So the Tribe tanked, and the Browns will be lucky to win two games. But hope springs eternal in the hearts of Cleveland sports fans, which makes the Cavaliers' season opener next week even more welcome than usual.
But don't get too excited yet. Much as we love coach Byron Scott's hard-nosed optimism, there are plenty of reasons to be cautious about the upcoming season. And lots of painful history to be recalled.
We've dredged it all up while we can still laugh about it.
Win or lose, it's going to be a long season. Here are seven tips for surviving it intact, or at least without losing your sanity.
Enjoy Anderson Varejao, because he won't be around for long.
Guessing when Varejao will be shipped out has become a seasonal ritual. But this is likely to be the year when the Wild Thing goes for good. He's a provable asset on the court entering the last year of his contract, which in plain biz speak means he's a tradable commodity. Considering that GM Chris Grant's game plan has always centered on fire-selling current talent for draft picks, draft picks, and more draft picks, the odds on a Varejao trade fly high. Andy, it's been fun.
We have the first Israeli NBA player.
Although his stat line doesn't spell this out, Cavs small forward Omri Casspi is already something of a big name. He's the walking, talking vindication of all those East Side street ball regulars who can dunk a mean three without inching a yarmulke out of place. For Casspi, this is his first real shot with the team; an injury slowed him down last year. He's performed well in the preseason, knocking down 8.7 points on average with a 3.7 in the rebound column. That's probably not enough to win a starting spot, but watch for Casspi to be an important element coming off the bench.
It was sad when that one player left, right?
You don't have to remind us. There was that special way he could electrify a play. Just when the Cavs seemed like they were running low on gas, he'd touch the ball, jolting his teammates with unmistakable new life. And then he was gone. We were angry. We had every right to be. All that swag — the jerseys, the headbands, the Fatheads — wasted. It was harder still to see the emotional investment squandered. But now it's time to put it away, once and for all. Time has healed the wounds. One day, you'll be able to wake up and look in the mirror without that painful thought crowding into your head: J.J. Hickson is no longer on the Cavs. He's gone. Let's get over it.
Kyrie Irving Is That Really Good Player Over There Who Knows How to Play Basketball.
He can't even drink yet, but he's a rising superstar. How about 18.5 points per game in his first season? How about 5.4 assists? How about a 21.49 Player Efficiency Ranking (a fancy stat metric that basically means Kyrie Irving is damn good at basketball)? And how about the Rookie of the Year Award?
Yeah, they're all reasons to believe the Cavs grabbed another superstar in the draft when they tanked and landed the Golden Ticket to take the Duke point guard. And he's delivered with every game-winning shot, displaying a clutch gene that seemed to have been absent in a certain predecessor during his time in Cleveland.
Inveterate worriers can point to the 51 games Irving was limited to last year because of injury issues. No surprise there, since he seems to have no regard for his body as he jumps into towers of bruisers surrounding the rim. Plan on Irving giving Cleveland a heart attack or two.
Um, Who the Fuck Are the Rest of Those Guys?
A Scene staffer recently spotted a tall, schlubby white guy in Cavs-issued clothes wandering around the Steelyard Commons Target early on Sunday morning. Turns out it was Tyler Zeller, the North Carolina center the Cavs used a first-round draft pick on over the summer. Huh.
Welcome to the new Cleveland Cavs, featuring lots of young guys with whom you may or may not be familiar, and who may or may not be competent at playing basketball. Time will tell.
Wherefore art thou, Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker? Gone, along with their bloated contracts and aching, old legs. Now, it's Dion Waiters, the Syracuse shooting guard who struggled, to put it charitably, in his first preseason action. And there's Zeller, who's looking better than the guy drafted before him, though it's too early to tell which end of the big white guy spectrum he lands on.
Boobie Gibson is still around, notable mostly for his new reality show on BET, where he talks about family with his R&B singer wife, Keyshia Cole.
And there's the rest of the motley bunch: Luke Harangody, Samardo Samuels, Alonzo Gee, role players you may remember from lesser performances last year, holding roster spots while GM Chris Grant stockpiles options and open salary cap space looking for future draft picks or trades. In the midst of a sizable rebuilding effort, Grant has emphasized crafting a team the right way. This only sometimes means losing as many games as possible and hoping a Kyrie Irving drops into your lap.
Get Ready for Another Bizarre Uniform.
For the fifth year in a row, the Cavs will unveil a special alternate uniform, the CavFanatic get-up, originally meant to promote the team's social networking site. The design changes every year, mashing up two previous unis into a new example of haute couture. Throw some old-school orange in with the electric blazing blue from the Terrell Brandon days? Sure. The basket-in-the-V version with '70s wine color patterns? Why not?
This year's version hasn't been released yet, but we hope it's black-on-black-on-black, because if college football has taught us anything, it's that people love black jerseys.
Prepare for sensory overload.
Game? What game? Oh yeah, you're talking about the stuff that happens when the cheerleaders aren't wiggling to Jock Jams and the Top 40 at full volume on the court, or when the dance team isn't doing collective body tumbles while cannons fire t-shirts into the stands based on which sections are out-cheering the others, or when the frozen pizza specials aren't being blared over the PA for one lucky club row, or when Lil' Timmy and Jimmy aren't dueling in a free throw contest, or when three schlubs from the upper deck aren't busy trying to guess how much money is in the special Key Bank suitcase, or when the jumbo screen isn't dressed with hearts and Cupids while the camera pans on unsuspecting couples...kiss, make them kiss, make them kiss...oh wait, now it's focused on two guys! Hah!
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