The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Past, Present, and Future
Originally posted to isportstimes.com on February 12, 2014
To preface everything you are about to read: It comes from someone who has adored NBA basketball ever since he was old enough to appreciate a Michael Jordan crossover-stepback (and obligatory push off). It also comes from someone who lacks even rudimentary knowledge about hockey and only watches it during the Olympics or if the Stanley Cup is on the television at a bar.
But the more I think about it, the truer it becomes: The Cleveland Cavaliers should move to a different city and be replaced by an NHL franchise.
If the last decade has proven anything, it’s that the Cleveland Cavaliers will always struggle with talent acquisition. Maybe it’s the cold weather, the questionable nightlife options, or the poor air quality, but for whatever reason, Cleveland is not a place NBA players want to spend their careers. Even when the Cavaliers are fortunate enough to acquire good players via drafting or trading, they usually end up bitching and moaning their way out of town.
And it’s not as if the Cavaliers can make up for that in free agency; their record of adding free agents is about as poor as their record of drafting players outside the number one overall pick. Here are some of the free agents the Cavaliers signed since drafting LeBron James: Larry Hughes, Donyell, Marshall, Damon Jones, Alan Henderson, Mike Wilks, Scott Pollard, David Wesley, Lorenzen Wright, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Leon Powe, Joey Graham, Samardo Samuels, C.J. Miles, Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark, Andrew Bynum. Despite having an owner that’s willing to win at all costs, the Cavaliers are unable to attract high-level free agent talent to Cleveland and are then forced to overpay for the dregs of the market. Add that to an inability to keep the top-flight talent they already have and it becomes exceedingly difficult to put together a championship-caliber roster.
In today’s NBA, small market teams need an amount of luck that borderlines on miraculous to win a title. The Spurs drafted Tim Duncan in 1997 and haven’t looked back since. But not only did they luck into drafting a transcendent player, they hired a transcendent coach who works in concert with a transcendent front office. It’s a confluence of factors that’s nearly impossible to replicate (it also helps that players in San Antonio don’t have to deal with the Snowpocalypse).
What makes it all the more frustrating for fans is that the Cavaliers have already been as fortunate as any other franchise in the league, if not more so. They won the draft lottery during a year when an all-time top ten player was available. In the three drafts since that player left, the team has won the first, fourth, fourth, and first selections, and was able to use one of those first selections on a player whom general managers ranked as one of the three players in the league they would choose to build their team’s around.
Yet all that good fortune has only produced playoff heartbreak and a team that’s as bad as they were when John Lucas was running the show. Supporting an NBA team in a city like Cleveland means investing emotionally in a sport where your team’s success is entirely dependent on the bounces of ping-pong balls and the mercurial nature of athletes in their twenties.
If you’re like me, you’re sick and tired of the narrative surrounding the Cavaliers being about players trying to finagle their way out of town. You’re sick and tired of star players holding the entire organization hostage as they collude with their buddies over whether they want to play in New York, Los Angeles, or Miami. You’re especially sick and tired of your basketball team getting beat in transition after made baskets when they’re coached by a supposed defensive guru and don’t have the talent to beat teams when they skate by effort-wise.
I’m twenty-two years old and I don’t have one good Cavalier basketball memory that doesn’t involve LeBron James. When I see the Cavaliers losing by thirty in the third quarter to an absolutely decimated Lakers team, it brings me back to the days of Cedric Henderson and Brevin Knight; when the team had those jerseys with the weird rip in them and got blown out with regularity. It frightens me as a fan that, sans having the best player in the league, the team has never been even remotely competitive in my lifetime. It makes me fearful of what the next decade of Cavalier basketball has in store.
Do I really want a hockey team in Cleveland at the cost of losing the Cavaliers? Hell no.
But I do want to see a Cleveland sports team win a title at some point during my life, and I just don’t see that happening for an NBA team in this city anytime soon. Unless Cleveland is somehow picked up and placed on the California shoreline, it will take an unfathomable amount of fortune for the Cavaliers to win an NBA title. It’s enough fortune to make the Cleveland Brown Jackets not sound so bad after all.