Last season was a weird time for me.
Hopefully I donâ€™t have to explain to you why last season was so hard for those of us born on the shores of Lake Erie. The futility of the Cavs and the dominance of the Miami Heat led to a mindset that Iâ€™m not very proud of. Most nights, I found myself rooting harder for a Heat loss than for a Cavaliers win. My favorite team was far less compelling than my least favorite. Nobody cared about the Cavaliers. Everybody cared about the Heat. It was nothing unusual for the Cavs to lose a game; they lost 26 of them in a row. However, it was quite unusual for the Heat to lose a game and I savored it every single time that they did. It was schadenfreude at its finest.
It was not unusual for my mindset to be called sad or even pathetic. There were plenty of articles insisting that Clevelanders needed to â€œlet it goâ€ and â€œjust move onâ€. The only problem with this whole â€œmoving onâ€ concept is that in order to do it, you need something to move on to. What did Cavs fans have to move on to? The development of Christian Eyenga? The emergence of Ramon Sessions as a maybe decent point guard? Woo! Get excited, Cleveland! The truth of the matter is that there was nothing to be excited about. The Cavaliers lost essentially every night. All of the drama, passion, and unpredictability had been lost. There was no drama. There was very little passion. Unpredictable? Forget it. The only thing that was unpredictable was how the Cavs would decide to get destroy on any given night. Would they allow 50 points in the paint? Would they lose by 55 points? Would they hang around until the end and then lose in dramatic, soul-crushing fashion? The answer to all of these questions, of course, is yes. The 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers had turned losing into an art form. Meanwhile in South Beach, Miamiâ€™s unbelievablypassionate fan base got to experience what could have been for us.
But that was last season. The 26-game streak is over. The Heat lost in the Finals and Clevelanders everywhere felt a little bit better about themselves.
Weâ€™re now three games into the 2011-12 NBA season and I am ecstatic to report that it has an entirely different feel. The past two games, Miami has won on last second shots. This time last year, I would have been more crushed than fans of the Bobcats and Timberwolves. Now? I feel nothing; apathy. The Heat won tonight? Oh cool, but did you see Kyrie Irving? Werenâ€™t you one of the guys that scoffed when the Cavs reached for Tristan Thompson? Did you see him tonight?Â
There is reason for excitement in Cleveland. Itâ€™s been eleven games, sure, but Kyrie Irving is coming into his own right before our eyes. Every night he plays with more and more confidence. Heâ€™s scored 20+ points in his last 4 games. Itâ€™s likely that heâ€™ll hit some rough patches but as it stands now, he has the 5th highest rookie PER of all time. Ahead of him? Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Walter Davis, and Chris Paul. (h/t to @docrostov for that stat) Try to fathom this: heâ€™s the best player for an NBA team at nineteen years old. What were you doing when you were nineteen? Whatever it was, there probably werenâ€™t millions of people watching and analyzing your every move. This kid is special. Heâ€™s incredibly talented and will only get better. Weâ€™re still waiting for his â€œwelcome to the NBAâ€ moment, but itâ€™s coming. And itâ€™s probably coming sooner rather than later. If thatâ€™s not enough to get Cavs fans excited about this team, Tristan Thompson will force feed you infinite hustle and energy. After two games, he earned the nickname â€œTiggerâ€ from some Cavs reporters and fans. His motor is unstoppable. Heâ€™s bouncing all over the court, swatting shots and crushing dunks. Whether you like him or not, we have an owner that cares about his fans and cares about winning. Thereâ€™s some young talent, thereâ€™s some veteran leaders that can be used as trade bait. Thereâ€™s a stacked draft class coming in that will help this rebuilding process even more. Last year, I dreaded watching and writing about the Cavaliers. This year, Iâ€™m counting down the hours until tip off.
In 2011, if you wanted to tell me to get over it, youâ€™d have to understand that itâ€™s not that easy. In 2012? Gladly; Cleveland fans finally have a reason to move on.