April 16, 2014 was an extremely regular Wednesday in Northeast Ohio.
Jason Kidd was in town but his drink-spill-trick didn’t travel. He wouldn’t be wasting strategic gems like that in this contest. Instead, he rolled out a starting lineup that featured a player named Jorge Gutierrez at point guard. Gutierrez began the season as a member of the Canton Charge.
Marquis Teague joined him in the backcourt while Marcus Thornton moved out to the wing. Jason Collins and Andray Blatche anchored the paint for the visiting Nets. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce never left the bench.
The next 48 minutes didn’t really matter.
Brooklyn had already punched its ticket to the playoffs and didn’t seem to care if they finished with the fifth or sixth-seed. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, had punched another ticket to the lottery. Mike Brown was tasked with rallying his troops one last time as they played out the string on a disappointing season. Kidd, in what would become his final regular-season game as the head coach of the Nets, just didn’t want anyone to get hurt.
By the end of the first quarter, Cleveland jumped out to a 33-21 lead. On the strength of a monster performance from Tyler Zeller, Brown’s group went on to secure a 29-point victory. Total domination. Blatche and Collins were no match for the former Mr. Basketball from the great state of Indiana.
Zeller finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds on 9-of-11 shooting from the field. Spencer Hawes, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Kyrie Irving, Alonzo Gee and Carrick Felix would all join Zeller with double-figure points. Jarrett Jack would also conclude his Cavs career with a game-high nine assists.
Then, without warning, the busiest offseason in Cavaliers history began. I wrote down what I remember about each transaction below so I’d never forget.
May 12 – Mike Brown Fired:
I was walking out of a bookstore in Crocker Park the last time I saw Mike Brown. I was there to buy my Dad a birthday present. I ended up buying myself a book about Irish Micky Ward. I bumped into Brown and his family when I turned the corner. They had bags in their hands from what appeared to be a successful shopping trip. I was holding a paperback book about a boxer.
“Hey what’s up, Coach,” I said. “Hey good, how are you?” he replied with a smile.
He greeted me like I was his nephew because Mike Brown is a super-nice guy who treats everyone he’s ever met that way. He’d be fired a few days later. But I’m sure he’s still smiling somewhere while being super-nice to people because he’s won big at life no matter how many times he’s fired by an NBA team.
May 12 – David Griffin Hired As General Manager:
David Griffin will have officially been the General Manager of the Cavaliers for three months on August 12. Despite his short tenure, he has already secured the Executive of the Year Award quicker than any executive in the history of the NBA. He won the lottery, drafted the best player available, signed a coach, added the world’s premier free agent and might not even has his new business cards yet from HR.
May 20 – Cavs Win NBA Draft Lottery:
The Cavaliers were supposed to select ninth overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. I was in my backyard pulling weeds from around my patio when the lottery show began. I didn’t want to celebrate the Cavs trip to the lottery again so I decided to make a personal stand by pulling weeds. Eventually, though, I got tired of doing yardwork and came inside just before Griffin made history.
Somehow, Cleveland defied all statistical laws of probability by leaping to the top of the draft board. They’d be selecting first overall for the third time in four seasons. I kind of felt guilty about it as I thought about my friends in other NBA cities. I still kinda do for some reason.
June 20 – David Blatt Hired As Coach:
A couple years ago, Scoonie Penn was telling me about this guy named David Blatt who he played for in Turkey. He really liked this guy, he said, and thought he was one of the best coaches he’d ever played for. That was two years ago. I filed the name away but never really thought I’d have reason to talk about him again.
Then, after a long, exhaustive and rumor-plagued coaching search, the Cavs hired this guy that Scoonie had told me he played for in Turkey. The exact same guy. I sat in Blatt’s introductory press conference feeling like I already knew him.
June 26 – Cavs Draft Andrew Wiggins:
Prior to securing the first overall selection in May, I had talked myself into the benefits of drafting Dario Saric and calling it a summer. Instead, Saric ended up going No. 12 to the Orlando Magic. Noah Vonleh came off the board at No. 9–where the Cavaliers were previously slated to draft.
Andrew Wiggins, meanwhile, was stunting off the stage wearing an awesome suit that could only be improved by wearing a wine and gold hat as an accessory. I was eating wings with bunch of Cavs bloggers at the time, everyone was pretty stoked.
June 26 – Cavs also draft Joe Harris and acquire Dwight Powell:
Joey Hoops. That’s who the Cavaliers added with the 33rd overall pick. The sharp-shooter from Virginia with one of the best nicknames in basketball would also be coming to Cleveland. A big from Stanford named Dwight Powell who repped Canada with Wiggins, Thompson and Anthony Bennett would be coming too. So there was also all that.
July 1 – Cavs Sign Irving to Extension:
Long before LeBron James came home to Northeast Ohio, Kyrie Irving inked a $90 million extension to stay in Cleveland for the next six seasons. He did so as soon as the CBA legally allowed him to sign the extension. Some had argued over the last 12 months that Irving didn’t want to stay in Cleveland. They referenced his camp throughout this debate and inferred that he disliked Cleveland so much that he’d turn down $90 million.
I’m still not sure who is even in Irving’s camp besides his father. Or who would ever turn down $90 million. After an early-morning meeting with Dan Gilbert, though, that narrative was laid to rest forever. Irving was staying in Cleveland. I thought it was the biggest move the Cavaliers would make this summer, only it wasn’t.
July 2 – C.J. Miles Agrees To Deal with Pacers:
C.J. Miles, good dude who could definitely shoot it from long-range. That’s how Cavalier fans will remember the engaging veteran who once entered the NBA as a rookie from high school. He’ll do well with the Indiana Pacers because he’s a good dude who can really shoot it from long-range.
July 4 – Spencer Hawes Signs with Clippers:
On America’s birthday, the big man who helped bring the Republican National Convention to Cleveland in 2016 agreed to terms with Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers. I’d have liked to see Hawes stay in Cleveland, but simply saluted him for his service as he left.
July 9 – Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev traded to Nets:
I picked for the Cavs in SLAM’s Mock Draft two summer’s ago. I pegged Karasev as the selection for Cleveland at 19th overall. It’s not often I get predictions like that correct, let alone nailing the 19th overall pick in a Mock Draft. I’ll always remember Sergey for his role in that. I also wrote about Jarrett Jack being a tremendous addition to the Cavs that summer. You win some, you lose some.
July 9 – Tyler Zeller dealt to Celtics:
Here is a Cavs trivia question that will stump your friends for the rest of your life: Who is the only player the Cavaliers ever traded after he went for 20 and 10 in the game before he was dealt? I’ll hang up and listen.
June 26, 2014 July 11 – Cavs Trade Alonzo Gee:
I’m not quite sure how the Cavs traded Alonzo Gee on draft night only to trade him again during the second week of July. I’m also not sure how the Cavaliers were able to keep the assets they acquired in the first trade (Dwight Powell and Brendan Haywood from Charlotte) before dealing Gee later to New Orleans.
But truthfully I don’t want to know. I would prefer to believe that David Griffin managed to trade Alonzo Gee twice without anyone else in the league noticing because it’s just better to remember it all that way.
July 11 – LeBron James Comes Home:
Someone will write a book about #LeBronWatch2014 one day. When they do, they’ll mention the squad at 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland simply killing it all week leading up to the decision. When I walked into Clevelander on the night of LeBron’s announcement, Dustin Fox hugged me. Or maybe I hugged him. There was a lot of bro-hugs in Northeast Ohio that night and it’s hard to remember exactly.
It felt like Cleveland had just won a championship. I’ll never forget the excitement. One of my friends, who I saw that night, asked me this past weekend, “Was that you I was doing those powder toss shots with at the bar or was that someone else?” Someone else, I replied, but be proud of yourself for that.
July 15 – Cavs Sign Mike Miller:
He took less money to come to Cleveland. Mike Miller did that. And he brings with him a 46 percent three-point percentage earned over 82 regular-season appearances last year with the Memphis Grizzlies. I used to make snarky jokes about Mike Miller’s headband but I promised to never do that again the moment he arrived.
July 16 – Cavs Add James Jones:
Analysis: James Jones is not going to play very much. But when he does, he will probably make more three-point field goals than he misses.
July 22 – Cavs Trade Carrick Felix to Jazz:
In a move said to position the Cavaliers for a run at Kevin Love, Cleveland traded Carrick Felix and his guaranteed contract for the non-guaranteed deals of John Lucas III, Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy. LeBron jumped over John Lucas once for a massive dunk. If Lucas isn’t waived, he’ll probably get jumped over again in practice.
A Break From All Things Regular
After I read Joe Posnanski’s poetic description of the time we now live in as Cleveland sports fans, I was amazed by how many things actually changed for the Cavaliers in such a short period of time. I started thinking back through each one of these transactions then, on Tuesday night.
Sure, none of it really matters much without LeBron James. He is the ultimate reason why Cleveland, as Posnanski accurately described, is now “one of the happiest place on Earth.”
But Tyler Zeller led the Cavs in scoring on April 16. And in rebounding. Jarrett Jack led the team in assists. Mike Brown’s team won their 33rd game of the season and were slated to selected ninth overall in the NBA Draft. This was less than four months ago.
We’ve been overwhelmed ever since with positive tales of hope that seem to have no expiration date.
That passion and energy has morphed into debates about trading for Kevin Love, keeping Andrew Wiggins, why Ray Allen should choose Cleveland over Big State, and forever it seems to go. We’ve celebrated personal trainers, sourced cupcake dealers and tracked private jets along the way. All of these things also happened since April 16, 2014.
All of it mattered, too, and nothing feels regular anymore.