The narratives that currently surround the Cleveland Cavaliers' woeful start this season are all strange and confusing.
That frustrating list includes, but is not limited to, the following.
Did the players already quit on their second coach in two years just 14 games into the season. Is Chris Grant on the hot seat. Are there kids actually leading a campaign outside the Q tonight begging for him to come back three years after he left. Do they really have t-shirts and billboards, also. Did the Spurs actually beat the Cavs by more points during the first half on Saturday than Cleveland managed to score. What is wrong with Kyrie Irving. What is wrong with Dion Waiters. Is Matthew Dellavedova defending Dwyane Wade really the best idea. Where is LeBron and his teammates having Thanksgiving dinner. Oh his house in Akron, got it, thanks. Does Anderson Varejao think James will come back next year. Does the success of this team hinge directly on Andrew Bynum's health. Is Anthony Bennett really this bad.
I could go on but I don't want to. I'd prefer those narratives die and we begin to discuss what I thought we would be talking about before this season began.
The 2013-14 Cavs narrative was supposed to revolve around Kyrie Irving, building a foundation of winning and working to change the culture of losing that consumed this organization since LeBron James returned the first time.
It should be about Irving and Waiters developing a chemistry in the backcourt. Andrew Bynum contributing where he can. Jarrett Jack emerging as a leader off the bench. Anthony Bennett finding his way in this league. Tristan Thompson improving, Mike Brown coaching.
We should be watching this Cavs team find a way to win half of their games and compete for a playoff berth in the process. We should notice a tangible step forward.
But even though it feels impossibly far from those realities while watching the 25th ranked offensive and 22nd ranked defense post a record of 4-10 through 14 games, everything could change even quicker than it seemed to all go wrong. And tonight's game, you guys–with a win over the defending NBA champions during LeBron James' 11th matchup against his former team–could be the catalyst for that change.
I was on the sidelines on December 2, 2010 watching James warm up as I tweeted irrationally positive things about J.J. Hickson. If you happen to remember that, I apologize, and assure you now that my take on tonight's game isn't more of the same.
This isn't about revenge or winning him back or anything other than needing a shot in the arm in the worst possible way before the sky completely crashes down on the team that Dan Gilbert and Chris Grant attempted to build. James' 11th matchup against his former team doesn't really have anything to do with the first one, actually, except for the impact its outcome could have on the rest of the season.
Just like that one soul-crushing loss he delivered did the first time he returned.
The Cavaliers entered that matchup with the Heat in December of 2010 with a record of 7-10. After humiliating themselves and the organization by laying down that night, the Cavs went on to set an all-time mark for futility with 26-straight losses. They'd also finish the year with a record of 12-53 overall during their next 65 games.
Now that game in 2010 wasn't the cause for all the losing that followed, obviously, but it certainly did help demoralize a franchise that hasn't responded since. This game tonight, meanwhile–coming on the heels of a 30-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs–could have a similar effect on the rest of this season.
If these Cavs can manage to come together with effort, competitiveness and pride for the first time under Mike Brown, and knock off the defending NBA champions as a collective unit when everyone expects them to lay down and quit again, the resulting win could change all the narratives this year for the better.
They could begin to believe in themselves, their team and the direction of this organization as soon as Thanksgiving morning and play like that from now until Christmas.
I'm not suggesting the Cavs would use the momentum of a victory over Miami to win the 26-straight that they'd go on to lose in 2010-11, of course, but I do think a win tonight could lead to a five of six-game winning streak. If that much happened, and the Cavaliers won their next six to find themselves at 10-10 by the quarter turn, they'd end up right where we expected they'd be just in time for us all to share a hearty laugh at how much we were overreacting two weeks ago.
If it doesn't happen that way tonight, though–and the Cavaliers get run out of the gym again–the same is also true. Things could get much, much worse before they have any chance of getting better.
So good luck tonight, you guys. Let's just beat the Heat.