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Everything is OK while it lasts: While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday, WFNY!

Close your eyes. WAIT! Don’t close them, because then you can’t keep reading. But imagine you are closing your eyes. Now picture it in your mind’s eye. Do you remember what it looked like? What it sounded like? What it felt like? That moment when LeBron stood with his arms out to the side patiently waiting for the buzzer to sound, when Kevin Love leaped into those arms and the two embraced, when bedlam erupted on the floor of Oracle Arena. When you picture that moment, how long ago does it feel to you?

To me, it feels like five years ago. As I watched the Gordon Hayward “drama” unfold on the 4th of July this year, it was a stark reminder that it was only one year ago when Kevin Durant announced he was going to Golden State and thus rendering any other team in the NBA’s hopes of a 2017 Championship remote as best. Which then reminded me that it was just a year ago that we were all still celebrating. The Championship high didn’t wear off for me until last season started. But now? Now, it feels so far in the past. I cannot believe how much has changed in a year.

This offseason has been odd for the Cleveland Cavaliers. And calling it ‘odd’ is being nice. Any normal team with a normal owner would have brought David Griffin back. Seriously. Any normal team would have and you know it. There is no excuse or justification for not bringing him back. Oh, he wanted more power and more money? Cool, give it to him. He was one of the lowest-paid GMs in the league and he had proven his value and his worth time and time again. Not just in basketball decisions, but in his leadership and his will in driving the direction of the organization philosophically. It’s hard to even wrap your head around an owner doing something as fundamentally stupid as disrupting Griffin and the direction of the franchise like this.

But OK, so the Cavs did a dumb/weird thing in not bringing back the GM that built the roster that won the franchise its first ever NBA Championship. Surely they had someone else already in place and ready to go, right? Wrong. Dan Gilbert did what Dan Gilbert does. He chased a big name. He swung and missed. He offered the job to Chauncey Billups with a low-ball offer, but worst of all, he gave him like two weeks to mull the offer. For two weeks, while the NBA Draft and free agency were going on, the Cavs were sitting by the phone waiting for Billups to accept or decline their offer. Finally, predictably, he declined.

So now here we sit. Most teams have made their free agency moves. The Cavs have, too. With Koby Altman and Dan Gilbert driving the ship, the Cavaliers have gone out and signed Jose Calderon and Jeff Green. Can you feel the excitement? All along the way, we’ve watched Jimmy Butler and Paul George get traded away for minimal return. We’ve heard rumors of Cavs players calling Butler and telling him to stay away from Cleveland. And worst of all, the rumors of LeBron leaving Cleveland after this season have been turned up to 11. In many ways, this summer, just one year after the best summer of my life, has been the offseason from hell.

But here’s the thing. It’s not. It’s not ideal, no. It’s not how I would have handled things, no. But here’s a little secret: it’s really not that bad. Things are fine, for now. I’m sure plenty will stop reading at this point. “Oh, great, another one of those apologists pretending like everything’s OK when clearly they are not.” And I guess that’s where I differ. I will agree things are not ideal, but I will not agree that all is lost.

The truth is, the Cavaliers still have LeBron James. Nobody else does. That’s not going to be enough forever, but for now, it is. With Griff gone, I am terrified of the post-LeBron world. I think Dan Gilbert has proven he doesn’t understand the value of structure, continuity, and front office leadership. Once the LeBron band-aid falls off, the Cavs are going to bleed out. So if we’re preaching doom, that’s where I’m looking. I had hoped that the team would gracefully transition leadership from LeBron to Kyrie with Griff leading the franchise in retooling for Kyrie and Kevin Love. Now I know that’s not going to happen.

But for now, LeBron is still the best player in the game and the Cavaliers have no rival in the East. This next season is going to be fun. The Cavaliers are going to win a lot of games, if they stay healthy they are going to be in the Finals again, and they are going to compete for another title.

Can they beat Golden State? Maybe, maybe not. But this offseason, we have watched two of the biggest stars in their prime in the East (George and Butler) go to the West. The Rockets got better in adding Chris Paul. With Paul George and Russell Westbrook together, the Thunder are interesting again. The Spurs are still perhaps the team best-built to give the Warriors problems. The point is, the West is an insanely brutal gauntlet now. While the Warriors are still clearly the best team, it will be harder for them to sweep through the West. Injuries could happen, slumps could happen, setbacks could happen. We don’t know. But if you’re looking for a clear path to the Finals, Cleveland’s path sure looks a lot more appealing.

That matters for more reasons than one. But let’s talk real quick about LeBron leaving. My WFNY friends know that in our internal Slack communications, I always say that it’s a fool’s errand to predict and/or project what LeBron James is going to do. So, naturally, let’s do just that.

Everyone seems to act now like it’s a foregone conclusion that LeBron is leaving after this season. He wouldn’t commit to Dan Gilbert, he wouldn’t commit to Chancey Billups, he wouldn’t commit to Jimmy Butler, etc. The Cavs fired David Griffin, Dan Gilbert is trying to cut spending, the Cavs can’t beat the Warriors, LeBron is gone. That’s the sentiment you’ll find pretty much everywhere you look.

But we have to ask, what does LeBron want? Does he want to keep competing for titles? If so, it’s hard to believe he’ll have a better than playing with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in the Eastern Conference. Does he want to set up business connections for his post-playing career? If so, going to Los Angeles is hard to beat. Does he want to play with his banana boat friends? They could pretty much do that anywhere they want. I’d say Miami might be the favorite for that scenario. Does he want to stay with his family and does he want his kids to go to school in his beloved Akron? If so, staying in Cleveland makes sense.

I have no clue what LeBron wants. I hate guessing if he’s going to stay or leave. I don’t know what he’s going to do, but whatever he does, it probably won’t have much to do with what the Cavaliers have done this offseason. You think he cares about front office stability? He walked away from Pat Riley coming off four straight NBA Finals appearances and two Championships. He did that because he wanted something else. It didn’t matter what Miami had done in the past.

I know this offseason has made fans very uncomfortable. But in all reality, I think it has been a pretty decent offseason. There was once a real worry about the Celtics getting both Paul George and Jimmy Butler. Or Paul George and Gordon Hayward. Instead, they got Hayward only and they had to give up the only Celtic who bothered the Cavaliers whatsoever in the Eastern Finals last year (Avery Bradley). Supposedly Dan Gilbert had a deal in place to trade away Kyrie Irving. Thankfully, LeBron wouldn’t commit to Gilbert and Gilbert thus nixed the trade. I’m one of the few who actually didn’t really want the Cavaliers to trade Kevin Love. I like the Cavs’ core and they are going to give LeBron the best opportunity to win more titles for the next few years. If that’s what LeBron wants, I think the Cavaliers will be fine.

It’s summer, friends. Don’t fret so much and don’t let any of this stuff ruin your day. Enjoy the fact that we know we get to watch LeBron James for at least one more season. We can worry about what LeBron is going to do when he has to actually make that decision. The future is cloudy and yes, I’m very much worried about how painful it’s going to be watching this team be dismantled after LeBron leaves, whenever that may be. But as far as bad offseasons go, this one is nothing compared to 2010. Always remember that.

  • Chris

    Patriots?

  • Pat Leonard

    As Americans, sure that would be a nice FU. Good point.

  • JNeids
  • BenRM

    That is a super gif! (Even if it didn’t work out as well on the site.)

  • Chris

    If I had my druthers, I’d never combine an auxiliary verb and a conjunctive adverb into a noun.

    And we thought millennials are ruining English.

  • BenRM

    YAAAAAS. People in the 1800’s were much worse, fam.

  • Chris

    4 reelz

  • Pat Leonard
  • Chris
  • BenRM

    “Like, what deficiency from last year’s team does Jose Calderon solve?”

    Here’s where I get stuck on this argument: What realistic move actually solved any of the Cavs deficiencies, vis-a-vis the Warriors?

    Love for George/Butler? I mean, maybe. A little bit. Like the difference between having a 25% chance to beat the Warriors and a 30% chance. The Cavs still go into that series as serious underdogs. You still only have 3 stars to throw at their 5. And you’ll still have the problem of having your doors blown off when LeBron rests.

  • Pat Leonard

    But don’t you need to try? This window is super small… put your eggs in this basket because there is no one on the roster who is going to grow into the next LeBron, KD, Harden, Curry, etc. I am a Kyrie Irving fan, but he’s just never going to be on that level.

  • Chris

    “This offseason… doesn’t move the needle at all.”

    Right. That would be from the incessant shaking of your fist.

  • BenRM

    So what would you have done? I just don’t see a move in the world that makes any team better than the Warriors.

  • Chris

    Poach Kerr for team President.

  • Pat Leonard

    If the trade was there, I would have done either trade to bring in either George or Butler. I would have sacrificed either Kyrie or Love to do it. I like both of those guys, but you have to try something, even if it doesn’t end up making the team better. You’re still better than the second best in the East regardless of which move you make.

  • mgbode

    Challenge Accepted:
    http://www.espn.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=ya5jd6bv

    You should be more careful about the guidelines you impose.

  • Pat Leonard
  • RGB

    Man, who’d have thought Thane Gash would spawn this many comments.

  • BenRM

    LOL! Done. Why didn’t Griff do that!? ITZ ALL GILBERTS FAULT! MORTGAGES!

  • CBiscuit

    As opposed to washed out guys like Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut, Edy Tavares, Derrick Williams…?

    Look, it’s easy (I’d even go so far as to say cheap) to go for the low hanging fruit of saying look at the big fat nothing the Cavs have done this post season! Stupid Cavs and stupid Gilbert! But seriously–dear sweet Lord…what realistically do fans think was going to come our way this offseason? I mean that sincerely and not rhetorically—what do the outraged actually expect?

    Harv said it well: Griffin wouldn’t work miracles–he’d make the fringe moves to get complementary pieces to soothe Lebron (and keep him here) and give him role players to work with. (apologies if I didn’t re-state this well, Harv). But by that own admission (and to G_O’s insinuation), isn’t this success by and large all on Lebron? Griffin operated on the margins, but his value has been far overstated.

  • CBiscuit

    Good luck. I’ve tried the cold take for weeks! Maybe not stated as well as you have stated it.

  • CBiscuit

    Mark my words: Come Finals time, the Cavs are gonna regret not trading Shumpert and James Jones for Paul George

  • Pat Leonard

    Not sure what others are saying, but I am thinking more like the word that the Cavs had a trade on th table to get Eric Bledsoe and Paul George for Kyrie. That’s a real move that has potential. Will it be enough to beat the Warriors? Who knows, but it’s not being stagnant and doing nothing.

  • Pat Leonard

    As I said above, Deron Williams was still an extremely viable pick-n-roll creator and a decent shooter. Andrew Bogut had just been the 6th or 7th best player on a championship team the year before. The fact that they both crapped out is more bad luck than anything. Calderon hasn’t been a good offensive player in years and has always been a terrible defender. Jeff Green has never been a good offensive player. I just don’t think those are apples-to-apples comparisons at all.

  • CBiscuit

    Yeah, I agree…they are not good. And that’s fair and fine and all–but a Zach Randolph is not coming here, not because a lack of Griff magic–but because he got 10 million a year and the most we could have offered was one mid level contract at $5M per year. We have zero room to operate and these scrap heap types are all we really have room for at this point. Again, not sure who we realistically expect to sign with our lack of room and assets?

  • I’m really not talking myself out of anything. This is just how I feel. I think Dan Gilbert has made every wrong move this offseason. But I don’t think any of it will affect this upcoming season.

  • Pat Leonard

    Well we’re in agreement there, Zach Randolph wouldn’t have helped the Cavs beat the Warriors and really no one out there does. But if your point is to just sign whatever garbage off the street because it doesn’t make a difference who you sign, then I’m not sure I’m on board. Injuries do occur and the Cavs need to have the best team they can put together in that instance.

  • CBiscuit

    No, my point isn’t advocating to signing garbage scrap heap types….just saying that’s all that’s out there for us to sign based on our situation.

    Again, my point is if we’re all mad about signing garbage guys then: “Again, not sure who we realistically expect to sign with our lack of room and assets?”

    Who could have the Cavs realistically signed instead?

  • tsm

    Pat, I read all of your comments and they are well thought out. I think Jeff Green does help as he is 6’9″ and is a defensive upgrade. Defense was our issue against GS as well as getting nothing from out bench. Osman at least is tall and young, and is an upgrade from James or Dohntay Jones. What I hope they will do is stand pat, and then pick up a key player who is bought out at the trading deadline. I don’t know who that is, but we could use another lock down athletic wing, even if he can’t score. We need to wear out GS, and we failed to do this in 2 days – on D in our inability to get in the face of their guys and crowd them, and on O in our failure to move the ball (playing iso ball ) so that GS could simply stand there and rest much of the time instead of chasing our passes.

  • Pat Leonard

    We’ll have to see how free agency plays out, but there are still guys like Thabo, Tony Allen, or even Jerebko who can actually play a little defense. I’m annoyed that the signings show an utter lack of unawareness regarding how bad the defense was against the Warriors, particularly the bench unit.

  • Pat Leonard

    I do like the move to bring it Osman, which is why I didn’t mention it. He’s young, he has length, he’s supposedly a good defender, and he could potentially become a good spot-up shooter. And I agree about the buyout, I think that’s the only upgrade the Cavs could make that would make a big difference now. Regarding Green, he’s hasn’t been a good defender in years. He’s long, but he doesn’t play that way and is somewhat slow to react.

  • CBiscuit

    Yeah, I agree. We really need an infusion of defense. I’m not sure any of those guys will move the needle too much, but it would be a step in the right direction. On our budget limitations, finding a two-way player isn’t a realistic option. I do think they’ll need to made a trade (Shumpert dump or even TT) to create some room.

  • Pat Leonard

    If Koby (Gilbert) can find a taker for Shumpert, they’d be heroes.

  • Garry_Owen

    Thanks, but I think I’m done. That’s as much as I want to say.

  • Pat Leonard

    Can we talk about football? How about that rat Peppers not signing his contract yet! What’s the dealio?

  • Garry_Owen

    I don’t know what’s going on there, but I’m absolutely certain that it has something to do with HIM BEING A MICHIGAN MAN.

  • Pat Leonard

    I knew it. That dude is shady as all get out.

  • RGB

    STOOPID SKUNBADGR SUX!!! DRAFT ALL TEH BUCKEYEZ!!!

  • CBiscuit

    I read that as you in a Forest Gump voice.

    Also, someday we’re all going to be able to look back on this like we we do about St. Lawrence Vickers, the patron saint of taking on 6 blockers and leading us to the Super Bowl. And we shall celebrate Saint’s Griffin’s feast day accordingly.

  • RGB

    Same agent as Joey Bosa.
    Just sayin.

  • mgbode

    I read that as you in a Morgan Freeman voice

  • Garry_Owen

    Bailing their asses out of two world wars was enough. No need for further FUs.

  • Garry_Owen

    I read that as you in an Elmo voice.

  • Garry_Owen

    Nailed it.

  • Garry_Owen

    So which Indian completes the Holy Trinity? It’s Russell Branyan, right? Please let it be Russell Branyan.

  • CBiscuit

    Rumor is Peppers was too overhydrated and didn’t pass his pre-contract physical. Likely checking into rehab for a drinking problem :

  • Garry_Owen

    Every time he sits down to sign the contract, he has to get up to pee.

  • CBiscuit

    And it’s 102% pure water. They’re going to bottle it up and sell it in Michigan.

  • Garry_Owen

    Perfect. They’ll just have to add some “corn” food coloring.

  • CBiscuit

    I’d have to go with Schwartz. Shudda never let em walk (without converting)!