As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last three years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the 10 biggest sports stories affecting our local sports scene. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. We started with #10 – The Colt Concussion, next was #9 –Key Cavalier Wins. We broke down the Baron Davis Trade and talked some Tribe at #7. Kirk was on the Pat Shurmur hire for #6. We stuck with that Browns theme and discussed the big draft day deal involving Julio Jones and Phil Taylor (#5). We went back to the Red, White, and Blue yesterday was #4 the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. Today, let us get into a moment of rebirth for the Cavs.
#3 The Cavs Win the NBA Draft Lottery and Take PG Kyrie Irving
Our boys in Wine and Gold hit rock bottom last season. They lost their franchise player in a disgraceful fashion, watched their owner write a ridiculous letter that became national fodder, then sat through a season in which they embark on an NBA record 26-game losing streak. Something had to go right for the organization and for the city who deserved better than this.
The Baron Davis trade brought over not just a former All-Star veteran point guard, but an unprotected first round pick from the Los Angeles Clippers. Before the lottery, it was assumed the Cavs would most likely end up with two top 10 picks in a draft which was thought to be the weakest maybe of all time. They had so many holes, quality players were needed wherever they could get them.
On May 17th, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert gassed up his jet and loaded it up with good luck charms for the day the ping pong balls would bounce. Current Browns Joe Haden and Josh Cribbs, former Browns legend Bernie “The Lord” Kosar, and Gilbert’s two sons were amongst the travelling party. But the person who would represent the team on the podium would be Nick Gilbert, Dan’s 14-year old son who was born with neurofibromatosis, a genetic nerve disorder that causes tumors to grow in his body, anywhere and at any time.
When interviewed before the lottery on National TV, Nick was asked what is the best thing about his father calling him his “personal hero,” and he responded with the now famous phrase “what’s not to love?”
As the envelopes were opened one by one, it became apparent the pick acquired from the Clippers would be a top three pick. But where would it land? In the meantime, the Cavaliers own pick, drew the fourth spot. In the end, it came down to the Cavs and the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was T’Wolves GM David Kahn, a punching bag of sorts throughout the league, vs. the kid everyone was rooting for, Nick Gilbert. When the Minnesota placard was pulled out of the second spot envelope, the place erupted for Nick and for the Cavs.
The Clippers pick had just a 2.8% chance of winning the lottery but did just that. It was the another step in a long healing process for the Cavs as an organization in getting passed losing the greatest player in franchise history.
So with two top four picks, the Cavs went to work. Head Coach Byron Scott knew exactly who he wanted. He loves and excels in working with star point guards. His team had a major hole in exactly that spot. So it became a no-brainer just over a month later. On draft day, GM Chris Grant made the call – the Cavaliers selected Kyrie Irving, the 19-year old point guard from Duke with the #1 overall selection.
While the scouts all unanimously love Irving, had this draft been stronger, he wouldn’t have been the top pick. That said, he is still a top tier talent that should be leading the Cavs for years to come. What we will see this year will just scratch the surface on what he can be. We can’t forget, he is still 19 years old and played just 11 games as a Freshman at Duke.
The good news is that the Wine and Gold finally were put back on the right track and got a major stroke of luck that night in May, with an assist to a 14-year old kid with the bravery most of us will never know. It made for an amazing story, one Cleveland sports fans will never forget.