing defense for offense, sacrificing age and long-term potential in order to try to win immediately, and sacrificing financial flexibility. Wiggins is only 19 and projects to be a great two-way player in a few years. Personally, I believe that his career arc will most closely resemble that of Kawhi Leonard’s. I think skill wise, Wiggins could be close to where Leonard is right now in his third or fourth year. Having a player like that will likely help the Cavs more in a playoff series compared to Love’s offensive talent. Being only 19, Wiggins would grow exponentially playing with James for five plus years and the Cavs would then have a dynamic duo in Wiggins and Irving once James retires. Lastly, Wiggins will be on a very valuable rookie contract for the next four years, which would allow the Cavs more financial flexibility to improve the team while James and Irving are maxed out next year. Seeing as Love’s contract expires at the end of this season, however, the Cavs would have to offer Love a max next year as well, meaning they’d have nearly $60 million tied up in only three players. In other words, they’d be facing a similar situation that the Miami Heat faced this offseason.

If the trade deadline is nearing and the Minnesota Timberwolves are receiving better offers than Dion Waiters/Tristan Thompson/Anderson Varejao, Anthony Bennett and two future first-round picks, then the Cavs could consider throwing in Wiggins in order to acquire Love. Making him available now though just doesn’t seem like a smart move. Love is forcing his way out of Minnesota, whether they like it or not. He’ll be gone by this time next year. The Timberwolves have to deal him by February, so they really shouldn’t be able to make demands at this point. If Love wants to play with James, then he’ll tell the Timberwolves–and every other team interested in him–that he won’t re-sign anywhere other than Cleveland. Then, the Timberwolves will be obligated to move him to Cleveland or take the chance of losing him for next to nothing. Go ahead and look up what Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, James Harden and Carmelo Anthony were traded for. Hint: no young players of Wiggins’ caliber were included in those deals.

Rumors will continue to circulate about Wiggins for Love, and maybe it will happen. It’s certainly possible that Gilbert doesn’t want to mess around during James’ second stint in Cleveland like he did last time and miss out on another championship. With James turning 30 in December, maybe Gilbert and Griffin will decide to capitalize on the next five years and go all in. I can’t say I won’t be excited to watch Irving, James and Love in a Cavs jersey this season. I just don’t believe we need to give up Wiggins to achieve that. I guess we’ll find out over the next six months, and the way this speculation is ramping up, maybe much sooner.

The One Where LeBron James Serves Crow

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We were in all in limbo, just waiting on LeBron James. More importantly, I was at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, much more anxiously awaiting my wife’s return from a business trip. If you’re familiar with the words I’ve offered regarding James in the last four years, you probably know that I haven’t been on board with this idea of a return, redemption, whatever we were going to call it. It would actually be fair to say I opposed this reunion. However, as desperation lurked and it felt like Cleveland was about to strike out once again, somehow it felt like it could be worse than four years ago, I couldn’t root for the city to fail again.

That’s what anything not involving an immediate future in Cavaliers uniform for the Akron native would have amounted to, a failure. Landing LeBron was what they were trying to do, whatever level of satisfaction I’d have gotten out of that would have been canceled out by what would sure feel like a repeat of 2010; that goes without saying. I decided, just hours before the big reveal, it’s time to come around. When it doesn’t happen, I have to go down with the ship. Now, my genuine opinion was then, and is now, that I still don’t want to join him (or have him join “Us”, I mean the Cavs), I want to beat him. It’s funny, because for so long I was convinced there was no way. While we waited, me for my wife’s flight from Dallas and the rest of the world for LeBron’s second decision in four years and two days, I began to scratch out a Facebook post.

I used phrases like “walking into a buzzsaw”, “boarding the Titanic”, and “turning into the skid”, but before I could finish the thought and hit post, the phone rang. She was here, she was ready to come home. Though I’d held down the fort at the ranch for three days, I needed her for our house to be a home. I know there’s an obvious tie to LeBron and Savannah to be made, but not at 10:30 PM, and not at Terminal 4, the Barry Goldwater terminal. My latest commentary on NBA Free Agency would have to wait; I had my better half back, with better being the understatement of the century.

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Once upon a time, I’d hoped to revoke LeBron’s Cleveland privileges, to deny him a chance to come home. It turns out, that’s a foolish way of thinking about this.

Since the prospect of a return could almost be heard in the very echoes of “taking my talents to South Beach”, I put my foot down. No. As many ways as I could say it, it wasn’t an option. In the immediate aftermath, I recall commenting on a Cleveland Frowns post, as if I was Marcellus telling Butch he lost his L.A. privileges at the end of Pulp Fiction. I wasn’t quite as stung by “The Decision” as Cavs fans that actually live Northeast Ohio probably were, but you know I didn’t appreciate him stepping on my former community, and you’ve all heard it a thousand times; it wasn’t that he left, but how.

I don’t know how many times I wrote about James after he joined the Heat, probably few enough to count on one hand. I guess I had plenty to write, but there would have been a certain irony to constantly writing 2500 words that basically said, “who cares about LeBron James?” would be ironic, hypocritical, or both. I was forever disappointed that he remained a part of the Cleveland news cycle, and some of the ways they tied him to whatever it was didn’t just reach ridiculous speed, but it was plaid levels of ludicrous, minus the Southern Hospitality of course.

As a matter of fact, my final straw with ESPN came a year later on Labor Day when LeBron’s tweet about Maryland’s new outrageous Under Armour look made Sportscenter. I mean, it’s the new age of media and it was more about my lack of fascination with LeBron James, the small forward for the Miami Heat, than it was about Sportscenter giving him air-time on a tangent like that. The truth is, as much as we shake our heads at ESPN and other outlets from a Cleveland perspective, many viewers want that superfluous news about their almighty king.

I don’t know how well I speak for Cleveland and Cavs fans in general, but I don’t like being the target of the jokes. The jokes are nothing new, from Johnny Carson to Conan O’Brien, right on up to Dan LeBatard and Bomani Jones. People like the Cleveland jokes, as evidenced by comment sections and social media, but we do our best to debunk the stereotype and dismiss the brash commentary for the satire that it often is. Of all the emotion and anger I inadvertently experienced over these last four years, two things stick out.

Too big a deal was made of this. It wasn’t the writing on the wall.

I never wanted to be Knick fan, circa 2007-2010. James wore a New York Yankees cap to a playoff game in Cleveland, a game where the Bronx Bomber populated the visitor’s dugout. It was in poor taste to be sure, but we don’t even have the bandwidth here for me to list everything I did in poor taste at the age of 22, so I don’t dwell on it. In the aftermath of that, around the time of hosting gig on New York-based Saturday Night Live, it was revealed that the Big Apple was among his favorite cities on a list that included Akron, but not Cleveland. That began the speculation.

“In two years, LeBron is going to leave Cleveland; how do you feel about that, Jeff?”

I didn’t feel it was true, so I didn’t feel anything. It’s the same way I feel about ManBearPig and the Succubus. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about things that probably don’t exit. It was all a creation of the New York media. The best thing about the words “South Beach” is that they weren’t “Times Square” or “The City That Never Sleeps”. There was no reward for being obnoxious about courting the guy when the Cavs visited Madison Square, and to search for a silver lining to the events of July 8, 2010, one might have found it in the fact that the Knicks cleared cap space for Amare Stoudemire and little else.

I don’t particularly have anything against New York, but I found their fans to be out of line for such an extended period of time, multiple seasons. I thought it foolish of Cavs fans to act in the same manner, to pine for the summer of 2014, stating in 2012 that we wear egg on our faces if we subscribe to “The Return” for two seasons. When the kid ran on the floor with the Heat in town last year, I think I found myself to be in the minority. While I felt like this behavior shouldn’t be rewarded, this guy was made to be a celebrity. I was more about letting burnt bridges remain burnt.

Speaking of burning…

“You’re from Cleveland? So, you hate Art Modell and burned your LeBron jersey?”

I didn’t participate in any LeBron-fires and I’ll take the fifth on whether or not “hate” is the right word for Modell and the bomb he dropped on us in 1995. I threw everything away, not necessarily to be spiteful, but because I was never going to wear any of it again. Looking back, it was spiteful not to donate them and there was an admitted level of satisfaction that ran through me as I dropped them in a trash can soiled with cat litter and the excrement of three cats. We definitely try to deny spite as a motivating factor for actions, and even if you try to take it back, it’s too late, because you already said spite.

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“Well you already said spite so…”

Spite is a real thing, but I found it difficult to believe it was a factor in any of this. A lot of mistakes were made, with ego playing a role in the case of both LeBron James and Dan Gilbert, but you absolutely expected more out of the banking billionaire. Well, some of the fans, the ones that would be stuck with a 19-win team the next season, did not see it as anything more than one voice representing the feelings of many. Of course, if either side still held a grudge, we probably wouldn’t have been hearing the Cavs were really the contenders to yell it out, “Winner, winner. Chicken dinner.”

Beating him ceased to be an option when Sports Illustrated published an essay called “I’m Coming Home” on Friday morning. It was a first-hand account to Lee Jenkins at the magazine, and it covered everything. To say that it was well done, be it the words in the message or the method with which the big news was delivered, would have been an understatement. He covered everything, leaving the naysayers with just about nothing to say nay about. This young man, who we believe to be a good father and husband, claims to have a lot of respect for the history of the game, but forget about the game. How about just plain old history?

You see, there’s this font called “Comic Sans”, and one night Dan Gilbert wrote a letter that said…

Being well-versed in history won’t help the average person land a job, but the reason history is important is that we are supposed to learn from our mistakes. Those days in July of 2010 were full of mistakes. You could have blamed Maverick Carter, Rich Paul or LeBron. Many opted to blame Dan Gilbert, but regardless of the direction fingers were being pointed, The Decision lent itself to teachable moments. Four years later, i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed; communication was good. Outlandish promises weren’t made and the Man of the Hour paid homage to what he’d soon lose in the rear-view mirror as South Florida starts to become memory, as well as what lies ahead as he looks through the windshield on the trip north on I-77. He wants to be a leader, instead of just saying the words. What he wants, is to be home.

We should all want it too, as much as some of us want to be stubborn and proud. Being belligerent, as much as it might validate one’s desire to stick to his or her convictions, doesn’t do the type of things for your area that 41 sold out games can do. These words seem like they’d have been difficult to produce just a few days ago, because still, to hell with LeBron James and winning games, or so I thought. Now, I can’t believe I’ve come around. Just days ago, the blood boiled over generalizations that you’re an idiot not to want the best player in the game; I even saw it suggested that said “idiots” should be beaten with a bag of scorpions. Look, I respect everyone’s right to an opinion, but there might be a right and a wrong on this subject.

Being happy, thrilled even, seems like the right call. I am just left with one question; when forced to eat this crow, may I season it with black pepper? I just can’t bring myself to be salty. To use the words of James, who am I to hold a grudge?

At the airport, you hear it a lot, welcome home; I think you can always go back.  There’s no place like it.

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Postscript: I didn’t really feel this properly fit the context of this post, but I felt it should be included as a footnote.  About a year ago, I had the misfortune of attending the memorial service of a friend taken from us far too early.  I remember looking around the room, identifying his closest friends in various places, knowing that I honestly wasn’t among that group.  We’d reached the point in the service where it was time to volunteer to share, and it was nothing but crickets and tumbleweeds.  It was uncomfortable; a room full of people that couldn’t hide their tears had nothing to say.

My hand went up.  I don’t remember what I said, as it wasn’t anything rehearsed, but just genuine thoughts and memories from the heart.  I wrapped it up and anxiously awaited another volunteer to eulogize this friend.  At the repast, or post-funeral reception, an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in some time approached me to thank me for speaking.  He qualified the compliment with a plain declaration that he never liked me, but saw something in me at that mortuary that he found admirable.  He told me that he never thought I’d be capable of maturing into the man that I was that day, in a time of grief.

You walk away from a moment like that, both ashamed and proud.  As long as the shamed part of you is in the past and the prideful part remains in the present, you’re doing alright.  Having gone down this road, a sometimes difficult path, I believe that others are capable of growing.  I, at the very least, owe some people the benefit of the doubt.

Nine Years of Kyrie Irving

 

It is going to be nine years, and not just a regular nine years for native of West Orange, New Jersey, but nine years in Cleveland. During his particularly extended stay on the North Coast, Kyrie Irving will take on more baggage than 11 games at Duke could have possibly prepared him for, but he will be compensated quite handsomely in Years 5 thru 9, to the tune of $90 million over that span. This, we learned in principle, via the Twitter accounts of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Irving himself in the early hours of Tuesday morning.  This is a max deal for Irving and a declaration of a bright future in Cleveland.

This, of course, speaks well to the new regime’s competence in setting a goal, and then executing the plan in the fastest possible time frame. Whether anyone in these parts likes to admit it or not, the rumors and the sting of the last one being painfully true had planted a seed of doubt regarding Irving’s future and his commitment to the Cavaliers. While it’s still technically possible that the earth shakes enough to give everyone who shook hands in New Jersey before sunrise Tuesday, this should end speculation that would validate the rumors that were basically bold-faced lies told about Irving’s camp and his future.

 

It’s just a hell of a commitment to a town that doesn’t usually get nine years out of its stars. Think about it, who do you love in recent history? For me, it starts with Bernie Kosar in 1985, a heroic tenure that ended somewhat disgracefully with Bill Belichick determining he wasn’t worth a roster spot. Released mid-season in 1993, Kosar wouldn’t finish his ninth season with the Browns. In the present tense, Joe Thomas should certainly be there at the end of the 2015 season, but only has seven seasons under his belt in Cleveland. Heroes of more recent Browns history include D’Qwell Jackson and Joshua Cribbs, but both sought greener pastures after eight seasons in Berea. Phil Dawson remains the lonely exception, but we love Phil as if he’d delivered multiple playoff-winning field goals, even if the team hardly came close to ever putting him in that spot.

Next door to Quicken Loans Arena, the only player that remains from the Indians last division title is Asdrubal Cabrera, and he was a late-season call-up on a team that narrowly missed the World Series. That was only seven years ago and, barring unforeseen circumstances, the one we call Asdribibble will certainly not play a ninth season for the Tribe next year. You’d think maybe Victor Martinez spent that much time with the Tribe, but he comes up short of nine in the years department as well. Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel actually did spend over a decade in Cleveland, and it goes without saying that both are iconic, maybe not in the same breath with Bob Feller, Otto Graham, and Jim Brown, but both were certainly forever memorable.

Basketball history isn’t quite as rich in those parts, the Cavs having come into existence a full six years after the city’s last major title. It goes back to Bingo Smith and Austin Carr, currently represented in the rafters at The Q, who both spent most of the 1970s in Wine & Gold. In the 80s, Mark Price and Brad Daugherty spent at least nine years in Northeast Ohio, though some were spent down I-271 at the Palace on the Prairie in Richfield. Then, there was that other guy, the one who could dunk, he didn’t spend quite as much time with the Cavs; then again, Larry Nance’s career began in Phoenix. Also, Lebron James spent seven seasons with the team before joining the Miami Heat in 2010, the aforementioned sting we all experienced.

Not to dwell on the past, but the two years of being teased about losing James, compounded with the circumstances that unfolded when it was time to go and all of the life that was let out of the balloon when it became a reality, it not only opened the door for all dialogue that starts with no one wants to play here, but it made us start to believe it. It had me grasping for straws with names like Andre Rison and Eddie Murray in selling Cleveland as anything other than hopeless; keep in mind, this was four years ago, not fifteen. Might those days be over?

 

Maybe this is a sign of things to come. Draft well and build around your young talent. The first part has taken a ridiculously long time get right, a direct result of getting luck, and they’ve been beyond lucky, but it wasn’t luck that kept Kyrie Irving in a Cavs uniform through the 2021 NBA Playoffs. It was skill and competence of a staff that seems to know what they’re doing early in the game, impressing someone they needed to impress.

Kyrie Irving wants to be a part of this thing for nine years…and so do I.