For a city that hasn’t won a professional sports title in almost 60 years, Cleveland sports fans are a relatively patient group. When their teams are mediocre and floundering, they understand that rebuilding is needed and usually they can accept it.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are a good example.
After the shock of losing LeBron James to the Miami Heat, Cavs’ fans realized that it would take more than one year to get back to the playoffs. After watching a team which suffered through a 26 game losing streak the following season, supporters of the wine and gold rejoiced when Cleveland won the draft lottery and picked Kyrie Irving.
Irving was better than expected, winning rookie of the year honors, and the Cavaliers win total jumped from 18 wins in 2010-11 to 21 the next year in a lockout shortened season. They have matched that total so far this season in 61 contests, mostly by winning 12 of their last 21 contests.
Finally, Cavs’ basketball is worth watching again.
Irving is now an all-star, and many experts feel he will be one of the NBA’s ten best players in a year or two.
Then yesterday comes the news that the front office may shut Irving down for the rest of the season because he has a sore knee.
Maybe the former Dukie’s knee may be damaged worse than the public has been led to believe, but watching his performance in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s win over Utah, it looks like he’s pretty healthy.
If his knee is bad, he should be held out of games until it is ready to go, but if he can play on it without risking further damage, he should be out on the court and helping this team learn how to win again.
A possible decision to hold the reigning Rookie of the Year out of games smacks of tanking, a tactic other NBA teams, including the Cavs have used in the past.
It’s just not a good decision for the 2012-13 Cavaliers.
First of all, since the Memphis trade which brought Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington to Cleveland, the wine and gold are playing well. They are learning how to win and they shouldn’t be looking to take a step backwards now. Especially because of the next point.
There is no consensus #1 pick in this year’s NBA draft. College basketball expert Jay Bilas, who also works on the draft coverage (talking about wingspan) recently said that Michigan’s Trey Burke is probably the player of the year in college this year, but the first selection in the draft will depend on that particular team’s need.
The point is that GM Chris Grant is going to have one pick in the top ten and another (assuming the Lakers can make the playoffs) in the mid teens, and there isn’t a franchise maker available this season. The Cavs will get good players, but not a slam dunk all-star.
So, it comes down to what is more important to the future of the franchise, winning games now and developing a winning mentality, or moving up a couple of spots in a weaker draft.
With Irving in tow, and Dion Waiters showing improvement every month, the Cavs need to learn how to win, to get used to the feeling. If you don’t think that’s important, then you haven’t been watching this basketball team since Speights and Ellington arrived.
They came from a winning atmosphere in Memphis and it has rubbed off on their new teammates.
No one is asking Kyrie Irving to play if he is injured, he is too valuable to the franchise for that. But holding him out of games to improve draft position isn’t what the Cleveland Cavaliers need right now if they want to start winning as soon as next season.