After weeks of rumor after rumor, Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin...
Cleveland Cavaliers Lack of Focus on the Now a Disgrace to the Fans
As the Cleveland Cavaliers faithful packed Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night to celebrate the retirement of Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ jersey, for a moment Cleveland fans were reminded of what it was like to root for a winner. The masterful videos cooked up by the staff of the Cavaliers told a story of a player who could have given up after multiple foot injuries, yet he fought and clawed his way back and was part of one of the greatest eras of Cleveland Cavaliers basketball—including their only trip to the NBA Finals in team history.
Surrounded by ambassadors of the Cavaliers’ past, owner Dan Gilbert clearly spared no expense in putting on one amazing show for the fans, and more importantly, the family of the man known simply as “Z” near the shores of Lake Erie. However, despite all of the showmanship and celebration of one of the best to don a Cavaliers’ jersey in recent history, the dominant storyline still remained squarely focused on LeBron James.
As the weeks drew closer to the night in which No. 11 would be raised into the rafters, the event became less and less about Ilgauskas and more about whether or not Cleveland’s former “King” would return to his court. Then, just days before the celebration, reports began to leak out that the retirement party was a preemptive strike cooked up by former general manager Chris Grant and Gilbert in an attempt to show James what he was missing, and gain a proverbial leg up on the competition should he opt out of his contract following the 2014 season.
Shame on Gilbert for insulting the legacy of Ilgauskas and the Cleveland fans in this manner. In fact, the whole lack of focus on the now with this franchise and hoping for something good to happen AFTER the season is an absolute disgrace to the 20,000-plus who still pack the Q despite the awful product placed in front of them since the day James took his talents to South Beach.
For those who have followed for a long time, you know this is not a hit piece. A long proponent of “the process,” I have cut the front office and players on the court far more slack than many others in the media. With a full understanding of the salary cap hell this franchise was left in and lack of talent on the roster, my full expectation was three to four years before the team would even be able to talk about the playoffs.
So here we are, 3.5 games out of the No. 8 seed in the absolute abysmal Eastern Conference in the fourth season since the world came crashing down on the Cavaliers franchise. Yet for some reason it feels like as fans we are having the wool pulled over our eyes in some clever plot to get the whole city to yet again focus on next year. Instead of focusing on how high in the lottery the team will pick with a 24-40 record and the next win nowhere in sight, somehow Gilbert has duped the fans into this false sense of hope of a “return to glory” as a No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the playoffs.
Well done Mr. Gilbert, you have done it again.
Thanks to an impeccable business sense of how to sell the event and experience and not the actual product on the floor, the Cavaliers have dominated in one thing this season—keeping their fans on board with an underachieving, lackluster team. Yes, the young talent needs time to grow and learn the game of basketball at the NBA level, but the unwillingness to do a thing to jeopardize the possibility of James’ return and acquiring a big name player through a trade in the offseason is an insult to those who still slip on their Wine and Gold jerseys and head down to root on what is supposed to be a legit playoff contender by now.
Sure, you could not predict Jarrett Jack was going to be this bad when coming over as a free agent, and you certainly didn’t have a clue Luol Deng was going to do his best Christian Eyenga impression instead of showing up as the consummate professional he had been lauded as during his career in Chicago. But those were not “impact” moves, they were calculated moves that left the Cavaliers eyes firmly focused where they have been since the day James walked out the door in 2010—the summer of 2014.
Maybe this argument is all for not, and James will opt out of his contract and return to be the savior of this city and finally bring the championship he promised years ago in the offseason. But that does not change the absolute disgrace Gilbert and his front office have left on this franchise for the past four years. Accepting the hard-earned money of fans knowing very well they could truly care less about winning anytime in the near future, racking up 206 and counting losses in the process.
The pictured was finally painted across the skyline of Cleveland for fans to see this weekend. A mural depicting Gilbert and his front office going all-in on the summer of 2014 and one final attempt at bringing Akron’s prodigal son back to finish what he started back in 2003. An absolute mockery made of what was supposed to be a defining moment and celebration of one of this franchise’s hardest working players in history.
What happens if this grand scheme of Gilbert and the front office does not work out? James once again shuns the Cavaliers organization and stays in Miami, or even worse “takes his talents” to another destination city. What is the contingency plan then?
Because this time around you won’t be able to sell the fans on the fact that star players want to come play with the young, budding stars on your roster. You will not be able to quietly and privately keep lighting the fire about James returning to play with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, creating the next “Big Three…err Four” in the league.
No, next time around the faith will not be there. The fans will not blindly continue to pack themselves into the arena on the hope that it will one day get better. Instead, they will see the failure and disgrace of Gilbert’s plan, and the potential departure of another star player in Irving.
Worst of all, the city of Cleveland will once again be made a mockery of. Not for burning jerseys in the streets or throwing bottles on the field during a Browns game, but for blindly believing the man who publically denounced James in a letter in some failed attempt at rallying the troops, could actually re-deliver him just four years later.
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