This year was supposed to be different.
This was supposed to be the year the Cavaliers turned the corner and put the defection of LeBron James behind them – or at least positioned themselves to lure him back this summer.
Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson were selected as the cornerstones to lay a new foundation for championship success. Yet, with 10 games remaining in year No. 4 of the grad post-LeBron rebuild, the Cavs sit on the outside looking in, almost assuredly bound for the NBA Draft Lottery for the fourth consecutive year.
The Cavs have been to the lottery 14 times since its inception in 1985 and are already one of the luckiest teams in the history of the event having won the top pick 4 times – 1986 (Brad Daugherty), 2003 (LeBron James), 2011 (Kyrie Irving), 2013 (Anthony Bennett).
So why not try to make it 5 times and better position yourself to hit the jackpot 3 times in the last 4 years?
Nick Gilbert’s bow tie, fist pump and catchy “what’s not to like” slogan once brought joy and the hope for a quick return to contention, but the reality is that nearly 3 years later the team is just as far from returning to a title contender as they were at 9:25 p.m. on July, 9 2010.
Sure, owner Dan Gilbert vowed last summer it would be their last trip to the lottery, but he also vowed to win a championship before James did. Since then, “The King” has been crowned twice and in position for a 3-peat with the Heat while the Cavs are still picking up the pieces – or trying to find them.
This season the Cavs have been anything but lucky. Injuries, the impression of locker room chaos, and a fired general manager were not the highlights that fans were expecting.
Entering Wednesday night’s game at Detroit, the Cavs sit in 10th spot in the Eastern Conference at 28-44, 4 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the 8th and final playoff berth. Even with the most optimistic of prognostications for the final 10 games, the reality is that the playoffs are essentially out of reach – barring a miracle.
Unlike recent years, no one can accuse this team of quitting under head coach Mike Brown. They’ve dug holes early only to rally back and win late. They’ve built leads and blown them. They’ve also been blown out.
Effort isn’t an issue, but talent is.
There’s no reason to even try to bring Kyrie Irving back, even if he hopes to sneak in 4 or 5 more games before the season ends.
It’s impossible to tell professionals to not play hard or to quit, but as the team limps to the finish line, maybe it’s time to shut it down. The harsh reality is that every win from here on out simply lowers their odds of hitting the lottery again – in a draft that is expected to be overflowing with talent.
The Magic, Bucks, and 76ers have embraced tanking for the top pick and are racking up losses by the bushel.
The Cavs made a run for it but it just didn’t pan out so it’s time to join the party.
With the playoffs now a mere fantasy this year, playing for more ping pong balls isn’t the worst plan for the Cavs – it should be their only plan.