2016: Cleveland Grows Up

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I haven’t posted on this site since early June of 2015, where my hopes for Cleveland sports were teetering on a fairy tale feeling that one on one of my teams, from my town, were on the verge of greatness.

We all know how that NBA finals series went. We remember their parade, the talk of “dynasty,” and the feeling of defeat.

And then they went 73-9. The best regular season ever.

Steph Curry repeated as MVP, and for the first time ever, in unanimous fashion.

And then the rematch.

Being down 3-1.

The “kick.”

“The block.”

“The dagger.”

Lebron and those now-legendary Cavs brought home something no professional sports team had in 52 years: A championship.

Being downtown that night was surreal. Hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, jumping on top of buses and street lights, hugging and high-fiving random strangers, and just thinking to myself, “this is what it feels like. This is what it feels like to be a winner.”

That parade…with 1.3 million of our closest friends. No doubt some of my fondest memories I’ll ever encounter in our great city.

And then the Tribe got hot.

14 straight.

You’ve gotta be kidding me.

Everything was happening. Cleveland was the center of the sports universe.

Sometimes in life, we get complacent. We lose sight of what’s important to us, because everything on the exterior seems so perfect. Your job, your love life, everything.

Earlier this year, I spent a few months in what I figured was illness. I initially went in thinking it was food poisoning, it then became gallbladder issues. The symptoms continued. Three hospital stints later, they found it to be herniated disks in my back, pinching a nerve that wrapped around to the front of my body, which simulated the abdominal pain. WTF, right?

I’m good now, but I spent so much time in the hospital on the pain drug Dilaudid, a synthetic morphine, that I had developed a chemical dependency to it. 90% of my issues? Withdrawal. They weaned me off the drug, and sent me home.

I spent the following months on a cocktail of antidepressants and anti anxiety drugs which made me lethargic. I would go to work, come home, eat, sleep, repeat. I had become a robot.It had gotten so bad that it eventually led to my girlfriend of two and a half years dumping me. Talk about darkness.

When nothing else is going for me, I still have my Tribe, Cavs, and Browns (ok, maybe not the Browns).

This 2016 Indians team, not to discount what the Cavs did, have been through every exhilarating high and crushing low imaginable. They not only were presented with an enormous amount of adversity, they looked it square in the eyes and said “F**k you. We got this.” Brantley, Carrasco, Salazar, Gomes, Bauer’s finger. You name it, they’ve been through it. Media bias, Vegas odds, anything and everything stacked against them.

It seemed that when the going got tough for this group, they only got stronger.

Who better than Jose Ramirez, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli, Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller, and every single member of this team and organization, to bring Cleveland something that although we experienced only a few months ago, so much hope, brightness, and joy, to a city and people who have been so long considered written-off or never quite good enough.

You can’t write a better story. You can’t pick a better city and better people for this to happen to.

Last night proved that even thought we just ran out of gas at the end, this team never ever quit. Never even thought about it.

A very wise friend shared this Vivian Greene quote with me, which has resonated with me now for a few weeks. “Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

I’m sitting here in my apartment, not downtown, stunned as to what this year has been for me, for everyone.

When everything could have gone right for this team in this series, it went wrong. Jokes of “3-1 Lead,” the karma, the curse. It didn’t matter. It still doesn’t matter.

When it comes to “dancing in the rain,” this team hosted a rave in a hurricane.

Not to get preachy and break the spirit of this post because I want to keep things light:

No matter what happens in our lives, as dark and as lost as we may feel sometimes, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. You can’t be afraid of adversity and bad things happening.  Bad things are going to happen. That should never stop you from believing in yourself, your goals, and your future.

Here’s to a storybook 2016 in Cleveland. 

Together: A Totally Unbiased NBA Finals Preview

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A little bit of a crash course in being a Cleveland sports fan above. I remember Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, watching it at home with my parents, being crushed that my team didn’t win a game they should have. Little did I know, that was only a tip of the proverbial iceberg in becoming a Cleveland sports fan.

2002, when the Browns blew a big lead in the playoffs against the Steelers.

The 2007 playoff series against the Red Sox, where the Indians put on one of the biggest choke jobs in MLB history.

The Decision.

All these events, along with the many before, shape and mold who we are as sports fans today. We’re no stranger to being considered down-and-out before anything even starts. We’re Cleveland, the city that hasn’t won a major sports championship since 1964, the city that had been to 2 world series in 3 years and came so close to winning we could taste it. Nope! Losers. The Mistake on the Lake.

This year may be no different. This year, might be just another one of those years where we simply couldn’t put it together at the end. Only time will tell that, and that’s why they play the games they do starting on Thursday at 9pm in Oakland.

But, in the “All In” sentiment, there is no turning back. There is no more “this is a process, we need to be patient.” The time is now. This is our chance to remove ourselves from the half-century of inept owners, GM’s, and coaches. 4 wins, and not only the Cavaliers, but Cleveland as a city, will be champions. 4 more wins.

And it all starts with Lebron.

Steph Curry is a superstar. The baby-faced assassin with the adorable daughter and cold-blooded jumper. Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut, Draymond Green, and the rest of the Warriors will be the Cavs greatest test. Just like everyone else on the roster, though, this will be Lebron’s as well. We can talk about how Kyrie’s health will be a defining factor, Kevin’s injury being a difference maker, everything. We can talk about rookie head coaches, chemistry, and every factor that could possibly go into a Cavs defeat. All valid concerns, but what the analysts and talking heads of sports media seem to forget is this: Betting against Lebron James in the NBA finals is a very risky wager.

When he went to Miami 4 years ago, the team was in place with several superstars and formidable role players who got them to the Finals. Although they lost, they still won 2 of the next 3, and etched their place in NBA history. Lebron coming home was a popular yet controversial decision that painted Cleveland fans as hypocritical and fairweather because of the jersey burning, the hateful words, the booing, etc. etc.

Where are those people now?

This is our time.

 

 

I Was Wrong

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I’ve been away from this for a while now. Mostly because this is a hobby and I have arguably the worst case of attention deficit disorder on the planet, but also because I found a lot more pleasure out of being a fan rather than some glorified internet commenter with a clearinghouse for hot takes. I’ll be the first to admit that 99% of what I had to say in previous posts on this site was bullshit/sarcasm and that kind of runs stale.

In the time I haven’t posted on this site, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert turned into irreplaceable pieces to this Cavaliers playoff run. I was (very) wrong about them. 

Remember Game 1 of the regular season? Guess we all got that one wrong too. 

Matthew Dellavedova? Who? That guy who was backing up Jarrett Jack, and Seth Curry was signed last year in order to add depth because of his play? Whoops. Look at him now.

Tristan Thompson is playing like a max-contract player. What?!

Timofey Mozgov, arguably one of the most important pieces of the puzzle — the rim protector we needed. Timofey Mozgov. This guy?

Blake-Griffin-dunks-on-Timofey-MozgovThis band of misfits who have become Eastern Conference Champions are the same team that, in January, were 19-20 on the verge of a city-wide panic attack and just about half the league had a better record than the Lebron-Kyrie-KLove ran Cleveland Cavaliers.

Then Griff and the front office made the move to get Iman and JR. Then Timo came. All of a sudden, this motley crew of misfits was starting to form. By March 16, that sub-.500 Cavs team was 43-25. 24-5 in their previous 29 games. That’s the team Lebron said would take time to form, and all we had to do was trust him and our coaching staff to put it together. They did.

The Eastern Conference playoffs came and went, and unfortunately so did Kevin Love. That did nothing to stop this team. Not to say Kevin being out is a substantial injury, but let’s face it: these EC playoff series may have been the weakest ever, and they may have swept through the first 12 games of the playoffs had Kevin been around. The Bulls series was far and beyond the Eastern Conference finals and this series against the Hawks was merely a warm-up for the finals. We knew this going in. Didn’t stop or let up, which makes me think this team stands a chance against a western conference foe. We may find out tonight who that will be, but whoever it is, this team will be ready.

So I’m done making predictions about how roster moves or defensive formations or substitutions will work out. It’s all part of the plan. We just need to sit back and enjoy the ride, because worrying about what might happen takes away from the excitement of what’s going to happen. This is peak Cleveland. The national media and twitter hardos can say whatever the hell they want about this great city and potentially historic basketball team. Doesn’t change a single thing that Cleveland fans deserve this and our wait just might be over pretty soon.

Kyrie Is From Another Planet, Cavs Win 8th Straight, Fun Times In Cleveland Again!

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55 points on 17-34 shooting, 11-19 from 3PT, 10-10 free throws, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, get buckets! The game too easy!

Kyrie showed last night why there is indeed a “Big 3” in Cleveland. I don’t think anyone has flown more under the radar this year than Kyrie. Kid blew up last night. That was the best Cavs win of the year. No Lebron, at home, against a western conference playoff team. GRANTED, the bench scored 11 points and Kevin Love (relax, he’s just in a slump) had a -5 +/- . Not great efficiency and you can’t expect that every single night from Kyrie, but damnit was he near-perfect last night.

You can’t look at the stats from this win though. Yes, it was a historic night for Kyrie breaking records and winning games with cold-blooded shots over one of the premier defenders in the NBA. But the videos from Tristan and JR Smith showing the locker room going crazy was what sealed it for me as their best win of the year. David Blatt with an ear to ear grin. Lebron, Kevin Love, JR, Mozgov, everyone getting in on pelting Kyrie with water and whatever they were throwing on him. Wins like that make a team better, and the Cavs are infinitely better after last night.

Lebron was right, these things take time. Lebron round 2 has proven to be a very wise one, with a little less than half the season still to go. Let’s face it folks, this Cavs team is night and day compared to the one that lost to the (god damn mother fucking) Knicks on opening night. Bet that won’t happen again. They were built for June and are in the very early stages of hitting their second-half, late-season stride that they will carry them into the playoffs. Once they’re there, look out. Just need to keep everyone healthy, Lebron needs to play like 5 minutes of the All-Star game, and let Kyrie do his thing. I’m not worried about Kevin Love either. Let him get back to the West coast during the All-Star break, kick it with his family, let him relax. I be willing to bet he comes back to CLE a new man and ready to do gangbusters on the 2nd half of the season.

“What these young bloods have to understand…is that this game has always been, and will always be…about buckets.”

Dion for Shumpert and JR Smith…Eh.

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I must admit, as a past flat-top aficionado, Shumpert’s got some A+ stuff.

In all seriousness though, I think Lebron (and other leaders: K-Love, Kyrie, etc.) said it was time for Dion to go. But it wasn’t just a personality “rid the cancer from the locker room” move, either. You account for Dion most likely demanding big money next off-season and likely getting it from a team in need of a scorer. Look for OKC to dump him after this season. Another surprising stat that people will overlook as they continue to freak out about every move the Cavs make: Dion had the worst +/- out of anyone on the Cavs team…by 15 points. We’re talking AJ Price, Brendan Haywood, James Jones…all better in that department. That’s a huge blow to the team, and likely the reason they’re barely treading water right now in a miserable eastern conference. When Lebron went down along with Kyrie and Kevin having issues, I think it was a wake-up call that they needed depth, and fast. JR Smith adds some savvy scoring off the bench, while Shumpert adds some defensive depth at the guard position, where the Cavs have been laughably lacking all season. Just a matter of time to see how they all pan out, with Smith’s attitude and Shumpert being injured seemingly often. We’ll see, I guess.

I guess the chemistry was just never there: