In addition to being a local comedian with ties to television, radio, and podcasts Chad Zumock is a published author who also happens to be a gigantic fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Well, the Patron Platinum Lounge at The Q, but also the team which calls the arena home. The following is his preview of the 2013-14 season. Do enjoy.
Are the three years of growing pains over? Are the days of Dan Gilbert flying out MGK, Michael Symon, and whatever HOT Cleveland personality to the NBA lottery on his private jet to celebrate his son Nick Gilbert sitting in to receive our reward for having horrible season in the past? No offense to Nick Gilbert, but I don’t want to ever see him again—sitting there, waiting for ping pong balls to pop up—unless he’s actually playing ping pong.
Being a Cleveland Cavaliers fan since I was 10 years old, I was trained for these tough times. I can say this because I was in Richfield for “The Shot,” then at The Gund for “The Kemp,” followed up by Wrong-Way Ricky Davis’s “triple-double.” And of course I was on national TV burning LeBron’s jersey in the Lakewood Harry Buffalo parking lot for “The Decision” while LeBron watched on a split screen.
This all said, the mastermind of Chris Grant and the pockets of Dan Gilbert have led us to this year, which I am boldly labeling “the Comeback.”
A lot of story lines are currently being written as this season goes forward: Can Kyrie Irving become one of the top five players in the league? Is this make-or-break season for Chris Grant? Is Anthony Bennett a bust or the clear No 1 pick? Can Mike Brown lead a franchise back to greatness without what’s his name from Akron (Not Cleveland)?
I can tell you this team is young, talented, and ready to compete. Grant has done an outstanding job with the draft and free agency, assembling a roster that still is significantly under the salary cap. The time to win is now. Not only is Mike Brown bringing his defensive minded style with him, he hired Igor Kokoskov to keep the offense slick—an area in which the head coach has often been criticized.
Let’s take a look at these key pieces…
Kyrie Irving: My comedian friend Sam Tripoli (a lifelong Los Angeles Clippers fan) said he has never seen a point guard with a better feel for the game. This is Kyrie’s year to prove he can not only be one of the best point guards in the league but one of the best players. He needs distance himself from the nickname “Mr. Glass,” and have an injury-free year in order to do so. Mike Brown will teach him how to be an elite defender, and that’s something his receding-hairlined, superstar predecessor had to learn in order to win his first championship. I’m not ready to put up the “We are all Witnesses to Kyrie” banner on the Sherwin Williams building, but I do think a nice sandwich at MELT could be named after him when the season is over.
Dion Waiters: This is why I like Dion Waiters ever since I called him as our pick when I was doing the NBA Draft for WTAM/1100AM two years ago: He has a chip on his shoulder and plays this game out of spite. That’s the kind of player I like, and it fits the mentality of this city. “If you count me out and I’ll prove you wrong…Say I can’t do something and I’ll set out to do it,” is his mind set. Whatever Dion’s weaknesses are, he’ll fix them. They said he needs to learn to play without the ball in his hands and this will happen because people say he can’t do it. He is a player who wants to be challenged and Mike Brown is the right coach to challenge him. He also wears the No. 3 and that means he will channel the spirt of the 5th-place 1997 slam dunk participant, Bob Sura, every time he hits the court.
Jarrett Jack: I personally think this was Chris Grants best move since he’s been GM. Jack is the X-Factor who brings stability and leadership to the guard position. He plays with guts and confidence and if Mike Brown goes to a three-guard rotation, watch out. This could be RUN TMC all over again in the form with Jack alongside Irving and Waiters. Expect big shots being taken in clutch situations. Hopefully this will be a lethal one-two punch with Irving down the stretch.
Andrew Bynum: Low-risk, high-reward? Bad signing? Whatever you want to call it, it was one of the most intriguing free agent deals of the summer. Can Bynum return to All-Star form or is he on the downside of his NBA career at the young age of 25? A two-year deal with an out makes this a bargain for any GM in the league. Let me add Andrew Bynum had one of his best seasons under the watchful eye of Mike Brown in Los Angeles. To be continued…
Anderson Varejao/Tyler Zeller: I put these two together because they need to complement each other and help each other as the season goes on. Varejio simply cannot play the minutes he has done in the past because he plays with the reckless abandon of Burt Reynolds’s stuntman from “Hooper.” He will give you second and third opportunities, and can play the pick-and-roll with Kyrie better than just about anyone in the league. Tyler Zeller has put on some muscle and has shown he is solid bench player that will provide depth. If these two can split time during an 82-game season, Varejao will be a HUGE asset come playoff time. I also love the irony of Zydrunas “Z” Ilgauskas being Varejio’s mentor and now Varejio is Tyler “Z” Zeller’s mentor. Maybe I like that because my last name starts with Z? I don’t know, let’s move on!
Tristan Thompson: Everyone I talk with in the Cavs organization say his work ethic can not be duplicated and that’s all you want from a young player. The big Canadian has made great strides going into his third year and even emerged in a leadership role last season. Of course Thompson’s strides came when Varejao went down to injury and Thompson needs to learn to be just as productive playing along side him.
DeSangana Diop: Mark my words, the former Lottery pick from Oak Hill Academy will make the Canton Charge contenders as he takes over for Luke Harangody, who has since moved on to the UNICS Kazan Russian team. Get your Diop jersey now in the Charge gift shop.
Anthony Bennett: He’s the No. 1 draft pick out of UNLV, but is he the clear-cut top choice? He’s an undersized power forward, but makes up for it in wingspan and athleticism. He is in a beautiful position for any rookie, especially a No. 1 pick—playing with a high profile point guard who shields him from pressure while having Andrew Bynum and two veteran forwards playing in front of him. It’s Bennett’s situation to mess up. He has the ability to make Chris Grant to look like a genius with this pick and if Mike Brown can get the gifted forward to play his style of defense to go along with his offensive chops, the world is his.
Who is our small forward this year? CJ Miles, Earl Clark, Alonzo Gee, or that Russian kid?
Here is something no one in Cleveland said coming into this year: “What are we going to do without Omri Casspi at small forward this season?”
This position comes down to two things: Playing D and hitting the open shot, things all these players can do. Earl Clark was buried on the Lakers’ bench last season by the offensive-minded Mike “Pringles Can” D’Antoni. CJ Miles is the best shooter in this position but can he play Mike Brown’s type of D? Alonzo Gee did a nice job last year with Byron Scott running the show but can he repeat this year? It’s going to come down to who can play defense the best and that’s the guy Mike Brown will go with in crunch time. By the way, be sure to pick-up CJ Miles’s hip-hop mixtape “No Camping” for free at DatPiff.com. Even if he isn’t your starter, he is definitely the best rapper out of these small forwards.
So there you have it. Although the Cavaliers are coming of a 58-loss season, the losses will shrink dramatically if they can find a way to stay healthy. Mike Brown must use his bench and manage minutes, especially considering the defensive demands he’s asking from these players. Injuries are inevitable over the course of a long season, but limiting them and letting this core group gel together will make the Cavaliers a team to watch coming out of the East.