Sunday, June 3, 2007

OH MY GOD! The Cavs are Going to the Finals!

It's difficult to put into words what this means to me. I have crystal-clear memories of seeing the Cavs at Richfield Coliseum when I was maybe nine years old. They were playing Dr. J's 76ers in what turned into a really amazing night. The Harlem Globetrotters were the halftime show and World B. Free scored his 15,000th point. I remember Dad telling me that the Cavs were just OK, that Dr. J was his favorite player, and that he was surprised when the Cavs won.

That was a pretty good time to become Cavaliers fan, it turns out. My first favorite, World B. Free, would last just one more season, but the Cavs were on the cusp of prosperous times. Enter the days of Price, Nance, Daugherty, Harper, Hot-Rod and Ehlo. That was a team destined for greatness, if only the organization hadn't committed suicide by dealing our best and most exciting player, Ron Harper, for, geez!, Danny Ferry. I don't think anything could have stopped Michael Jordan from building a dynasty in Chicago, but I am sure that deal cost the Cavs a championship. Sure they made a nice run to the Eastern Conference Finals, but they were never a serious threat after that dark day when Wayne Embry and Gordon Gund betrayed us all.

More than twenty years lay between that first visit to the long-demolished Coliseum and early Sunday morning, when I sat at my computer here in France, listening to the great Joe Tait announce that the Cavs were going to the NBA finals. The sun was rising and I was feeling exactly what I felt in 1995, when the Indians whipped the Seattle Mariners to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1954.

So, here are some thoughts on being a Cavs fan and seeing my team play on the biggest stage for the first time in the franchise's 37-year history.

Joe Tait has been announcing games for this team since that inaugural season. This man has broadcast more bad basketball than anyone should ever be expected to. He turned 70 this year and I can't imagine how thrilled he must be to finally, FINALLY have the opportunity to see his team play for all the marbles.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas. I can't put it any better than my buddy, Than, did: "How can you not appreciate what Z stands for? This is a guy that had 4 major surgeries on his feet to be able to play. He could have banked 70 million dollars and done NOTHING to actually earn it. Instead he chose the path of pain and comes back to play for a horrible Cavs team setting attendance records for fewest people in the seats. All because he loves to play basketball. "

Seeing LeBron look for and hug Z before anyone else after game 6 was over was automatically one of my all-time favorite sports memories.

Austin Carr probably loves the Cavs more than anyone on the planet. He was the best player on the Cavs team that had the franchise's best chance of winning a title in 1976. Of course, that season ended in typical Cleveland form when Jim Chones broke his ankle in practice right before the Eastern Conference Finals. I really, really hope Austin gets to see his team win a title.
Remember when the organization's hopes were riding on Darius Miles and Dasagana Diop?
Remember when they rested on Shawn Kemp, who in three seasons deteriorated into 6' 10" cocaine-addled sloth whose dunks were routinely blocked by point guards?
Hey Gordon Gund and Wayne Embry, I think I'm about ready to let go of the Ron Harper for Danny Ferry demons. I'll let you know after the finals.
My all-time Cavs starting five is: PG: Mark Price, SG: Austin Carr, SF: LeBron James, PF: Larry Nance, C: Brad Daugherty. That is a team that would cruise to a title.
It would be interesting to see Mark Price playing on a Mike Brown-coached team. I think each of their strengths would have cancelled out the other's shortcomings. Mike Brown could make a side of beef play good defense, and Mark Price could make any offensive system flow.
LeBron James has been the best defensive player in the entire eastern conference in the playoffs. Tayshaun Prince may never recover.
The only player I even remotely care for on the Pistons is Antonio McDyess, regardless of his nasty play on Anderson Varejao. He plays with all heart and no knees.
Beating the Pistons to go to the finals is about perfect. Seeing Rasheed Wallaces escorted off the floor with seven minutes to play was the cherry on top. What a despicable team.
The Cavs would destroy the Pheonix Suns in the finals. Anyone still clinging to the notion that the Suns can win a title with that system is delusional. Furthermore, the west's dominance over the east is a complete mirage, as these finals will show. The Cavs are NOT getting swept.
Daniel Gibson is a freak. His spot-up jumper is the purest I've seen in a long time (read: since Mark Price). He ripped out the hearts of the Pistons and then feasted on their warm carcasses.
I never, ever imagined Joe Tait saying: "Boobie for three...GOT IT!!!"
My brother has been going to every game at the Q. I went to a Cavs playoff game once, back in 1995. It was when the Price-Daugherty era was in its death-throes. The Cavs lost the game and were killed in the first round by that shitty Patrick Ewing Knicks team 3-1 in the series. The Gund was filled with all the excitement of a day at the library.
A big reason for the Cavs' turnaround has been not only LeBron James (admittedly huge), but also the uniform change made that same year. Those teal things were awful, awful, awful. Teal!
Call me a purist. Call me old-fashioned. Call me Mr. Scrooge, but I hate dance teams. I hate smoke and fire and explosions and lasers. I hate obnoxious PA announcers. I hate arenas named after corporations. I hate little orange balls rolling everywhere. I hate mascots jumping off trampolines and dunking. Is that somehow more impressive than seeing a player dunk without having to use a trampoline? Have our attention spans gotten so short that we need to be entertained during the NBA playoffs? Just play the damned game.
I love this team. I love how young they are. I love that no one respects them. I love that they are from the States, Brazil, Montenegro, Lithuania. I love that our best player is from Akron. What are the chances that our worst player is from Canton? I love that the best player and the worst player are the heart of the team. I love having the best player in the NBA.
Finals preview coming soon!
GO CAVS!!!!!
This post is dedicated to my father, who taught me to love losing teams. All that suffering has made this so, so much sweeter. Thanks Pops!

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