NBA 2010-11: 10 Reasons for Cleveland Cavaliers Fans to Still Have Hope
If you are a real Cleveland fan, you are used to this.
As far back as I can remember, Cleveland players were leaving the franchises for more money, a bigger stage, or a better market.
It's an unfortunate reality, but one a Cleveland fan has learned to accept.
While many people won't admit it, we all knew LeBron was leaving Cleveland sooner or later.
And when he decided to rip the heart out of Cleveland fans all over the country, the National media decided to do the same to the Cavaliers.
From the minute that LeBron James decided to become a member of the Miami Heat, the Cavaliers were instantly projected to be a 20 win team that finished at the bottom of the East.
These same analysts won't even consider the fact that the core of this team was part of back-to-back 60 win seasons.
They also won't consider that many of the players on this roster were held back by Mike Brown's boring, slow-tempo offense that often found a majority of the players waiting for their superstar leader to do something with the ball.
But that's okay.
Here in Cleveland, we don't mind being an underdog.
In fact, being overlooked is part of being a Clevelander and I think that this year's Cleveland Cavaliers will actually benefit from not being in the spotlight all season.
Since I, like many Cleveland fans are, am and optimist, I decided to create a list of 10 reasons for Cavalier fans to still have hope.
Sure the days of LeBron as Cavalier are over, but don't forget that the city has just as many championships today as they did when LeBron first joined the Cavaliers in 2003.
James put the Cavaliers on the map, but just like the athletes who left in the past, he didn't earn a ring for himself, or the city.
So with that said, let's take a look at some reasons to be optimistic for this upcoming season!
10. An Owner Committed to Winning
Dan Gilbert doesn't mind speaking his mind.
He isn't afraid of throwing his players under the bus.
And he isn't afraid to make you look like Benedict Arnold if you turn your back on the franchise.
And while many people wanted to bash Dan Gilbert for "the letter," he is the right man to lead the Cavaliers into the future.
Cleveland fans are used to having an owner unwilling to spend or unwilling to commit to bringing a true winner to the city.
You cannot say either of these things about Dan Gilbert.
Gilbert has paid the luxury taxes, has given his general managers the freedom to pursue any trade, and has shown that he is not afraid to take chances on older players (Ben Wallace and Shaq).
Being a successful businessman has made Gilbert the right man for the job in Cleveland and he will not allow this franchise to fall into the bottom of the league.
This is why Dan Gilbert, and his deep pockets, are a good reason for Cavalier fans to have hope this season.
9. New Coach, New Tempo
Byron Scott has been here before.
He took a failing New Jersey franchise and turned them into a 52 win team in just one season.
He also took that same New Jersey team to two NBA Finals appearances in just five seasons.
Shortly after being fired he took over the New Orleans Hornets.
After two seasons there, he led the team to a 56 win season.
As you can see, Scott is a re-builder and a winner. There's no reason he cannot do the same thing here in Cleveland.
Scott is also the anti-Mike Brown.
He is not afraid to speak his mind and he is not afraid to challenge his players.
Basically, he is not the puppet that Mike Brown seemed to be on the sidelines.
Furthermore, Scott has already pledged to create a more "up-tempo" offensive style that better suits players like Mo Williams, J.J. Hickson, Antawn Jamison, Daniel Gibson, and many others.
If having a coach that actually identifies the strengths of the players on his roster and designs an offense around their strengths doesn't provide hope for the franchise, then I don't know what does.
8. The Assets to Make a Move
Many people still don't fully understand how the sign and trade for LeBron James works.
To make it easy for you, the Cavaliers acquired a trade exception worth $14.5 million.
A trade exception is very valuable in the NBA, especially when there are teams looking to cut salary and get under the luxury tax.
Basically, the Cleveland Cavaliers can use all of this, or part of it, in any trade.
There will come a time when a team has a player that is making more than their record can support, and if the right player becomes available you better believe Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert will not hesitate to use their trade exception to grab that player.
Other assets the Cavaliers have are:
Anthony Parker's expiring $2.8 million contract that would provide a boost to a contender looking to acquire a shooter.
Jamario Moon's $2.9 million contract with a team option for 2011-2012 that would provide length and defense off the bench for a contender.
And veterans Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison who would provide experienced scoring to any team looking to make a playoff run.
While trading these players doesn't show the fans that the team will be a winner this season, it does show the fans that the team has plenty of flexibility for building a winner in the future.
7. Plenty of Youth
Normally after a team has made five years worth of attempts to win a championship, they are stuck with a lot of over-priced, older players.
Luckily, the Cavaliers do not have this problem.
Yes, they do have the over 30 club in Antawn Jamison, Jamario Moon, and Anthony Parker.
But the Cavaliers have plenty of young talent to go with it.
2009 first round draft pick Christian Eyenga has shown promise, athleticism, and a freakish jumping ability at the age of 21.
Daniel Gibson is a couple of years removed from his remarkable playoff explosion as a rookie, but he is still only 24 years of age, and hasn't been used much the last two seasons with Mike Brown.
Danny Green out of the University of North Carolina is only 23 years old and he will finally get an opportunity to earn playing time this upcoming season.
And there is the future of our franchise, J.J. Hickson, who is only 22 years old.
Obviously the Cavaliers have more players on the roster, but if Gibson can return to his rookie season form, if Hickson can develop into the potential All-Star he has the ability to, and if Eyenga can develop into a scorer with his athleticism, the future could be bright for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
6. Three Headed Point Guard Monster
When the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Ramon Sessions from the Minnesota Timberwolves, many people thought Mo Williams' career in Cleveland was over.
According to Byron Scott, it is quite the opposite.
Scott wanted to acquire a "pure distributing" point guard to compliment Mo Williams in the Cavaliers offense.
So instead of having a problem at point guard, the Cavaliers have two-headed monster that will drive Coach Scott's new up-tempo offense.
Sessions, if you exclude his year trapped in Minnesota, was coming off a stellar first season starting in Milwaukee in which he averaged 12.4 points and 5.7 assists per game in 27.5 minutes of action.
And we all know that Mo Williams is the type of point guard who isn't afraid to take a shot, pull up in the lane, and create offense if given the opportunity.
Having two point guards with such a different game will not only be a luxury for the Cavaliers, but it will give the rest of the team an opportunity to shine in the process.
And the opportunity to shine is exactly what "forgotten man" Daniel "Boobie" Gibson will be able to do with these two point guards on the roster.
Gibson is the sharp-shooting third head of this group.
He is the man who tore up the Detroit Pistons in the 2006-2007 playoffs with a game six performance that propelled the Cavaliers into the NBA Finals and he will be the man who provides instant scoring off the bench.
In a new system with Byron Scott, Gibson's toughness and underrated defensive abilities will get him a lot more time and he will finally have chance to shine now that he won't be stuck on Mike Brown's bench.
5. The Veteran Scorer in the Lineup
When Antawn Jamison was traded to the Cavaliers, I'm sure the veteran scorer was poised for two years of championship runs.
Instead, he finds himself back in a familiar situation as the primary scorer on a team not expected to challenge for a title.
Normally I would feel bad for Jamison, but I think he has an opportunity here in Cleveland.
He will either move to small forward to start next to J.J. Hickson, or he will be the first person off the bench in the new look Cavalier lineup.
Either way, he will have the freedom to create his own shot and do what he does best: score.
When the Cavaliers brought him over to play alongside LeBron, he looked lost playing off of a ball dominating superstar.
He also was left guarding bigger, more physical power forwards which seemed to exhaust him on offense.
Jamison is a career 19.8 point and 8.1 rebound per game guy and those tools will come in handy when leading the young, identity developing Cavaliers.
And if he doesn't quite fit into the new team I'm sure there will be a contender looking to add scoring to their playoff push.
4. The Wild Thing Finally Gets the Call
Everyone's favorite overpaid flopper is finally going to get his chance to start.
After being a catalyst off the bench for the Cavaliers the last six seasons, it looks like Varejao will finally get his opportunity at center for the Cavaliers.
He started 42 games in 2008-2009 due to injuries in the Cavaliers lineup, but he has always been known for his energy and defensive prowess off the bench.
While his career numbers don't show much more than seven points of scoring per game, Varejao consistently put up over 13 points per game when he was starting in 2008-2009.
At the very least the Cavaliers will get increased rebounding and more defense to go with Varejao's hustle in the starting lineup.
I don't know about other Cleveland fans, but I'm excited to see Varejao running the floor and slashing to the basket in an up-tempo offense.
With LeBron, Varejao always seemed to find his way for easy buckets underneath the basket and I think Cavalier fans can get excited for more of this under Coach Scott.
3. The Cavaliers Play in the East
Now I know what you are going to say.
The East got better with the addition of Carlos Boozer, Amar'e, and many other players from the West.
But what many people fail to realize is that the East has three or four playoff spots open right now.
In my eyes, the only locks to make the playoffs are the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls, and Atlanta Hawks.
The Milwaukee Bucks are injury prone, but they can be penciled into the sixth spot.
If you count the Bucks as a maybe, that's four spots open for playoff contenders in the East.
The New York Knicks have bolstered their team, but nobody is sure if the new players will mesh well.
The Charlotte Bobcats made the playoffs last season, but they lost their floor general, Raymond Felton, in free agency.
The only other teams in the East that made significant additions to their teams were the New Jersey Nets and the Indiana Pacers, and they won 12 and 32 games last year.
I am not saying the Cavaliers have an easy road to make the playoffs, but if their veterans can lead and the young players can contribute, the Cavaliers have a chance to challenge for one of the non-lock playoff spots this season.
2. The Emergence of J.J. Hickson
When Byron Scott took over the Cavaliers, his first order of business was attempting to keep LeBron James.
His second order of business was to let the franchise, the city, and the league know that J.J. Hickson was the starting power forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Coach Scott made it very clear that Hickson, not Antawn Jamison, would be starting for the Cavaliers next season.
When the Cavaliers drafted Hickson in the first round of the 2008 draft I remember saying "who"?
When I looked over his profile, I couldn't understand why the freshman out of North Carolina State was leaving school early.
He had showed promise and a scoring ability, but it looked as if he could use another year of polish.
Two years later, I'm happy he came out because if he came out a season later he would have been a lottery pick.
Hickson has something special about him.
He can jump, score, and rebound with the best of them.
If Coach Scott can refine his jumper and keep him mentally involved for the entire game, Hickson could develop into an All-Star right before our eyes.
Some people have compared him to Al Jefferson with better conditioning, while others have said he could end up being average.
Personally, I don't take much stock in player comparisons, I just watch the athlete grow.
At only 22 years of age, Hickson has already made strides in his focus and scoring abilities with the Cavaliers.
He will have growing pains this season because he has played in LeBron's shadow the last two seasons, but it will ultimately be good for him.
J.J. Hickson has the ability to take the sting away from LeBron's departure and in the long-run could make them forget all about LeBron's "decision."
1. Hometown Pride
It's hard to imagine the city of Cleveland rebounding from the loss of a superstar like LeBron James so quickly, but the city has done it before.
Cleveland fans have a level of hometown pride that is rivaled by only a few markets in the United States.
If you look at the picture on this slide, you will see examples of a city attempting to keep its star by writing on windows, setting up stands, and driving around in a car for people to sign attempting to persuade LeBron to stay.
And that was only on one block in Cleveland.
Whether you are a Browns fan, an Indians fan, a Cavaliers fan, or a fan of all three, you have felt this pain before.
And when this city experiences pain, it bands together in an attempt to make it better.
This will be seen by the masses of Cavalier fans that will be in attendance this season.
Many people think that the Cavaliers will have empty stands this year, but the pride Clevelanders have will ultimately overtake any bad feelings about the team.
And when a team has its fans behind them that will only give the players still on the team more confidence.
This city has lost an NFL franchise and regained one.
It has watched one of the most dominate teams in Major League Baseball during the 90s have big name players walk away.
And now it has watched one of the NBA's most dominate players leave for a different market.
And in all of the above cases, the city has survived and will continue to survive in the future.
You have to be tough to be a Cleveland fan, and the NBA will see just how tough the city and their team is this season.