Tag Archives: Cavaliers

Enjoying This Year in Anticipation of “Next Year”

The NBA Draft is next week. One of the league’s major events will take place as dozens of bright young stars walk across the stage to fulfill what for most has been a lifelong dream. It’s a favorite event for fans who get to feel excitement about change and promise coming to their favorite team.

But what’s most interesting about this to me this year is that I had absolutely no idea it was happening this soon. I guess intellectually I knew it was next week on some level because it’s always right after the Finals, but the Draft has been so far from my consciousness that I probably couldn’t name the top five prospects on most draft boards. (Let’s see…that big guy who renamed his middle name Trill, Russell from Ohio State, the big Duke kid, the Duke kid who people compare to James Harden, and that other guy who decided it was a better idea to play overseas somewhere than play for Larry Brown. Does that count as “naming” five guys?) What’s even crazier is that when I started this blog two years ago nearly every article I wrote was an NBA Draft piece leading up to the Cavs No. 1 drafting Anthony Bennett, the one guy I didn’t seriously consider for the Cavs and therefore didn’t write about…I’m counting this as a victory for me. But this year…this year the stories are different. And there has not been much, if any, draft talk around Cleveland for these past months. Guess there must have been something else going on. 

_______________

It was an unsatisfying end to the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers season that was really so much fun. The team went through so much change over the past year and by the time they reached the Finals that group of players had really developed a bond with the fans and community at large. We wanted to believe they could win because in many ways they embodied the city in their play on the court. But it wasn’t meant to be. In the end, the Warriors were just the better team. Golden State has been the best team in the NBA all season, winning 67 games in what was one of the best regular seasons in league history. They were also the beneficiary of some good luck as they stayed healthy throughout the playoffs despite a few scares to their star guards. They also had the luxury of playing teams along the way that were all missing key pieces which most of the time included their starting point guards. You need a little bit of luck and a lot of talent to win the NBA Championship and the Warriors had both. The Cavs missed out in the luck department.

For some fan bases, especially ones mired in long losing droughts such as ours, this would be a time to complain about poor officiating, bad coaching, players choking, or just general bemoaning of our state in life. But that’s not the attitude that got me out of bed this morning to sit here and write.

I lead with the mentioning of the Draft to underscore the point that where we’ve been this year is so much more enjoyable than where we were the previous four years. It was fun in a sense to have three No. 1 picks in four years and to have all those first round selections. The debates are always a lot of fun. But to get there, to have those top picks in the draft, you have to suck on the court…which is no fun at all and lasts way longer. I mean, those teams were terrible to watch. Losing to that level is no fun. The 2014-15 Cavs had the most success of any team in franchise history. They may not have won as many regular season games as the 2008-09 and 2009-10 teams which both went over 60 games, but those teams didn’t even reach the Finals. And while the 2007 team had that wild exhilarating ride through the Eastern Conference Finals they were swept in the Finals against the Spurs. This year’s team, despite losing two All-Stars, three starters, revamping the team on the fly during the season (remember when Joe Harris was on the court getting fourth quarter crunch time early in the season?), and starting an undrafted Australian at point guard to match up with the league MVP, won two games in the Finals and took most of the rest down to the wire. In the end, the Cavs didn’t have the luck or good fortune of health that the Warriors enjoyed. But that’s not a fact to bemoan. It’s something to take pride in and something to remember for years to come. This team came together in a hurry and got mixed around in the process. By most respects they shouldn’t have even made it to the Finals. But they did. And that’s something to cherish, because as we well know, these things don’t happen every year.

I hope that it isn’t lost on any fans of the NBA, and Cavs fans specifically, just how amazing of a performance that was in the Finals by LeBron James. It was easily one of the greatest performances of all time in Finals history: 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists per game…all while carrying a group of role players who were literally lost without him. The fact that the Cavs managed to win even two games is a testament to how great LeBron played.

And that’s why I really thought he deserved to win MVP of the Finals. I don’t want to belabor this point because winning the championship is what really matters. But everyone knows about Jerry West winning Finals MVP despite losing, a fact that has come to define his greatness as a player. It’s not a normal thing to win an individual award like that in a team game when you lose. And if you won you must have done something spectacular. And that’s exactly what LeBron did. I wanted him to be MVP so that when future generations of fans look back they’ll see that abnormality of take notice of what an amazing Finals he had. It would forever cement his place in these Finals…something that deserves to happen because of how great it was. It’s not like Andre Iguodala outplayed LeBron. He made him work, sure, and he may have been the key to the Warriors winning if you look at his on/off the court plus/minus stats. But the only reason Iggy scored any points at all was because the Cavs basically didn’t guard him and sold out on defending their offensive stars—the right strategy and one that worked for a while when guys like Iguodala and Draymond Green were missing their shots. LeBron was the best player in these Finals and it wasn’t really close at all. I wish that fact would have been cemented by giving LeBron the MVP.

The other reason that this is not a time for sorrow but one of excitement is that the future is incredibly bright for the Cavaliers. There is some uncertainty about a few players’ futures in Cleveland. But the Cavs certainly want to bring Kevin Love back and if he really wants to win there isn’t a better place to do it (while making more money than he can get from anyone else) than right here in Cleveland. And he certainly went out of his way to give signals to this is where he wants to be. The Cavs also hold matching rights on restricted free agents Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert, both of whom you’d assume the Cavs will keep. JR Smith says he wants to be back. Timofey Mozgov is on the books for cheap. Anderson Varejao will be back. Brendan Haywood’s $10.5M expiring contract is extremely tradable.

There is every reason to believe that the 2015-16 Cavaliers will be a force to recon with. They are already the odds on favorite in Vegas to win the title next season. Considering everything we’ve been through to get us to this moment—the greatest team in Cavs history—it is something to be remembered and enjoyed.

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Dr. Seuss 

“Wait till next year” isn’t just a perfunctory Cleveland sports expression anymore. It’s one of anxious believing anticipation.

Next year.

The Pharoah and The King

“Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”
John Blutarsky

I have only ever watched horse racing a handful of times in my life. Sometimes it will be the Kentucky Derby just because, but usually it’s the Belmont Stakes those times where there is a horse that is on the verge of winning the elusive Triple Crown. There is almost no reason why I should really care about these horses outside of the fact that I’ve been watching sports long enough to have it ingrained in me that this is something important. The Triple Crown’s importance, in large part, lies in the rarity of it.

Leading up to the race in NBC’s interminable coverage was a short little piece with interviews of various athletes from other sports who recounted the great satisfaction of finally winning the big event in their sport after years and years of working, failing, and waiting. They showed Dale Earnhardt Jr., John Elway, the New York Rangers, and the Boston Red Sox among others. This was applicable of course because the world of horse racing had been waiting 37 years for another Triple Crown winner.

If you have followed the coverage of the Triple Crown at all over the years you’ve heard the reasons for the drought. Horses are mostly bread to be sprinters now and the Belmont is a longer track. The winner of the Derby and the Preakness is typically a sprinter. The eventual winner of the Belmont is almost always a horse that didn’t race in the Preakness and is therefor fresher. Many horse racing enthusiasts and analysts had surmised over the past several years that we may never see another Triple Crown winner for these very reasons. It’s just too hard to win it. The deck is stacked against it.

Well, that clearly wasn’t the case. Because long droughts are meant to come to end.

It’s fair to say that American Pharoah captivated the nation yesterday afternoon. Maybe because I’ve had it drilled into me for 30 years that this is something of importance I was glued to the TV for those two and a half minutes and even made my three-year-old son stop what he was doing to watch, because he may never see another one of these in his lifetime. After being slow initially out of the box Pharoah charged to the lead and held it steady all the way through the final turn where he turned it on. And in the moment in the race where the horse who had run three races in five weeks should have yielded to fresher horses who hadn’t, Pharoah pulled away in was really a truly exciting moment. I didn’t know that I would care or get that excited until it actually happened.

But this is not a blog about horse racing. This is a blog about Cleveland sports, which has been mired in a losing drought even longer than that of the world of horse racing.

With the Cavaliers in the Finals that drought had as good a chance to end as any until Kyrie Irving went down early in overtime Thursday during Game 1 and was summarily ruled out for the remainder of the series with a broken knee cap. This news was met predictably with reaction that focused mostly on the Cleveland Curse or the general quip “Of course, because, well…Cleveland.” If Bill Simmons weren’t on hiatus we likely would have seen his typical “God hates Cleveland” tweet.

The national media has decided that the series is already. Cleveland just doesn’t have enough to win against a great team like Golden State. In their declarations of series finality they bemoan the loss of what could have been a great series as if it something they were robbed of. Never mind that Cleveland fans are being robbed of their first championship in over 50 years but whatever.

Do you think American Pharoah listened to all the “smart” people saying he couldn’t win the Belmont? Saying he was overmatched against horses fresher and bread to run longer. Do you think he listened? Do you think he cared? Did that keep him from getting into the box and running?

No. Because he’s a horse and horses don’t really know how process information like that, nor do they really care. Maybe his trainer figured out a way to convey to him what being a “stud” in the world of horse training is all about and that was his motivation for running like never before.

But the point remains! American Pharoah did what many thought could not be done, and won the Triple Crown. And just as the pharaohs of old ruled the ancient Egyptian empire, American Pharoah rules the empire of competitive horse racing.

Cleveland has its own pharaoh, only we call him the King.

And this is why the series is not over. This is why no declarations can be made. Because LeBron James, the King, still has a say in the matter.

The Warriors essentially told LeBron in Game 1 that he was going to have to beat them all by himself. They allowed their defenders to play him one-on-one with essentially no help at all for fear of him finding the Cavs’ open shooters out of the double-team. LeBron and the Cavs came up just short of pulling off the upset in Game 1 and you can bet that Steve Kerr will stick with that strategy for the rest of the series, especially with Kyrie out.

That’s an outright challenge to the greatest basketball player in the world. And now that everyone is telling him the series is already over after only one game, he’s been challenged even more.

You can’t do it all by yourself, LeBron. Steph Curry is the MVP, you can’t beat him this year. It’s one man against a whole team. You can’t win. It’s over.

I realize the odds are not in our favor. The Warriors have jumped out to -650 to win the series, a huge jump from just before tip of Game 1. Vegas, like the rest of the world, thinks this series is over.

But if there’s any player you want on your team for a situation where everything is going against him and his team, where you need one man to proverbially throw the team on his back and carry them to victory, its LeBron James.

Nothing is over until the King decides it is.

Always (deliriously delusional) Believeland.

NBA Finals Preview: The Cleveland Underdogs

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
Vince Lombardi

I generally don’t consider myself a brilliant writer or anything. I enjoy writing and a couple people have told me that I’m not terrible at it, so that helps. But every once in a while I stumble upon something that even I think is kind of smart.

That is how I feel about the post I wrote ahead of the Eastern Conference Finals. The point of the piece was that this Cavaliers team, beat up and broken and with some unexpected pieces playing major roles, is the exact team that both Cleveland as a city and LeBron James as a player deserve.

The common narrative going into the Hawks series (which continued even during and after) was the idea that it was a matchup of the “team” (the Hawks) against the “individual” (LeBron). And while LeBron was clearly the best player in that series dismantling (averaging nearly a triple double) what bore out through those four games is that this Cavaliers squad is more than just one player. They really are a team. It takes a team to pick up the slack when you are without two All-Star players. It takes a team to play stifling defense and shut down the “machine” that the Atlanta offense was up until they ran into the Cavs. It takes a team to be tougher both mentally and physically than your opponent. It takes a team to sweep a conference finals series.

Cleveland, as a city, is never the favorite for anything. Put aside for a moment that we haven’t won a major sports championship in 51 years. Cleveland from an economic, cultural, political, and societal standpoint is an underdog. About the only thing we’re really good at is being cheaper than other cities for The Avengers to set up shop, destroy, and pretend that they’re saving New York City.

It’s only fitting then that going into the Finals, against a very formidable foe in Golden State, the Cavs actually are the underdogs. As if any team heading into the championship of their given sport—let alone a LeBron-lead one—needs an added incentive to play great, it never hurts to be the betting underdog in Vegas. The Warriors are greater than 2/1 odds to win the championship…which is just fine. Because these Cavaliers were born to be underdogs.

The underdog role suits Cleveland and suits those who call it home. It’s an interesting paradox that the most famous person who calls Northeast Ohio “home” is the one person who is the opposite of an underdog. From the time people began to learn the name LeBron James he was expected to be great. And more than probably any other person with lofty expectations placed on them from an early age, LeBron has met and exceeded them all. And yet, LeBron loves to play the underdog role, and it’s a large part of what makes him great. (That and the fact that God made him 6’8”, 250 pounds with absurd speed, strength, and quickness.)

LeBron’s humble beginnings in the projects of Akron with a single mother struggling to makes ends meet is well documented. The hard work and determination and need to rely on others for help is what LeBron has credited driving his great success. He’s the athlete that you would create in a lab, made to physically dominate all on-comers, and yet he understands what Lombardi was talking about in that quote I used as the intro to this post: it takes a team to win. LeBron didn’t have a team around him when all was said and done a year ago in the Finals as his Heat teammates crumbled under the pressure of the what was the epitome of a team in the 2014 Spurs. LeBron recognized it early on with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters (RIP) and pushed the individuals on the team to work as one unit. LeBron has done for and with Iman Shumpert and JR Smith was Carmelo Anthony never could—he’s made them part of something bigger than their individual talents. This Cavaliers team has played this postseason with the tenacity and teamwork of an underdog. And the fact is, the individuals who make up the team are underdogs in their own way.

We’ve already covered how LeBron is (and also is not) an underdog. Kyrie is probably the least uderdoggy player on the team outside of LeBron because of his immense skill and everything he’s already accomplished in his young career. But put up against Steph Curry? That’s a different story. Especially given his injuries struggles Kyrie will have a really hard time matching up with Curry defensively, let alone trying to match is scoring production on the other end.

Tristan Thompson, for starters, is from Canada (and no pun was intended equating “Starters” and “Canada” I swear—Pew! Pew!) and no offense to the great white north but it hasn’t exactly been hoops hotbed for very long. Add that to the fact that he’s not super skilled, relies heavily on his energy and hard work, and only recently discovered he’d been shooting with the wrong hand his whole life, and Tristan is the prototypical underdog on the team…if it weren’t for a certain Aussie.

Matthew Dellavedova is from another country (also a place not known for pumping out ballers), went to St. Mary’s, went undrafted, and has only barely held onto a roster spot on this team if you believe Twitter during the regular season. Like Tristan, Delly also has to bust his butt for everything he gets. Only that character quality has been sullied by people who aren’t willing to work as hard and want to call what he does “dirty” which remains the stupidest thing I’ve heard these entire playoffs and I’ve had to listen to a lot of Reggie Miller, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson so that’s saying something.

Shumpert and JR were midseason cast-offs from one of the worst teams in the NBA. The Knicks considered them sunk costs and only got back cuttable contracts and a second round draft pick in return—so basically nothing. Shump and JR were considered essentially worthless to the largest market team in the NBA, but have proved to be invaluable to one of the smallest. The two shooting guards have done nothing but thrive since they’ve come to Cleveland and have been (and will continue to be) huge parts of the Cavs’ success this postseason.

Timofey Mozgov is still best known for having his last name turned into an action verb by Blake Griffin. And despite recently being buried on the center depth chart in Denver behind JaVale McGee of all people, Mozgov has looked like the missing piece to the Cavs defense. He’s the anchor. The rock. And with Tristan he makes up part of a terrifying duo on the boards. Don’t sleep on him in those pick and rolls either.

And then, just like everyone expected when they signed him for the minimum this past summer, there’s James Jones. I, like many other NBA fans I expect, was a little surprised to learn after the close of the sweep of the Hawks that Jones, along with LeBron of course, was also headed to his fifth straight NBA Finals. Given that he never saw the court the past several seasons in Miami I had no idea he was still on those teams. You could have told me he’d been cut two years ago off that team I never would have known the difference. He couldn’t get on the court for those teams and even with this Cavs team they clearly signed Shawn Marion and Mike Miller to play bigger roles. And yet, there’s James Jones, still firmly in the Cavs rotation this late in the Playoffs and still knocking down shots. Jones won’t play a huge role in these Finals I don’t think, as he’ll probably only get single digits in minutes per game. But to call the fact that Jones has ANY role in these Finals “unexpected” coming into the season would be an understatement.

No discussion of underdogs or people who were not expected to be here would be incomplete without including the Cavs coach, David Blatt. Never mind that he’d only ever coached overseas before this season and that he had to deal with a constantly developing roster throughout the season…if you believed the national and local media this guy was supposed to have gotten canned back on New Year’s. Only that never happened. And all Blatt has done since is lead this team to play extremely well since mid-January all the way into the NBA Finals. On his way to the Finals Blatt’s team has swept Brad Stevens (who finished 4th in Coach of the Year voting this season), dismantled Tom Thibodeau (finish 7th this season and won COY in 2011), and also swept this season’s COY Mike Budenholzer. All those great coaches combined to only with two games over Blatt’s team. He know has a shot at Steve Kerr who finished a close second.

Throughout this postseason Blatt has made the right decisions with the rotation and matchups. He held out Kyrie when he was ailing, knowing that the team would be fine without him. He put the ball in the hands of his best player and surrounded him with shooters. He’s opted for defense at almost every turn, knowing that is the true key to success in the playoffs. Every series he has out-coached guys that finished ahead of him in the Coach of the Year voting. Go ahead and keep discounting his coaching ability though. Something tells me that Blatt enjoys being the underdog as well.

  
These moments don’t come around all the time, as we well know. It’s been eight years since that magical 2007 Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit when LeBron led the underdog Cavs to beat the Pistons almost entirely by himself (with the help of some Boobie Gibson threes). That team wasn’t supposed to make the Finals. The 2009 and 2010 Cavs, however, were…and didn’t. Nothing is given, as LeBron reminded us this summer. You work for everything you have.

So I’m going to enjoy this moment. Cleveland is in the spotlight. It’s a great time to be someone who calls Ohio “home” (even while currently living 500 miles away).

Cleveland has always been an underdog city. Why should that change for these Finals? Own it. Embrace it. Cleveland pride.

Bring it home, boys.

Cavs in six.

Believeland.

The Team Cleveland and LeBron Deserve

When LeBron James announced last summer that he was returning to Cleveland, the key theme of his Sports Illustrated essay with Lee Jenkins was summed up in the second to last paragraph: “In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”

In the piece James laid out how his final great mission as a professional basketball player was to win Cleveland that championship it’s been yearning for for over fifty years. He tempered any perception that he was making a promise or a declaration by stating that the team was not ready to win this year. That it would be “a long process.” 
Yet only a few weeks later when the Cavaliers traded for Kevin Love all that tempering of expectations went out the window. NBA pundits were falling all over themselves declaring the Cavs to be the favorites to win the 2015 Finals. And, truth be told, most Cavs fans allowed themselves to believe this as well. And why not? We were bringing back LeBron, the best player in the world. We had Kyrie Irving, All-Star and FIBA MVP winner. We had Love, a three-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA player. Some even were willing to go as far as to call this new “Big Three” even better than the one LeBron joined with in Miami in 2010.

As the team hit their stride in January and essentially rolled over all on-comers through the end of the regular season and into the first round of the playoffs against Boston, it looked like the 2015 championship was the Cavs’ to lose.

And then Love’s arm got ripped off. And then JR Smith cold-cocked Jae Crowder (after Crowder had body-checked Smith in the lane and thrown his forearm into his back a half dozen times). Kyrie hurt his knee. Then he hurt his ankle. Then he hurt his knee again. Iman Shumpert hurt his groin. LeBron got banged up. And suddenly the Cavs didn’t look anything like a lock to even make it to the Finals anymore, let alone win yet.

And yet, here we are, in the Eastern Conference Finals, with LeBron essentially carrying the team on his back, just like he did the last time he donned the wine and gold in the playoffs five years ago. This probably is not what LeBron wanted or expected when he came back to Cleveland.

There are plenty of people who never truly bought into the “Coming Home” narrative of LeBron’s return to Cleveland. Many believed it be a nice publicity stunt to mask what was really just a smart career move in trading in his banged-up and aging former “Big Three” partners for younger and hungrier versions in Kyrie and Love. Instead of carrying Wade and Bosh like he did last year he would be able to lean his younger running mates and in turn win more championships while prolonging his career. For the skeptics, it was the same motivation that took LeBron to Miami—manufacturing an easier path to championships by creating a super team—that took him back to Cleveland. The fact that it was his former team made for happy coincidence and a chance to do a little cleanup of his public image—especially in his hometown.

Well things certainly have not gone according to plan. And the Cavs quest for a championship this season will be anything from easy. In all likelihood, they probably won’t win. Especially given how unstoppable the Warriors have looked out West.

But in an odd way, this actually the team that Cleveland, and LeBron, probably deserve right now.

Sure, Cleveland fans, having been deprived of a championship squad for half a century would love nothing more than to have the juggernaut of a team that we watched from mid-January through the Boston series. We would love any team that wins us a championship. But something about winning that way is almost too easy. It wouldn’t have felt earned.

But winning without Love and with a hobbled Kyrie? That would certainly feel earned.

Because what LeBron said in that letter really is the truth. Northeast Ohio isn’t the easiest place to live. It’s cold and hard. It’s not as productive and extravagant as it once was. It’s a place where people work hard for what they have without taking shortcuts. And that’s why winning with this team would mean more.

The Cavs didn’t dispatch the Bulls because they were so much more talented. Sure, a big part of it was the simple fact that we had LeBron and they didn’t. But the Cleveland squad outworked Chicago’s. They busted their butts on defense (as evidenced by the final three quarters of the deciding game six), killed the boards, and scrapped for every lose ball. The Bulls won just two games in the series. They took Game One when the Cavs were trying to learn on the fly how to play without two starters, and the other when a career 30% three point shooter hit an off-balance, fading 30-footer with a hand in face on an unintentional bank (read: “lucky shot”). The Cavs, in the end, proved to be the better team not just because they had LeBron but also because they Tristan Thompson, Shumpert, Smith, Mozgov, Delly, and even James Jones. Those guys were the difference in the series.

And it’s going to take more of that kind of team play to get to the Finals. The Cavs are going to need LeBron to carry the load offensively to set up his teammates and score himself. It’s going to be old-school LeBron. As long as Kyrie is hampered with his leg injuries LeBron won’t have another star to lean on when things get tight like he had with Wade and Bosh. And that’s why this is the team that LeBron really deserves.

He’s already recognized as the best player in basketball. He’s widely accepted to be at least a top five player of all time if not top two. But there will always be some who discount his accomplishments (read: “championships”) because he had other stars to help him. He didn’t do it all by himself like Jordan (who had Pippen and Rodman), Bird (McHale and Parish), and Magic (Jabbar and Worthy). Look narratives are mostly stupid contrived media crap. But they can skew public opinion because there are people who are still dumb enough to listen, care, and actually give credence to anything that Skip Bayless says. LeBron’s the best but still somehow hasn’t won the league MVP for three years because people have come to expect more of him. But if LeBron wins with this team as it currently sits? No one gets to say anything anymore. If he wins with this hobbled and broken team LeBron will be further cemented as an All-Time great, possibly leading being the All-Time Great. It will become the lead of his career profile instead of his time in Miami. For a guy who has already had like a dozen career-defining moments, this championship would be THE defining moment. Because the perception will be that he did on his own…and maybe even more so because he did it for Cleveland. 

And that’s where this whole trip really takes on a great significance. I love Kyrie. He was our shining light during a very dark four years. He’s magical.

I love Kevin Love. I mean, he’s white, obviously I love him. I’m kidding, I’m kidding…but seriously.

The other cast of characters on this team are so lovable. Tristan’s workmanlike effort. Mozgov’s exuberance. Delly’s scrappiness. Shump’s hair. JR’s pipe. But in the end it all comes back to LeBron. Because we wouldn’t be here without him. And the great significance and spotlight that has shined on Cleveland and on the Cavaliers over the past twelve years wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for our prodigal son.

The Diddy song “Coming Home” became ubiquitous for obvious reasons this past summer and even culminated with Skylar Grey playing her signature chorus at LeBron’s homecoming celebration in Akron. The third verse of that song reads as follows:

It’s what made me, saved me, drove me crazy

Drove me away then embraced me

Forgave me for all of my shortcomings

Welcome to my homecoming

Yeah it’s been a long time coming

Lot of fights, lot of scars, lot of bottles

Lot of cars, lot of ups, lot of downs

Made it back, lost my dog

And here I stand, a better man!

LeBron came home claiming to be that better man and we embraced him both because we’re a forgiving people who could never truly turn our back on one of our own, but also because we needed him even more than he needed us. We have a better chance of winning if we have the best player in the world on our side.

So this is what we both deserve. For the hopes of a championship to rest on the shoulders of our native son as he’s surrounded by a group of beat-up and cast-off guys who want it more than their opponent. It’s a chance for LeBron to showcase the strength and grind and determination of this region that made him who he is.

Cleveland deserves this team.

LeBron deserves this team.