To steal a line from a famous Chinese Proverb, the journey is the reward. The Chinese philosopher who first coined that phrase and never got any credit for it wasn’t talking about these Cleveland Cavaliers specifically, but he could’ve been. Or she could’ve been.
Tuesday’s win over the Bobcats was fun. Couple that with the fact that it was the second time these Cavs posted a double-digit victory in successive games and I can see where maybe – maybe – that p-word sneaks into your Cavaliers consciousness. That is before you were able to properly reject those dreams of immediate win column gratification as quickly as Kyrie Irving crept up and disposed of DJ Augustin’s attempt at a wide open layup the other night.
Regardless of how things went in Toronto, and they certainly did go dismally, the true reward for this Cavaliers team in completing their first of this seven game roadtrip is in the fact that Kyrie Irving (3 of 13 from the floor) and Tristan Thompson no longer have to play the second game of a back-to-back on the road as NBA players for their first time ever anymore. That’s done. I’m sure they learned a few things too that they’d only have really been able to learn by actually going through the process. Albeit technically a losing one in this case.
Tristan also got that first homecoming trip to Canada as the highest drafted Canadian born player ever, and all that comes with the 200 friends and family members in attendance, out of his way too. I was personally stressed out in years past trying to organize a Super Bowl party at my house, and I didn’t even have anywhere near 200 friends or family members to organize an invite for. I wasn’t 20 either. I can only imagine how the simple fact of wanting to do well for all those people, and even just trying to say hello to everyone, had to play a role in Tristan’s first rough game (1 point, 3 rebounds) of the season. Not that the kid came anywhere close to admitting anything like that post-game, or even remotely hinting at that possibility for an excuse.
Certainly the chances of both DeMarr DeRozan channelling his inner-Ray Allen and Andrea Bargnani offering a Dirk-esque performance at the same time, yet alone at all, did appear to be minimal heading into this last game too. DeRozan hit five three’s anyways however, on his way to 25 points for the game, and Bargs went for 31. Leandro Barbosa also hit a jump-shot from halfcourt too. Anything the Raptors threw up seemed to go in. But at the same time, Cleveland couldn’t crack 80 points as a team so it almost didn’t matter how well the Raptors shot it.
This roadtrip now heads to Minnesota, and the Timberwolves are actually pretty good. They’re better than the Raptors. They’ll be expected to beat the Cavaliers on their home floor, and Ricky Rubio is going to be a tough cover for Kyrie Irving. I’ve watched two of Rubio’s NBA games so far, and he is way better than I thought he’d be. Way better. Kevin Love is playing like a League MVP right now too, so the Cavs will have their hands full for sure on Friday night.
If they end up following their two game winning streak up with two straight in the L column, all is still not lost on this trip. I just want to throw that out there now. As I mentioned before, I see the Cavaliers only needing to win three times here to make this a successful trip. If they went 3-4 for the trip, to come home at an overall record of 6-6 and after 12 games, that would be better than most everybody predicted prior to this season starting. They did lose one of the winnable games on Wednesday though, but they could always sneak one out that we don’t see coming right now too. So I’m saying I think 3-4 is still possible even after an 0-1 start.
The true early season measuring stick though, the ultimate one really, will be whether or not the Cavaliers are better individually and collectively for the time they spend on this trip when they eventually return to Cleveland later this month. If they can regroup, catch their breathe, get their legs back under them, and compete again starting on Friday, I don’t see how they won’t be. Progress hurts sometimes, and growth can be painful. Both are just unfortunate parts of this rebuilding process.