It’s pretty well documented that night two years ago today wasn’t really fun. Not only was he leaving with objectives unfulfilled but also with our franchise’s relevance. All of which paled in comparison to a city having it’s excitement taken away. I’m 31-years old and have lived through two legitimate sporting eras. The 90’s Tribe and the Lebron Cavs. I’ll remember and cherish both for years to come, however on that night it was pretty difficult to put it into proper perspective. My first thoughts after he actually went through with it were “wow, the Cavs are going to be bad for a really really long time.” The excitement that would come over me, my family, my friends, and my city around playoff time each year just died a pretty tragic death.
The ensuing year felt pretty much like I thought it would. Painful. Culminated by getting our doors blown off by those Heat in front of a national audience while our fans were spewing hate and bitterness all over the Q. I tuned out Cavs basketball for months afterward and the NBA all together. Having only a team to root against, the fun had been completely sucked out of the NBA experience.
Then came the trade. February 24th, 2011. The first day I felt a sense of excitement again. The day Grant and Gilbert started out on a truly defined direction. Tear it down and build it back up the right way. Show patience. Take no shortcuts. As we all know, we sent Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to the Clippers for Baron Davis and their UNPROTECTED lottery pick. Gilbert basically showed the world how much purchasing a lotto pick costs. Alright, so now I had two teams to root against and more importantly a process to follow and to root for. Without a contender we were stuck with a team in which winning would be counter productive for a few years but had that process to get excited about. That one move gave me and my friends something to dissect and banter about. Cavs basketball: the future version. How can we rise back up?
Then, the lottery. Little Nick Gilbert, his tiny frame chalk full of resiliency and courage, energized the franchise and the fan base. That asset grab at the previous trading deadline turned into the first pick of the NBA draft. Cleveland was fully injected with that seemingly one thing that keeps the NBA alive in small to mid markets: hope.
Grant and Co. followed up the Draft with a relatively silent free agency period. Sticking to the plan of patience. We came in to the 2011-2012 season not knowing what to expect. Should we win? Should we lose? Is this kid gonna be ok? Could he be great?
What can we expect from Tristan Thompson? The bottom line was we were in a full out rebuild. The Cavs were building for the long-term and we had two young pieces to keep our eyes on. Over the course of the season we came to realize that Kyrie Irving has the potential to be a superstar in the NBA. Tristan Thompson had more typical ups and downs but showed promise that his offense didn’t have a Ben Wallace ceiling as some reported. Excitement grew. Is this kid Chris Paul? Can he be the main piece on a title winner? The questions became outlandish and grandiose. Surefire signs of an engaged fan base.
So here we are another offseason later. The process still ongoing but the message is clear. We will draft our guy. We will take the Katniss, from Lebron’s favorite novel The Hunger Games, approach to free agency. Basically, instead of sprinting towards the best weapons we’ll turn directly around and sprint for the hills. At least until we become a more attractive option to the minds and egos of free market NBA players. Yesterday Tristan Thompson, as our man Brendan Bowers reported, represented Team Cleveland down in Columbus. Based on some of those tweeting from the festivities it sounds like he put on a bit of a show. Meanwhile a few time zones to the west our young PG was lacing them up and putting on a show of his own versus Team USA. With the most recent additions in Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller the Cavs core of the future is starting to take shape.
So two years ago today will be what it was. Sucky. It will be up to, in large part, the above referenced “youngbloods” as to whether or not the decision robbed us of our title hopes. It will also be on Chris Grant and the rest of his staff to have been correct on his picks. It’ll surely be on him to continue to reshape the roster around this core. One thing I do know for sure is that I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds. So in that lies the reason I’m over Lebron and his decision just two years later. I can no longer say that it stole away the excitement of Cavs basketball.