Monthly Archives: May 2012

Lingering Lottery Thoughts

  • I attended last night’s lottery. I wasn’t one of the lucky few media members allowed in the actual lottery ball drawing room, but I almost was. About an hour before the telecast, a group of people were ushered from the media room in the hotel to the actual lottery drawing room across the street. Being that it was my first time being a credentialed media member, I simply followed the crowd. When we got across the street, the media members and some of the lottery representatives were packed into a gigantic elevator. By luck of the draw, I just so happened to be one of a group of three people who didn’t fit on the first elevator and had to wait a few minutes for a second one. The NBA representative assured us that we would go up in just a few minutes, but that we had to wait for the elevator to go up, come down, bring more team reps up and them come back to get us. So we’re standing there talking for a few minutes, and eventually the NBA rep notices my credential, and that it doesn’t have a special green dot on it – one that signified which media members were allowed in the room. So I had to go back across the street and wait until the commercial break before the top 3 picks were announced before I could come over, like the rest of the non-special access media members. The lesson here: always jam yourself onto crowded elevators if you don’t have a green dot on your credential; otherwise you will have to walk back across the street. Valuable lesson, I know.
  • I really like that Anthony Davis will presumably be going to the Hornets. He gets to play for a great young coach in Monty Williams (I picked Williams third in TrueHoop’s Coach of the Year voting behind Gregg Popovich and Tom Thibodeau, for what it’s worth), whose wheels were already spinning with game plans in the post-lottery media session last night. No member of the Hornets contingent even mentioned Davis by name, but I think we all know that he’ll be the pick. With their second selection, the Hornets will pick 10th (this is the Minnesota pick they got in the Chris Paul trade). Pundits have them going after a point guard, likely either Damian Lilliard from Weber State or Kendall Marshall from North Carolina. Personally, I’d go with Marshall. He’ll instantly make Davis better on offense and he’ll help Eric Gordon too. There isn’t a point guard in the draft with better play-making instincts than Marshall. The kid flat out knows how to run an offense, and he’ll be able to help Davis get the ball in spots that he likes. Additionally, Davis is the type of high-character and high-impact player that can really make a difference in the floundering New Orleans market. Owner Tom Benson – who also owns the NFL’s Saints – lucked out when they struck gold with the Drew Brees signing, and may have just done it again in the lottery.
  • When the Wizards landed the third pick, four words immediately ran through my mind and wouldn’t stop. JOHN WALL BRAD BEAL. The opportunity to pair franchise point guard Wall with sweet-shooting two-guard Beal out of the University of Florida is about as good a result as Washington could have hoped for outside of landing coveted Kentucky power forward and consensus number one pick Anthony Davis. While it can be argued that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Thomas Robinson is a better individual talent, there isn’t a player in the draft with a skill set more suited to fit with Washington’s roster than Beal. The on-court merits of the Wall-Beal pairing are almost blatantly obvious. Wall, the uber-talented, hyper-quick point guard, gets a back court running mate that can both draw defenders out of the lane and create shots for himself off the bounce. Beal’s long range shooting ability allows for Washington to spread the floor around Wall-Nene pick-and-rolls, stretching the defense thin and opening opening up the middle of the court.
  • I had the opportunity to speak with Robinson in a small group of people after the lottery order had been announced, and I came away extremely impressed. First, he’s much bigger than he looks on TV. He’s not quite as big yet, but his size and body structure reminded me of Blake Griffin. His shoulders were huge. When asked if he was more physically ready than some of the younger prospects because he spent more years in college and had more time to physically mature, Robinson stated that he didn’t necessarily know if he was more ready, but that he was ready, and that’s all that matters. I also really liked the way he carried himself. He just knows he’s good. That’s the feeling I got from talking to him. He sounded particularly intrigued by the idea of playing with either Kemba Walker (Charlotte, pick 2) or Kyrie Irving (Cleveland, pick 4) when directly asked, but also noted that he doesn’t care where he goes and just wants to play basketball. Obviously, every prospect says that, but the tone of relaxed confidence in his voice rather than the practiced platitudes you hear from many players made me believe him more for some reason. Maybe it was just his purple bow tie. Maybe not. Either way, very impressive young man.
  • Because the Nets didn’t jump into the top three picks, Portland gets Brooklyn’s number six pick in the draft via the Gerald Wallace trade. While that selection is probably too early, one player I really like for them with their own pick at number 11 is North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller. His ability and willingness to run the floor, play both the low and high post, shoot out to 15 feet with touch and his above-average passing skills for a big man make him a nice fit next to LaMarcus Aldridge. I could see the Blazers using them as interchangeable parts (positionally, not in terms of ability) on offense and doing some really creative things with their sets.
  • Commissioner David Stern had media availability prior to the actual lottery drawing, and he let loose some information on a variety of things. Among the topics discussed: Stern would like to see the international goal tending rules adopted. He said of the current rule, “It really puts the referees in an uncomfortable position because even on replay, I’m not sure you can get it right.” I don’t really have a strong opinion one way or the other on goal tending, so if they want to change the rule because they think it will make the league better, I’m all for it.
  • Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver also said that post-London Olympics, its possible the NBA might try to cut back on the involvement of NBA players in future Olympic Games. Stern off-handedly mentioned the possibility of limiting players to participating in two Olympics, specifically noting how much pressure it would take off of international players who are expected to play year round between their commitments to their NBA and Olympic teams. Silver made the comparison to international soccer, noting that in non-World Cup years, many countries run out their 23-and-under squads in international competition.

Great Exercises in Internet NBA-Related Postings 5-31-12

Way back when this site started, there used to be a daily links post called Great Exercises in Internet NBA-Related Postings. Well, I’m bringing it back. Every weekday, I’ll bequeath unto you the best NBA-related links. If there’s ever a day where I can’t get it done, I’ll bother one of our other 9,378 writers until they do it. All I ask of you, reader, is a little help. If you read something you like, send it over to me at [email protected] or tweet me a link to @JADubin5.

I don’t have time to add my own commentary today, so I’ll just hit you with the links.

At SLAMOnline, Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog writes about how teams are making better use of the second round of the NBA draft these days.

The Classical’s David Roth on the Miami Heat’s elitism and failure to live up to the promises they made.

Our boss has some strong thoughts for people who think the lottery is rigged. Happy birthday, Matt.

Ross Bernhardt’s ‘Know The Prospect’ series at Posting & Toasting continues with Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom.

At Sports Illustrated, the great Jack McCallum on the San Antonio Spurs.

Greg Wissinger at Inside Out Game with his thoughts on last night’s lottery and what it could mean for Charlotte.

At Nets Are Scorching, Devin Kharpertian on what New Jersey Brooklyn has been up to with their lottery picks of late.

Gothic Ginobili’s Alex Dewey with an interesting take on Rajon Rondo.

Kelly Dwyer has the scoop on some pretty ridiculous things that Wally Szczerbiak tweeted last night.

At Hoopsworld, Tommy Beer ponders where the Knicks go from here.

A hilarious satire of lottery rigging at Sactown Royalty.

HoopSpeak’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss has had enough of people complaining about LeBron’s fouls.

At WEEI, Paul Flannery (who has been on fire in the playoffs), on the Rajon Rondo game that a lot of us may wind up forgetting because his team lost.

What Can the NBA Learn from Barefoot Running?

Photo by Nicholas_T on Flickr

When I got my first pair of Nike Shox, I thought this was it: I was finally going to be able to dunk. Now, I was not stupid—or at least not as stupid as I might initially sound. As a 5’10” guy, I knew it would be difficult, but I wasn’t trying to throw down windmills; I was only hoping for what you might call the “Rimgrazer” package in NBA 2K12. This was going to mean lots of work, but some deeply flawed part of my brain—the same part that in fifth grade thought my designs for new Transformers could actually get made—thought that Shox technology was the little boost I would finally need to throw one down. So every other day for at least a month I went to the YMCA and did self-invented drills that would always culminate in a bunch of runs at the hoop.

But I never got higher that touching the bottom of the backboard. I doubt my vertical improved by more than an inch. Then other things came up and I wasn’t making it to the gym regularly for dunk practice. In fact, it was months before I showed up at the YMCA again, only to find out that the lock had been cut off my locker and my basketball and Nike Shox resigned to the lost and found, where they were quickly swiped. It was probably for the best—as The Terminator taught us, technology designed to help can often end up hurting.

For example, in addition to my inability to dunk, I have tremendously fragile ankles, susceptible to rolling and spraining at the slightest touch. As such, the very idea of playing basketball in anything other than high tops was inconceivable to me. I would watch footage of players like Wilt Chamberlain and Bob Cousy playing in Chuck Taylors or other canvas or lightweight shoes and cringe. How could their ankles not be breaking clean off all the time?

But what if they were onto something? The recent rise of barefoot or minimal running as a movement has coincided with an awful lot of ACL and knee injuries in the NBA, and one of the purported benefits of minimal running is decreased stress on the knees. Could basketball players today benefit from going back to simpler shoes and retraining their form?

Jay Dicharry, the Director of the SPEED Performance Clinic and the Motion Analysis Lab Coordinator at the University of Virginia, thinks it’s at least possible (here’s a video with Dicharry going over a self-assessment test for minimal running). “If I ask you to tie your shoes, it’s a simple thing, right?” he says when I reach him by phone. “But what if I coated your hands in marshmallows and asked you to tie your shoes?” Your feet need input stimulation to perform at their best, and when you wrap them in layers of foam and cushioning, your feet don’t get that feedback. Not to mention, he adds, that there is exactly zero peer-reviewed research that shows that high top shoes reduce injuries.

I guess I always sort of knew this, just like I knew some magical springs in the heel were never going to make me jump higher. But high tops made me feel protected, which actually turns out to be part of the problem. “Heavily cushioned shoes let you overstride,” Dicharry says and it’s actually striking to look at the significant knee injuries from this most recent postseason and see how directly overstriding led to them. I’ll spare you the video (which you can find if necessary), but take a look at these stills. Here’s the step that led directly to Baron Davis’ partial tear of his patella tendon and complete tears of the MCL and ACL:

You can clearly see Davis is about to land with his foot way out in front of his body, similarly to how Shumpert landed when he tore his ACL and lateral meniscus:

Shumpert is moving to the side rather than straight ahead, which is also what Derrick Rose was doing just before he tore his ACL:

Now Rose actually suffered his injury on the jump stop directly after this step, but that only points towards how these moves are nothing unusual for these players: these just happened to be the moments when their ligaments let them down. Today’s players are stronger and faster, but they’re also putting more stress on their bodies by changing directions quickly with their weight distributed outside what I would call the “box” of their body. (Imagine a box that extends out from the body the distance of the elbows held out to the side or a leg held out with the knee bent.) For comparison, look at this collection of clips of Oscar Robertson, Bob Cousy, Jerry West, and John Havlicek moving on the court:

You can see that they’re mostly keeping their legs under them. Their knees stay bent, their center of gravity is low. I’m no expert on biomechanics, but Dicharry confirmed my observation, saying that basketball is more a game of being able to change direction quickly, not straight-line speed. Keeping your legs under you is the best way to stay in control of your body.

And staying in control of your body is something that has more to do with how you understand your body in space than what shoes you wear. It’s not as if switching everyone in the NBA to Vibram 5-finger shoes would result in fewer injuries. Dicharry says he’s not even overly concerned about whether a runner has a forefoot or midfoot strike as opposed to a heel strike when he’s looking at their mechanics. Becoming a better runner is about developing a better understanding of one’s body, also known as proprioception.

Blame for this season’s rash of knee injuries was quick to be placed on the shortened season. Kevin Pelton and Mike Pesca looked at ACL injuries over at Basketball Prospectus and concluded that while the shortened season might not be directly to blame, there does seem to be a correlation between fatigue and ACL injuries that may be partly related to a breakdown of proprioception more than physical fatigue.

Pelton and Pesca’s article draws heavily on research by Scott McLean, an assistant professor with the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology. Some of his and his team’s more interest findings include a study that showed “that men and women showed significant changes in lower limb mechanics during unanticipated single leg landings … The research suggests that training the brain to respond to unexpected stimuli, thus sharpening their anticipatory skills when faced with unexpected scenarios, may be more beneficial than performing rote training exercises in a controlled lab setting.”

Whether it involves training athletes to move more conservatively (as Dicharry pointed out in a great turn of phrase, “You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe”) or training them to react more quickly to unexpected stimuli, the bottom line is that the answer lies not with improved equipment but with a better understanding within the athlete of what he or she is capable of. There are, after all, as many people ready to call barefoot or minimal running into question as to herald it. People will always seek the magical solution, whether it be Nike Shox or Reebok Pumps or minimal running shoes, rather than taking the time to learn something through repetition and training.

With teams in the NBA increasingly embracing advanced stats, it should be no surprise when they begin to focus training on neuromuscular education programs designed to help players learn to not only move faster, but smarter. It will take more than just issuing every player a pair of Chucks. After all, the classic Converse sneakers aren’t immune to fantastical breakthrough technical innovations. When Charles Taylor started selling them for Converse in 1921 he incorporated some design improvements. That little badge that bears the star and his name? It’s supposed to provide ankle support.

That Was Mario Chalmers, Everyone

Mario Chalmers is, perhaps, one of the most unaware starters in the NBA. It’s how he can consistently be in the completely wrong place on both ends of the court, get harangued by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and still claim to be one of the top 10 point guards in the league. There is a veil that shields Chalmers’ enormous ego from harm, and while he’s far from perfect, his belief has kept him afloat on a team as top-heavy as the Heat.

The words “quickness” and “confidence” are tattooed on Mario Chalmers’ wrist. In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, we all caught a glimpse as to why. Within the first five minutes, Chalmers started the game with three snap decisions, resulting in dunks from James and Ronny Turiaf, and a corner 3 from Shane Battier. With James and Wade combining for a paltry 4-of-15 from the floor (though James made up for it shooting 7-8 from the free throw line) in the first half, Chalmers took initiative, scoring 14 points and handing out four assists. Beyond shooting 60 percent from 3 in the first half, Chalmers was slipping into the paint for layup attempts and exploiting the gaps in the Celtics defense which had moved further out.

James’ vacation at the free throw line and Wade’s remarkable offensive explosion in the second half took away some of Chalmers’ luster, but his insistent attack on the Celtics defense was a huge reason for the Heat victory. What Chalmers lacks in sense, he makes up for in conviction. We don’t always see this Mario Chalmers, and I’m sure he’s aware of that. There’s unquestionably a disconnect in his self-perception and what we end up seeing in games. It must be nice for him to see the two align in a meaningful way. It’s blissful living in your own world. It’s even better when you get to share a bit of your world with everyone else.

 

What The Lottery Means To The Phoenix Suns

Photo by johnwardell via Flickr

The Suns are essentially playing roulette with their future – and with the future of Steve Nash.

Actually, roulette might be a bit of an optimistic analogy. If Lon Babby and Lance Blanks walked into a casino and placed a bet on 00, they’d still be getting better odds than their chances of holding onto Nash and building a contender in Phoenix. Such was the price for rolling the dice last season by holding onto the two-time MVP and trying to reach the playoffs, knowing full well that Nash’s contract was set to expire in the offseason. The probability that Nash would look to sign elsewhere this summer, in search of a title, was clear to everyone but those in the Phoenix front office, who often expressed their dire belief that they could re-sign Nash.

And maybe they still can. It all depends on how the ping-pong balls bounce. 2.2% of the time, the Suns come out of the lottery with a top-3 pick. Given the Suns’ recent draft history, we’ll take even that best case scenario and say that there’s a 2% chance that Phoenix acquires the kind of talent necessary to convince Nash that the team can improve and vie for a title in the few years he has left in the league. Even that is a hopeful projection; avoiding a prolonged rebuilding stage may very well depend on plugging Anthony Davis next to Marcin Gortat. In that case, the Suns have a .6% chance of not turning into the Bobcats for the next five years.

It’s the bed they made for themselves. The opportunities to trade Nash and jump start the long-term potential of the team were ample over the last two years, but the Suns chose to ride out their ever-cooling hot hand for one last playoff push. They spent all their chips for the chance to miss twice. Like the degenerate gamblers they’ve become, the Suns can’t help but throw their last dollar on a spin of the wheel as security prepares to kick them out the door.

Don’t hold your breath, Suns fans. And make sure to wave goodbye to the nice Canadian gentleman as he chooses his next destination.

The Lottery And The Bobcats: Powerful, Seismic Luck

Few things numb a fan more quickly than the acceptance of failure. When repetition takes its hold and the reality of inability sets in, the 30-point deficits and crushing losses to the Nets start to lose any value, even in the form of pain or sadness. They just happen, and the waiting begins. The waiting for something better, something that might mean hope or at least the return of proximity and fan anguish. That’s better than the alternative of nothingness. Bobcats’ fans have absorbed this numbness over the last eight months to an excessive level. They’ve faced the challenges of numbness, and for the most part, they’ve waited for tonight.

Unfortunately, tonight is not guaranteed to be a triumph for the Bobcats’ organization anymore than the preceding months. The Bobcats have a measly 25% likelihood of getting the first pick and a chance at the only expected superstar in this draft, Anthony Davis. The Bobcats have the same chance of earning the right to draft Anthony Davis as a coin does of landing on heads twice consecutively. Those aren’t great odds at righting the course of the franchise and pushing the team back in the right direction towards 2015/2016 contention, but the Bobcats have a plan. They’ve shed bad contracts (though Tyrus Thomas and  Corey Maggette remain) and focused on building around young players, beginning with Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo, and are poised to be in position to add players that fit with the younger, still learning core the team has assembled. Logic and hope dictate that things can only get better for a team coming off the worst season in basketball history, especially one with a savvy GM like Rich Cho at the helm.

So what Bobcats’ fans remain will watch and hope on Wednesday night, as ping pong balls determine the future of the fallen franchise. All is not lost if the Bobcats don’t get the first pick, of course. This draft contains strong talents from Bradley Beal to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist that could certainly serve as acceptable, franchise-improving alternatives to Davis. But while few draftees wouldn’t make the Bobcats a better team, only one would likely offer them the chance to truly build towards something greater. That player is Anthony Davis, a player who has been compared to everyone from Marcus Camby to Kevin Garnett. If the Bobcats are the last team called on Wednesday night, they’ll get the chance to find out if Davis can live up to his prescribed billing. If not, well, there’s always next year. That 25% chance doesn’t leave easily.

What the Lottery Means to the Sacramento Kings

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There are so many layers here. So many characters. Political leaders. Decision-makers. Decision-live-with’ers. Opportunists. Real housewives. Liars. Investors. And people who wear those bracelets with magnets in them because they think they’re going to be more balanced or something.

But here’s the thing: None of that matters. Not anymore.

I’m not going to do Kings fans a disservice by trying to explain what they’re going through and what kind of run-around they’ve been given by the ownership of their team. Some pretty quality analysis can be found elsewhere in the blogosphere (you can start here and here). The team has had a history like most teams–filled with ups, downs, good periods, bad periods, and oh-so-close-you-can-taste-it moments. Their front office is iffy at best, but they’ve got a few good young roster pieces going forward. Though it’s kind of hard to tell where forward is, these days. One thing I can say: losing your team is a pretty big deal.

What does the lottery mean for the Kings? To me, it seems–at best–to be a bandage on a much larger wound.

What the Lottery Means to the Portland Trail Blazers

On March 15th, the Blazers traded Gerald Wallace to the then-New Jersey Nets for a package centered around a top-3 protected lottery pick. Due to some mathematical reasons that I don’t entirely understand, it’s impossible for this pick to land fourth or fifth. If Portland gets it, the best they can hope for is Brooklyn’s projected slot, which is sixth. Their own pick is slotted at No. 11, because it took them about two weeks too long to shut down LaMarcus Aldridge after his hip started bothering him, and they won about five more games than they should have. Raymond Felton decided to be not completely terrible some of the time, J.J. Hickson remembered that he has a contract to earn, and Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet didn’t get nearly the minutes they would warrant on a team attempting to lose as many games as possible.

It’s hard to project too much about what the Blazers might do in the draft, mostly because as of now, it is undetermined who will be making said picks. Remember, this is a team that has gone over a year without a GM since Rich Cho’s inexplicable firing. Paul Allen and Larry Miller are supposedly interviewing candidates, and a good result at today’s lottery might make that job mildly more attractive for the two minutes it takes before candidates realize that they’d still be working for Paul Allen.

It’s a huge mathematical longshot that the Blazers will land the No. 1 pick and Anthony Davis, so I’m not going to entertain that too much, or drudge up the Oden/Durant stuff again. Since that fateful 2007 lottery, this is what Portland has done on draft day:

2008: Drafted Brandon Rush but ended up with Jerryd Bayless, who never quite meshed with Nate McMillan and now plays in Toronto.

2009: Drafted Spanish forward Victor Claver with their first-round selection, who may or may not be coming over to the NBA at some point in the future. Also took Patty Mills in the second round, whose biggest contribution in Portland was the creation of the three-goggles but who is now playing a role on the unstoppable-looking San Antonio Spurs.

2010: Drafted Luke Babbitt and Elliot Williams. Babbitt was known primarily as an All-NBA Dougier until Kaleb Canales took over for Nate McMillan and began actually playing him. Now his ceiling is a Steve Novak/Kyle Korver-type three-point assassin. Williams’ career has never gotten off the ground due to injuries. Second-round pick Armon Johnson was waived at this year’s trade deadline.

2011: Needed a backup power forward badly, yet somehow passed on Kenneth Faried to take yet another middling backup point guard in Nolan Smith.

So their recent draft history doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Part of that may be Allen’s tendency to fire quality executives with little explanation. I hesitate to make any declarations of whom they should target this year, because outside of LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, and (probably) Nicolas Batum, it’s not clear who’s staying and who isn’t. They need a point guard (Kendall Marshall and Damian Lillard  have been thrown around in mock drafts), but their track record of drafting those leaves a lot to be desired. They need a big, but their picks probably outside of the range where Andre Drummond or Thomas Robinson would be available. So fans just have to hope they hire someone that can be trusted to sort through what’s left.

What does the lottery mean to the Blazers? A chance at redemption, or another chance to tread water.

What the Lottery Means to the New Orleans Hornets

This may be the best second-worst team in the league in the history of the NBA.

-CBSSportsNBA Power Rankings by some schmo named Matt Moore, on 3/27/12 when they were the 2nd-worst, as opposed to tied for 3rd-worst

What a year for the Hornets, eh? Last year, we hear all about Chris Paul’s unspoken (well, unspoken by him, but evidently loudly spoken by others) desire to leave the Hornets. Then he stayed. Then we had the lockout, so while we suffered without basketball, we were given a reprieve from will-he-won’t-he scenarios of CP3′s departure. Then the lockout ended, and we were immediately thrust into the soap opera again. Then he got traded to the Lakers. Or so we thought. Then he was FOR REAL traded to the Clippers, but not before we saw what a horrible, horrible, horrible scenario it was to have the league’s commissioner be the acting head of the team.

In the Chris Paul trade, the team was awarded several pieces–the centerpiece was Eric Gordon, who didn’t sign an extension and is headed towards Restricted Free Agency. The rest of the team, well, it’s not great. But really, they’re not that bad. I mean, yes, they finished tied for 3rd worst record in the league, but watching the games, you could see that… well, OK they were bad. But the had heart, and that’s important. No rolling over and dying for this team. Especially the post-CP3-anointed-leader Jarrett Jack.

The Hornets have a few things going for them next season. They’ve got a young roster. They’ve got a flexible roster, cap-wise. Their biggest contract–Chris Kaman–is coming off the books (he’ll be gone in Free Agency, though, he’s kind of awesome). They haven’t used their amnesty yet. They are guaranteed a top-6 pick.

Oh, and the beloved owner of the New Orleans Saints bought the team, so they’re no longer run by the NBA, and there’s no fear of them leaving the city. Their name may get changed, but after a tumultuous few seasons of off-court drama, maybe a little rebranding is just what they need.

What does the lottery mean to the Hornets? More than anything, it’s a fresh start.

What the Lottery Means to the Cleveland Cavaliers

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In the process of getting over something–a death, a breakup, a bad grade, a loss, an accident, a near-miss–everyone goes through his/her own path of recovery and moving on. Some can get over things right away; for others it may take years. Others still, they may never get over it–nor do they want to. But the passage of time always plays a factor. Whether it’s a good or bad factor–that’s on the person to choose. And the person can, indeed, be over something, but they can also have an opinion on it EVERY F***ING TIME SOMEONE ELSE BRINGS IT UP AS IF IT’S THE ONLY F***ING TALKING POINT IN THE WORLD.

When it comes to the departure of LeBron James, the Cavaliers organization and its fans are certainly moving on in a positive direction. The team and its fanbase have been to Hell and back. The loss of the best player in the league. The loss of their once-Coach-of-the-Year. The loss of their GM. An angry letter in Comic Sans. But most of all, 2010-2011 saw them endure an absurdly lopsided 55-point loss to the Lakers as well as one of the most dubious distinctions in NBA history: the longest consecutive loss record (26 games).

Then they made some changes, most notably they flipped ever-emotional-as-he-was-loyal Mo Williams (and Jamario Moon) for Baron Davis and the Clippers’ unprotected lottery pick. Davis was eventually amnestied, and that pick turned into the first overall selection: Kyrie Irving. Irving and fellow-draftee Tristan Thompson have given the team and the franchise something to withstand the onslaught of being the butt of everyone’s jokes. “Laugh at us all you want. Yeah it’s cold and cloudy. Yeah we’re at the point where the Midwest meets the Northeast. But we’re a city that’s growing again, we brew some damn fine beer, and we’re damn proud of our young team.”

Cavs fans were so damn proud of their young team that, even though they still managed to make the lottery this year, they were pleased. Not only were they pleased that Kyrie Irving will make a great fit with nearly any pick in the top 5, but they loved that their team showed substantial growth even in this lockout-shortened season.

Even if other people still talk about it. Even if Cavs fans still talk about it amongst themselves. Even if there actually is a limit to how many derogatory words one can append the prefix “Le-” to. Even if it makes for a good story. Even if you don’t like talking about it, but revenge still kind of tastes sweet and you sort of find yourself rooting for teams you used to dislike.

What does the draft lottery mean to the Cavaliers? All it means is a new, bright future for years to come in Cleveland. That’s it.