Allow for me to preference that I am NOT a native of Northeast Ohio, but since arriving to Cleveland more than 11 months ago from Los Angeles, nothing could be clearer than the desperation of the Cavs fans wanting to finally win their first NBA championship.
Now that the Cavs have won eight consecutive playoff games, sweeping past both the Detroit Pistons and then Atlanta Hawks, shattering the record for 3 pointers with 27 in game 2 and then closing it out on the edge, the momentum is building.
During the second home games against the Hawks, the arena workers at the Q were already sizing up their Eastern Final opponent. “I think it will be Miami and Dwayne Wade?”
This is the same town that burnt the number 23 jersey of its favorite son, and team owner Dan Gilbert swore off anything that had to do with LeBron James.
My have times changed, after LeBron returned to single handedly lead the injury riddled Cavs to the NBA Finals against the hot shooting Golden State Warriors in 2015, all is forgotten and bygones have become bygones.
Fans are fickle and championships are fleeting. Remember when LeBron proclaimed at his Miami Heat presser that it would be “Not one, not two, not three…”
It was two NBA titles and a heartwarming letter crafted in Sports Illustrated that broke the hearts of Pat Riley and the Heat fans in South Beach, and raised the climate in Cleveland.
Miami has since had no illusions of grandeur, but the Cavs on the other hand have been anxiously holding their breath before the clock strikes midnight and the glass slipper disappears.
When the Cavs sputtered throughout the grueling NBA season, while the rest of the world was chanting “MVP” for Steph Curry as the Warriors broke the record for NBA wins with 73, the coronation of the repeat loomed in the air.
In the meantime, the Cavs canned David Blatt and replaced him with assistant Tyronn Lue.
Many openly blamed LeBron for the firing and then later felt that Lue was in over his head. A one-year wonder is what they begin to call him.
Lue immediately took star forward Kevin Love out of the starting lineup and fans watched as the Cavs seemingly title hopes flat lined.
This team was a tale of two seasons of similar results. An 8 game winning streak under Blatt in November, another for 6 in November and then modest streaks of 6 and 4 in January and 6 and another for 6 in February.
All the while the Warriors and Spurs went months and weeks without losing. The Warriors emphatically swept the Cavs in both games, 132-98 at the Q and 89-93 in Oakland.
The Cavs split with the Spurs, winning 117-103 and losing 91-77.
So, now here we are with the Cavs now resembling a variation of both the Warriors and Spurs in one team.
LeBron, albeit it the greatest player in the world, is not the center of the universe anymore. Love returned to the form that made the Warriors contemplate trading Klay Thompson for him and the most coveted player in the NBA.
He’s raining 3s, rebounding with a vengeance and throwing better passes than any Browns quarterback since Bernie Kosar.
Kyrie Irving, the incredibly gifted combo guard, has been off the charts and is no longer just pounding the ball into shot clock expiration, but being so creative that now he can score from deep, midrange and at the cup.
JR Smith, the home run hitter leading of the sniper squad has bought into Lue’s challenge to defend.
Tristan Thompson is playing like a young Bill Russell, gobbling up offensive rebounds with a fearless abandon that justifies that hefty offseason contract he belatedly received.
Richard Jefferson does not even resemble the player he was during the regular season when he couldn’t buy a 3-point basket and late season pick-up Channing Frye is performing like he did in Phoenix, which led Orlando to break the bank to sign him as a free agent.
Delly, the crowd-pleasing defensive nuisance is contributing as he always has and
Iman Shumpert is healthy and in a groove.
Is this the team that will finally bring Cleveland its first NBA title?
Only time will tell, but from all indications through the first two rounds of the playoffs, so far so good. Stay Tuned!