Last year was it. After years of watching other teams pick up stars and make themselves contenders and loudly wondering what the heck Danny Ferry and the Cavs brass were doing, the Cavs finally seemed poised to break-through. LeBron won his first MVP and had a teammate accompany him to the All-Star game for the first time in Mo Williams.
Everything was going the Cavs way. The Cavs had the best record in the league at 66-16, the best team unity maybe ever, and a leader who was starting to come into his own and finally tap into the skill set that so many LeBron fans have craved since 2003.
So what happened? Many fans will point to the fact that the Cavs were not as good a team as their record had indicated, having a losing record against the other contenders of San Antonio, LA, Orlando, and Boston. Others will point to the struggles of the aforementioned Williams, who had been lights out all season yet struggled when the lights were the brightest. But there is one thing above all else that kept the Cavs from playing for a title last year: The Orlando Magic
When the Cavs season ended on that Saturday night in mid-May I was speechless, having waited all year for the seemingly unstoppable battle between James and Kobe Bryant and the Lakers for league supremacy. I watched over and over the games on NBA TV and NBA.com trying to find where exactly it all fell apart, the pain going deeper and deeper with each trey buried by Pietrus and Lewis and each dunk and free-throw sunk by Dwight Howard.
This years Cavs team is different, however. No, they won't match last years win total of 66 games, but the games that they did win were more significant. They swept the Lakers, and split with both the Celtics and Magic, winning on each of the others home court, which the Cavs failed to do last year. Also, this year the Cavs faced injuries, with Mo Williams, Shaq, Andy, LeBron (rest), Delonte (personal), and Z (trade), something that last year's team did not have to endure.
Also, this years team is more versatile, with the addition of Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker, the emergence of Jawad Williams, and the stretch 4 in Antawn Jamison. The Cavs can also bang inside with Shaq, while LeBron has showed a knack for wanting to play in the post a little more this season as well. But one thing that makes me more confident than anything else is what happened during a recent game late in the season.
The Cavs were battling a red-hot Bucks team that had stormed back in the 4th and was in a back and forth game in the Q. During a timeout, Mike Brown drew up a play for LeBron, but the King spoke up and changed it to have Mo Williams handle the ball instead, which led to LeBron getting a lay-up playing off the ball. The Cavs could have used this last postseason,and it will undoubtedly be useful this spring as well. As great as LeBron is, the seed he planted in that seemingly meaningless game may reap huge benefits in May and hopefully June.
In closing, this Cavs team seems to have learned from last year's epic failure, and in turn, seems to be poised to use it to their advantage. With the adversity they have endured and several others ready to redeem themselves from last May's collapse, the Cavs are in a position to make my summer highlights a lot easier to WITNESS this time around.