Thank you, Cavaliers! While We’re Waiting

Happy Tuesday, WFNY!

Yeah, I know, it’s not that happy. Despite showing tremendous resolve and fight in Games 3, 4, and 5, the Golden State Warriors just proved to be too much for the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, as the Warriors clinched the NBA Finals.

And so it ends, a year I had begun to doubt would ever happen in my lifetime. A year with the words “defending Champions” being attached to a Cleveland team. And not just any Cleveland team, but my favorite Cleveland team, the Cavaliers. Sure, it was an uneven year. The team didn’t always play as well as we might have liked. There were plenty of changes and challenges along the way. But it was a great season. And it was great because of the incredible gift this team gave to us fans last year. Nothing that happens from that moment on will ever change the fact that from June 19, 2016 to June 12, 2017, the Cleveland Cavaliers were World Champions.

So if there’s one thing I have to say to this team in response to their performance in this year’s NBA Finals, it is this: Thank you!

No, this was not the outcome I was hoping for. It surely was not the outcome the players on the team were expecting or wanted. It has to be bitterly disappointing, I’m sure. But this was not a “typical” Cleveland collapse. There is no reason for this team to hang their heads. The Cavaliers got off to a rough start in Games 1 and 2, sure. But the rest of the series they played Championship caliber basketball. They showed their Championship DNA. The level and quality of play in the final three games of these Finals was simply off the charts. It was some of the best basketball, on both sides, that I have ever seen. These two teams threw everything they had at each other. In the end, it was just clear that Kevin Durant was the ace up their sleeve, the proverbial extra round in the chamber, that Golden State needed to reclaim their title. Make no mistake, the best team won the Championship this year.

There will be plenty of time to discuss how the Cavaliers can try to improve for next season, but today is not that day for me. However, I will say this. While it is true the Cavaliers need to somehow find a way to get better if they want to beat the Warriors next year, the gap between these teams is not as big as I thought it was going into this series. It took the Cavaliers a couple games to figure out how they could attack the Warriors defense, and that’s unfortunate, but once the Cavaliers figured it out, they gave Golden State all they could handle. In the end, Kevin Durant was just too good.

And let’s stop there for a second. I know it’s so tempting to be bitter and say things to disparage Durant and his decision to join the Warriors. I’ve done it myself. But that’s the fan in me. Let’s be honest, if Kawhi Leonard was a free agent this year and wanted to join the Cavaliers, we would welcome it with open arms. What were the Warriors supposed to do, turn down Durant?

From Durant’s perspective, we can say he took the easy way out, fine. But he made the smartest decision he could possibly make. Had he stayed with Oklahoma City and never won a title, history would not have said “Well, Durant never won a title, but he could have. Instead, he chose the courageous path and stayed with the Thunder.” Come on, that’s not how this work. He would have joined the likes of Charles Barkley and Karl Malone on the list of great players who never won a title. And years from now, when people talk about Durant’s legacy it won’t be “Yeah, he won a title (or titles depending on what happens in the next few years), but it was only because he joined the Warriors.”

To be clear, if Kevin Durant isn’t on the Warriors, the Cavaliers win this series. There’s not a shred of doubt in my mind about that. Kevin Durant didn’t win a title because of the Warriors, the Warriors won a title because of Kevin Durant. Obviously having Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala made Durant’s life easier, there’s no denying that. But Durant was the element that made the Warriors feel unbeatable.

This is the super team era of the NBA. Nobody has to like it, but not liking it doesn’t change the reality. Durant didn’t do anything cheap. He made the smartest move for his career and his legacy. We can fault him if we want, or we can accept it just move on and try to figure out how the teams we root for can get better to overcome the Warriors.

I woke up today a little sad, sure. Disappointed, absolutely. But I also feel a certain sense of optimism. There is no bitterness with this loss. I leave these Finals feeling encouraged that the Cavaliers proved they can play with the Warriors. They need a little more to beat them four times in seven games, sure. But there is room for hope. Remember, the Warriors won the first Finals matchup with the Cavaliers after injuries took out Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. You never know what’s going to happen.

I’m not saying the Cavaliers should hope for injuries, of course. I’m just saying things can change quickly for a variety of reasons. There’s no need for Cleveland to panic or blow things up. This team is right there, right on the cusp. LeBron’s window may be closing fast. Next year could be the last year LeBron plays with the Cavaliers. Things change so fast in the NBA. I’ll forever wish the Cavaliers hung on to Game 3. But let’s not be sad today as a fanbase.

Instead, let’s give thanks one more time to the Cavaliers for letting us live a season as Champions. The last year has been something I will never, ever forget. It will stay with me forever. And for the players, the ones who actually won the Championship, it will be a part of them for eternity. It’s sad that it’s over, but it’s not something for us to mourn, but something to celebrate. So one more time, from the bottom of my heart, I say thank you so much, Cavaliers!

I already can’t wait to get going again next season.

  • RGB

    Yeah, the regular season would be more logical to count down to, but I was so excited by our draft that I jumped right into a countdown. (I just couldn’t wait the extra 31 days to start.)
    89 days until the regular season, BTW.

  • Saggy

    Is that Pig-Latin on the upper left?

  • mgbode

    We only had to spend a week after my wife was released w/ our first (and same, they gave us a bonding room, which was a closet w/ a couch-bed in it we felt blessed to have).

    My sister currently has her first born in NICU going on 2 weeks now. Everything appears on track w/ her too, but, yeah, 5 months??? Crazy.

  • Steve

    Again, the NBA has dealt with way more sustained success than the Warriors so far, and not just survived, but many people treat the dynasties as the peak of the league.

    The Warriors look unbeatable at the moment, but they’re still well behind the Bulls.

  • Steve

    “The Warriors didnt see a way passed LeBron.”

    As in what, they wouldn’t have showed up to the Finals if they didn’t get Durant?

    They would have, and they would have been favorites in Vegas.

    Be frustrated with not winning. But we’re so damned quick to assign narratives about a person’s character. And again, Lebron saw a way to more championships, same as Durant.

  • Steve

    We were given Lebron. Twice. And the second time he brought an all-star with him.

  • Steve

    “Deron Williams is running the offense”

    That has everything to do with Lebron’s iffy GM ability, and little to do with some sort of financial gap between the organizations.

  • Steve

    I’d bet at least a beer that the NBPA has been trying to get max contracts increased, which is the way to prevent these teams.

    You want to know what also helps prevent superteams? Less holding every non-championship season as some sort of moral failing on a superstar.

  • chrisdottcomm

    Draymond Green (as reported by pretty trusted source Zach Lowe) was in the parking lot calling Myers and Durant not more than an hour after Game 7. But sure.

    As for the rest of your statment “not showing up to the finals” I dont know what that means. As in like, they would have been so scared they just would have refused to play? Or as in they wouldnt have made the Finals without Durant?

    Durant-less Warriors in Finals versus regular season slacking Cavs…hmmm…I guess it would depend on how that parallel universe playoffs shake out to determine who Vegas favors. Does OKC take GSW to the wire with Durant or even beat them? Hard to say.

    And if you’re in any way equating LeBron joining a 33 win team with no head coach, a first year GM, led by a questionable (you say this all the time) PG and a first round pick as to what Durant did….hoooooo boy. “A way to more championships” is quite the stretch sir.

  • chrisdottcomm

    Cheers to you, your family and your sister making their way through that journey my good sir.

  • mgbode

    thank you sir. amazing how many of us former-NICU parents are out there really.

  • Steve

    Green wanted to get better, and like Lebron with Wade and Bosh, certainly had been talking with Durant about playing together. Wanting to put out an even more talented roster is not the same as thinking you can’t get beat Lebron without him.

    My next line is trying to figure out what your line means.

    We know exactly how Vegas would treat the Durant-less Warriors against the Cavs. We’ve seen it. The Warriors were favorites.

    I do like this narrative re-write on Lebron’s return, as if his interest was finding a crap organization to pull out of the depths. He came here to play with two all-stars, younger than the two he had been with. Everyone saw it for what it was – the easiest path to continue winning, and the Cavs were solid favorites for the championship the moment he signed.

  • chrisdottcomm

    1. Yes, all teams want to get better. The Warriors felt they needed to get better to beat the Cavs.

    2. Warriors were favorites year one with Love injured, year two because they were the Champs, year three because Durant. If the Warriors are marching Harrison Barnes back out against the West in the playoffs (Durant/Russ OKC) and defending Champ Cavs… I’m not so sure they’re the favorites, but they probably are.

    3. You’re contradicting yourself here. How can Vegas be favoriting the Warriors year in and out if the Cavs were the solid favorites by adding back LeBron and Love? I’m not rewriting anything, just pointing out the EXTREME differences in the “way to a championship” Lebron had returning to the Cavs and Durand had joining the Warriors.

  • Steve

    “Yes, all teams want to get better. The Warriors felt they needed to get better to beat the Cavs”

    These are not statements that follow logically. We know the Warriors wanted to get better. We have no idea if they felt they needed to do anything. This is simply projecting to make ourselves feel better.

    The Warriors were favorites the last two years because they are one of the best teams in the history of the league. Look at 538’s ELO to get an idea of how theyre rated. Vegas marks teams awfully similar to those ELO numbers.

    Theres no contradiction. The Cavs were the clear cut favorites the day Lebron signed. It looked like the easiest path at the time he signed. When the Warriors started playing like a top ten all time team, the odds switched, and by the time the playoffs started, they reflected that the Warriors were seen as better.

  • mgbode

    The early 90s Bulls didn’t seem unbeatable. They were good but were also expected to have good runs against the Lakers, Blazers, and Suns (not to mention Pistons/Cavs/Celtics to get there).

    The late 90s Bulls have an argument as they became super-stacked. The Jazz did their best to give them a a battle and made them work. But, it was known in Year 3 that they were dismantling.

    So, we have the GS playoffs this year where they not only only lost 1 game but won by double-digits throughout. Blowing out everyone and anyone. And, there is no sign that this dynasty is letting up despite it being in Year 3. In fact, it appears to be getting stronger for the next 2 seasons (then things can go awry depending on player decisions).

    This is unlike anything the NBA has seen since the Red Auberbach Celtic dynasty teams.

  • Chris

    Bill Polian… is that you?

  • Chris

    If David Robinson hadn’t gotten hurt, Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson would have had 10 dominant years in Philly (one of the stranger duos I can recall)

  • jpftribe

    But, but look at the ELO’s.

  • mgbode
  • Steve

    A very good point. I’m just not as convinced they’ll be clearly the best team for 8 straight years.

  • Steve

    I am certainly looking at the Bulls through a 90s Cavs lens. And absolutely agree on them dominating like very few have. I just think apart from Lebron, the torch is going to pass a little more quickly than it used to. Maybe I just cant help but refuse to believe that the Warriors will not hit some bumps in the road.

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  • mddawg

    That’s why we need to rain on their parade and grab at least one championship from them over the next two years. Other than a Love-PG 13 trade, nothing else entices me. Obtaining a great wing defender who can guard Durant for significant minutes should be the priority otherwise. Is Cedi as good as advertised, plus will Lue/ LeBron have the patience to coach him up?