Midway through work today, our company’s IT manager walked past my desk. Taking a look at my laptop, adorned with Cleveland Cavaliers wallpaper, he asked a question I don’t think I’ve ever heard in my life as a fan of Northeast Ohio’s sports teams.
“Are you joining the Cleveland bandwagon?”
The Cleveland bandwagon? Seriously? You mean to tell me a city plagued with more sports heartbreak than anyone can count, the butt of almost 95% of all sports jokes, has a bandwagon now? Really?
And yet, that’s where we are today, thanks to the monumental summer the Cavs are having.
It’s what happens when franchise point guard Kyrie Irving re-signs with the team just seconds after free agency opens up. It’s what you get when LeBron James, arguably the best player in the NBA, comes back home to Cleveland. This is what goes down when James immediately recruits key role players like Mike Miller and James Jones as soon as the ink dries on his new deal. And, as of this morning, it’s what you’ll see when the news is announced that the Cavs have agreed on a deal which will send Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love their way.
Pinch yourselves, Cavs fans. This is getting real.
First of all, let’s look at the one downside of the latest chapter in the Cavs becoming overnight contenders. The deal for Love involves trading top draft pick Andrew Wiggins. This was a dividing line among a lot of fans as these talks started heating up, and for understandable reasoning. Wiggins has sky-high potential, and under LeBron’s tutelage, he could’ve become a superstar for Cleveland. His loss is a tough one to accept, and if he ends up blossoming with Minnesota, it’ll be unpleasant for Cavs fans.
However, let’s just remember what Cleveland is getting back here. Wiggins isn’t being dealt for spare parts, he’s not getting traded for a past-his-prime former star. No, the Cavs are trading away their first-round pick for one of the best players in the league.
Whether or not you feel Cleveland should’ve held on to Wiggins, never forget what this trade means for the Cavs. Remember, LeBron wasn’t much for recruiting during his first tenure in Cleveland. Instead, he often dealt with a team made up of well-fitting role players, overpaid free agents and, to be frank, garbage. This is a player who dragged a roster full of corpses named Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall and Sasha Pavlovic all the way to the 2007 NBA Finals. Do you realize you could make an argument that Mo Williams and an old Shaquille O’Neal were the best supporting cast members LeBron saw the last time he was in Cleveland?
Now? He’s got a two-time All-Star at point guard. He has an explosive scorer in Dion Waiters at shooting guard. He has Miller and Jones, two players who won rings with him with the Miami Heat and can teach the youngsters how it’s done. And now, he has Love.
People need to forget about what the Cavs potentially could’ve received from Wiggins. Think instead about what you already know the Cavs are getting in Love. Cleveland is acquiring a player who’s averaged at least 26 PPG in two of his six seasons in the league, including last year. For a career, he averages 12.2 rebounds per game. Love creates unbelievable floor-spacing, as well as elite passing. He brings all of this at the ripe age of 25.
But, here’s what Cleveland fans really need to embrace; he’s reportedly committing long-term.
The biggest caveat in all of the Wiggins-for-Love talks was the fear the Cavs would be dealing away a potential star for what could very well be one year of Love’s services. It was seen as a monsterous risk which could’ve potentially backfired in epic fashion.
However, if the reports are true, there’s a reason the previous sentence was written in past tense. Now, with the apparent assurance Love will be re-signing with the team, the Cavs know they get one of the league’s best for the next six years. He’s a three-time All-Star. He’s won a gold medal at the Olympics.
And, he’s yet to even approach his prime. So there’s that.
It’s easy to try and find negatives in any positive news, but on a day like today, in a summer like this, it’s time to realize what’s happening in Cleveland. Four years after watching in misery as a “big three” formed in South Beach, the fans of Northeast Ohio are witnessing the formation of such a concept with the Cavs. And it’s potentially even better than what they saw with the Heat. The starting lineup alone is an upgrade over anything LeBron dealt with here before.
Think about that after remembering what basketball looked like for the past few years in Cleveland. Recall the days of 26-game losing streaks, of blown leads, of retread coaches, days when the word “hope” was laughable. Heck, think back as recently as the latest draft, when despite the pick of Wiggins, fans were still wondering if Irving would even re-sign.
Keep all of this in mind when you look at what’s happening with the Cavs today. The best player in the world has joined the team. A potentially-elite point guard re-signed for another five years. And now a third All-Star is being added to the mix. The words “title contenders” are being tossed around about Cleveland in 100% seriousness.
The trade for Love means the Cavs are now the team to beat. It means Cleveland will have three All-Stars on the court at the same time. It means LeBron wants to win a title for his hometown, and he’s doing whatever he can to get as much help as he can. It means optimism is not a foreign concept.
Just a few months ago, Cleveland fans were psyched about winning the top draft pick and helping the rebuild. Now, they’re dreaming of titles. Not in a few seasons, not after a couple more years of retooling. Now.
Buckle up, Cavs fans. With the acquisition of Love, it’s time to gear up for one of the biggest seasons a Cleveland sports team has ever seen.