On October 30, the Cleveland Cavaliers opened their season at home by defeating the Brooklyn Nets by a score of 98-94. On April 16, the Cleveland Cavaliers closed their season at home by defeating the Brooklyn Nets by a score of 114-85. While starting and ending a season with wins is always a good sign, it’s what happened between Game 1 and Game 82 that made this Cavaliers season one to remember. Yesterday ended the single weirdest, confounding, frustrating, and drama filled season in Cavs history. It was compelling enough that Hollywood realistically could make a movie about it. After all, the Indians already have two Major League movies and the Browns have the recently released Draft Day in theaters. Why shouldn’t the Cavs be immortalized on the silver screen and complete the Cleveland sports trifecta? Although it didn’t end with a title, this was certainly a season to remember.
Back when Cleveland won the NBA Draft Lottery in 2011, Nick Gilbert, son of owner Dan Gilbert, uttered what came to be a rallying cry for Cavs fans that season. When asked by Heather Cox to describe how he felt about being described by his father as his own personal hero, the younger Gilbert quipped, “What’s not to like?” It was simultaneously brilliant and comedic at the time, but three years later, Cavs fans finally have their answer as to what’s not to like. Unfortunately for them, it’s nearly everything. There are some organizations that have the Midas touch in that seemingly every move they make ends up working out. I’m looking at you, San Antonio. On the flip side, there are organizations like the Cavs where they managed to harness the power of the Sidam touch where practically nothing ends up going as it should. On second thought, Dan Gilbert might as well have turned the keys of the franchise over to King Sadim to handle basketball operations duties this season; the results couldn’t have been much worse.
#OnlyInCLE, or #OIC when up against the 140 character limit, is a hashtag that is seen almost year round among the Cleveland Twittersphere. It’s a term used to describe situations which one cannot even fathom happening in other cities, a byproduct of a fanbase that has been beaten down and had their heart broken by its teams over the past five decades it’s gone without a championship. The Cavs offseason moves were certainly an #OnlyInCLE moment. To wit, a team which added the number one overall pick in the draft, another mid-first round pick, a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year contender from the year prior, and a former All-Star center who averaged nearly 19 points and 12 rebounds per game in the last season he was healthy somehow was even more painful to watch than the thoroughly uninspiring 2012-13 team. Tackling the failings of those offseason moves above, Anthony Bennett, a stunning pick at the time of the draft as the Cavs passed on taking a potential franchise center for the third consecutive year not selecting Nerlens Noel, legitimately looked like the worst #1 pick in the history of the NBA for a large part of the season. Sergey Karasav, the other first round selection, spent more time this year closer in proximity to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton with the D-League’s Charge than he did at Quicken Loans Arena. Jarrett Jack fell in love with contested mid-range jumpers more than a majority of people love their own significant others. And Andrew Bynum brought enough drama to the team that TNT should have just given him his own show as a lead in to their Thursday night coverage. Those who say that Chris Grant’s offseason moves didn’t work out have also been heard saying that the Hindenburg could have had a better landing.
As the season wore on, each story that leaked out appeared to top the last one in ridiculousness. What started as mundane back to back losses to two of the worst teams in the league escalated faster than even Ron Burgandy could have imagined. Did a story leak out that Dion Waiters punched Kyrie Irving in the face in a closed door meeting? Yup. Did Andrew Bynum start chucking up shots in practice from wherever he caught the ball on the court? It’s a guy known for his awful attitude; of course that happened. Did an, ahem, adult film actress offer to spend the night with every player on the team if they made the playoffs? You betcha. Did the team proceed to roll off their longest winning streak in four years immediately following that offer? I wouldn’t be mentioning it if they didn’t. Did the star wide receiver from the Browns, a team whose last playoff appearance predates the launch of Twitter itself by three years, send out a tweet mocking the Cavs with the hashtag #racetotheplayoffs? I’ll let the #OnlyInCleveland hashtag speak for itself on this one. Did they manage to lose to the Kings by 44 points, a Lakers team at home that ended the game with Los Angeles having four eligible players, a struggling Knicks team on national television by 31, and the Hawks, with somehow a faint glimmer of hope at the playoffs on the line at the end of the year, by 19 points effectively ending their season? Somehow this all happened. That’s not to say that there weren’t some highlights, however. Kyrie Irving secured his second consecutive All-Star appearance and took home his first All-Star MVP award. The Cavs recorded quality wins over teams such as Oklahoma City, Memphis, Los Angeles Clippers, and Indiana. Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters took a step forward in their individual developments, and Waiters may have had the best moment of the season by knocking down the Cavs first buzzer beater since November 2010 with his shot against the Pistons in March.
Unfortunately, for nearly every sign of progress and hope, there was an equal and opposite setback. Call it the Third Law of Cleveland Physics. Most notably, Irving’s desire to remain in Cleveland for the long haul continues to be a debate behind closed doors, on the Internet, and in the barber shops across Northeast Ohio. With the departure of a certain small forward in South Beach from four seasons ago still fresh in their minds, Cavs fans have already begun mentally preparing themselves for Irving to become to first player to come off his rookie contract and pass on signing a max contract with his current team. The debate on what Cleveland could realistically get for Irving, a 22 year old franchise point guard/#1 overall pick in the draft/multiple All-Star, via trade has already leaked its way on to the radio waves and in the comment sections of blogs. Only in Cleveland.
For now, we get the joy of spending the six month offseason debating such rarely discussed issues as whether Dion Waiters and Irving can co-exist, what kind of contract Tristan Thompson deserves, and how there’s totally a chance LeBron might come back this summer. I assure you these topics haven’t been beaten into the ground enough. Above all else however, it will be Irving’s reaction to the contract offer he receives at 12:00:01 AM on July 1 that will dictate both the attitude of the fan base and the future of the franchise. For as many restless nights as the Cavs caused this season, there are certainly more to come. But for now, it’s finally, mercifully time to let the 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers rest in peace.