You know you’re a die hard Cavaliers fan when, in the wake of you-know-who, you find yourself at home listening to a preseason game on the radio because it’s not televised. Add in an injured Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao, a San Antonio team without Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Jefferson, and a Pittsburgh-based crowd of a meager five thousand and my loyalty is now hovering between passionate and pathetic. Did I mention that I live in Hong Kong and it’s 7:30 AM?
While the proper classification of my fervor is debatable, there is one undeniable fact that can be pulled from the mix – the new-look Cavs are intriguing. For those of us who are true Cleveland fans our support is and always has been absolute, regardless of who’s on the roster. We would watch no matter how bad the team may be, lord knows we have in the past (see also Browns and Indians). Those of you who tuned in only to watch number 23 will follow to see the impact of losing one of the best players in the league. That’s why this year’s team is especially interesting and, in my opinion, refreshing.
The departure of a certain someone’s “talents” – alongside Shaq and Ilgauskas – has changed the team’s dynamic in such a way that it would be impossible for even a lukewarm basketball fan not to be curious, let alone an avid follower. The new Cavaliers team can be whoever they want to be. Their identity is open to fabrication and interpretation. There is no one person dominating the spotlight. There is no one player imposing his will and subjecting his ego on the entire team and, quite frankly, the entire franchise.
For the first time in a long time there is freedom for the team to progress in unison and not at the behest of one athlete. It feels like there is something new to look forward to, not just did we do enough to get over the hump this year. I look forward to seeing Byron Scott’s new offense and the players that, given the chance, can now thrive in the system. I look forward to watching young prospects like J.J. Hickson and Daniel Gibson take on a more central role. I look forward to moving on from the stigma of being publicly humiliated and dumped. But most of all I look forward to a team without the burden of expectation.
Expectation can be a dangerous thing, especially for a city like Cleveland. It breeds optimism; it breeds hope. It can – and did – lift an entire franchise, an entire city, to new heights. But it also breeds hubris. Pride most certainly came before the fall, and it was a devastating plunge. Luckily for Cleveland once you hit the bottom there is nowhere to go but up. Exactly how the Cavs and coach Byron Scott plan on picking themselves back up no one knows, but I’m very curious.