Happy Tuesday, WFNY!
First of all, thanks again to everyone for allowing us to spend a week celebrating our 10th birthday last week. It was a lot of fun hearing from some old voices again as well as celebrating the current voices we have on the site.
The 10th birthday of WFNY isn’t the finish line, though. Life goes on and sports go on and as long as we’re still here, we’ll continue to cover Cleveland sports to the best of our abilities.
So….anything exciting in Cleveland sports happen recently? Oh, that’s right, the Cleveland Cavaliers made some trades, didn’t they?
I’ll start out by saying right up front, I loved the moves the Cavaliers made. I thought Koby Altman did exactly the right thing in identifying the problem, admitting the hard truth that it wasn’t working, and set out to fix the issues as best as he could. While I never advocate making a move just for the sake of making a move, I wholeheartedly agreed with Brian Windhorst last week that the Cavs not making a move at the trade deadline would have been akin to purchasing LeBron a plane ticket out of Cleveland after the season. So yeah, the stakes were high.
While many Cavs fans on Twitter were killing the Isaiah Thomas trade when we only knew the Lakers end of it before the Rodney Hood and George Hill acquisitions were announced, I was actually moderately happy with the Lakers deal. I recognized it was an expensive deal and that throwing in the first round pick while also taking on Clarkson’s salary was basically doing the Lakers two favors at once. But that’s only if you view it from the Lakers point of view. I don’t care if this was helping the Lakers. I wanted Isaiah Thomas off the Cavaliers and if throwing in the first was what it took to get Larry Nance in the deal, I was ultimately ok with it. I wasn’t doing cartwheels or saying it was a landslide deal for the Cavs, but I generally liked it.
When we heard about the Hood and Hill acquisitions, obviously people’s excitement grew, as did my own. Suddenly the Cavaliers had gotten rid of some of the, for a lack of a better term, dead weight. The old guys, the injured guys, the guys not fitting into the team chemistry. Essentially, many of the things listed as problems with the Cavaliers were now gone. In their place, the Cavaliers got three young and extremely athletic players and one playoff-tested veteran PG who was an ideal fit next to LeBron James.
Having said all that, this trade doesn’t change the Cavaliers’ chances against the Golden State Warriors in any meaningful way. They were highly unlikely to beat the Warriors in a Finals series before the trade and they are highly unlikely to beat them after the trade. It does, however, change the chances of the Cavaliers making it to the Finals and, more importantly, in my opinion, it also increases the chances of LeBron staying in Cleveland.
In recent weeks, I was losing faith. I had a lot of doubts when it came to the Cavs making it out of the East and to LeBron staying in Cleveland. It felt like everything was crumbling apart. Everyone on the team seemed miserable and the embarrassing losses just kept piling up. If nothing else, this trade feels like a reset button of sorts. It has melted away some of the pressure and frustration and given everyone still on the team a fresh start. It gives an energy guy like Cedi Osman a chance to play more minutes. It gives the young guys acquired in these trades a chance to infuse even more energy into the locker room and on the court.
We’ve only seen one game so far with the new players, and as hard as it is, we shouldn’t overreact to that one game. Jordan Clarkson is unlikely to shoot that well every game and consistency (or, lack thereof) is one of the knocks against Hood. As the players all learn more about the team and the other players, there will be road bumps in the chemistry along the way. When Kevin Love returns from his injury, there will be another adjustment period. And the Cavaliers have a tough schedule down the stretch. So there will still be challenges along the way. But sitting here today, it seems almost impossible to not feel significantly better today than we did last week.
And getting to the Finals is really the key. While I don’t give Cleveland much of a chance against the Warriors, there’s no guarantee the Warriors will even be there. Injuries could still happen, and the Western Conference playoffs could catch up to Golden State. Maybe someone knocks them off. Playing anyone other than the Warriors shifts the odds significantly. And heck, even playing the Warriors at full strength, you just never know. The odds would be slim, but crazy upsets happen in sports all the time. You just have to get there and see what happens.
If the Cavaliers continue to grow and gel and make another run to the Finals, I think they can make a compelling argument for LeBron to stay, too. I have no evidence to back this up nor do I have any inside information on this, but it feels like LeBron wants any reason to stay. Showing that this front office can make tough moves is a reason. Having a team that fits around LeBron and can compete is a reason. Having the ability to either draft a player with the Nets pick to put beside LeBron or to trade the player they pick to get another really good player is yet another reason for LeBron to stay.
But if LeBron does want to leave, the Cavs have a much better foundation on which to build today than they had last week. No matter which way I look at this team and their situation, I feel so much better about where they are.
To be honest, I didn’t enjoy watching the team play. I never liked Jae Crowder’s game even before the Cavs traded for him. Isaiah Thomas was painful to watch when he was still so clearly not healthy. Derrick Rose’s game never fit with the Cavs. Dwyane Wade showed some promise with the bench unit earlier in the season, but he seemed more and more disinterested as the season went along. Guys were hurt, they were tired, they were frustrated, and there was no joy in the team’s game.
Now? Now I can’t wait to watch this stretch run. I’m excited to watch these guys play again. The biggest thing to watch will be how they handle adversity this time around. Because as previously mentioned, there are going to be struggles along the way. Hopefully, this reset button gives the team a chance to build more trust and chemistry, though, so that when things do go poorly, the whole season doesn’t tank with it. But really, it’s just fun to be excited again.