The Cleveland Fan on Facebook

The Cleveland Fan on Twitter
Cavs Cavs Archive Never a Plan B
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

Irving JamesWhen something proves to be effective, we get used to doing things a certain way, but after a while, that certain way is the one and only way that will ever work.  We can’t be dynamic or vigilant about it, we don’t want to explore other options.  We’d prefer to voice our frustrations about how what used to work for us doesn’t work anymore.  Plan B is not an option, we just think about how Plan A better work.  It’s called putting all of your eggs in one basket.

That’s exactly what the Cleveland Cavaliers did in the summer of 2010.  I recall reading the rumors, getting insight from the blogs in the absence of anything substantial from the traditional media outlets, and asking the question to anyone that might listen.  What is Plan B? 

The fact is, no one could comment on Plan B, or even speculate about it, because Plan B never existed.  It was as simple as this; if LeBron James doesn’t remain with the Cavaliers, the organization is content to return to a Stepien Era caliber franchise.  No one actually came out and said that, but three years later, the proof is in the pudding.  Thanks for stopping by, Byron Scott.

Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed cheering on these underdog Cavs, to a certain extent.  Since the 2010-2011 squad was going to have limited national TV exposure, I signed up for League Pass for the first time in my nine years outside of the Cleveland market, with the foolish hope of seeing them prove what they could do without the player who thought my city wasn’t good enough for him.  Yes, now would be the time to call me a hypocrite for seeking pastures greener that what I was afforded in Northeast Ohio; I’ll say it’s an ‘apples to dump trucks’ comparison, and so would most of my expatriated counterparts from Cleveland.

The fan in me enjoyed watching the Celtics, a team so abhorred just months earlier, for playing a role that led to the events of July 8, 2010, lose to a Cavs team that had turned the page to a new chapter, on the first day without he who took his talents elsewhere.  I enjoyed the Mo Williams buzzer-beater against the Bucks, the one where he stood on the scorers’ table and made us all happy to be fans of the Cavaliers, if only for just that one night.  I liked hearing that they were “the lock of the year” when the Heat visited the Q for the first time in early December.

B DiddyOf course, there was nothing to like by the end of that night, but taking satisfaction in ESPN’s resident shock-jock Colin Cowherd being wrong about the aforementioned lock of the year.  After that, we were limited to a nice cameo from Baron Davis, a few fun wins over the Knicks, and Fred McLeod’s “Nobody home, it’s gonna roll all the way to Akron” in their lone victory over Miami since that night at the Boys & Girls Club in Connecticut. 

The next few seasons offered us Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Dion Waiters, but absolutely no basketball that meant anything to anyone after the month of February.  That’s exactly how a Plan B that wasn’t really planned at all plays out; 64 wins, 166 losses, and one pink slip for a head coach that was never really hip to Plan B in the first place.

I don’t care for a life without options, and I won’t pretend to know the NBA well enough to tell anyone, even in hindsight, what Chris Grant could have done differently to salvage a season out of what James left him with, after his nationally televised chat with Jim Gray.  The closest comparison I could draw from my own life involves an establishment in Arizona, where many of my friends and acquaintances can be found.  It’s a comfortable setting, where cold beverages are served, and it’s not an awful place if you’re just in the mood for cold beverages.

If you happen to be hungry at this establishment, that presents a problem, unless you’re okay with terrible food, even by bar food standards.  There is one safe menu item, their garlic sticks, which you would think would be difficult to screw up, but you can’t exactly count your chickens on that one either.  Occasionally, they are bland, but still edible, and in some cases the bread merely serves as a garnish to the pile of minced garlic on the plate.  When it comes down to choking down the breadsticks or not eating, I usually choose to starve, because it’s not like I can convince everyone to migrate to an establishment that serves better food.

That’s the conundrum I face with the Cavaliers, as sure as Bill Murray woke up every day to Sonny and Cher in Groundhog Day, the summer of 2014 promises to be full of the same hope and potential disappointment that we experienced three years ago.  Back then, I wanted him to come back.  I saw him as someone with good character, a good heart, and a sense of loyalty to home that only someone from Northeast Ohio could understand, even if he was only a fan of teams that were dynasties in his adolescence.  Enough time has passed, that I don’t want to take any of that away from him, even the loyalty to home, just because he chose someone else.

However, and I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, I don’t want him back on the Cavaliers.  I most especially don’t want to talk about claiming another team’s player in the way that Knicks fans did, from the moment he wore that Yankees hat to Jacobs Field in 2007 until the words South Beach came out of his mouth.  I don’t want him back because of the setting that he chose to announce his intentions for South Beach.  Mostly, I don’t want him back because I want the Cavaliers to beat him, whether he’s a member of the Heat, Lakers, Knicks, Nets, or Bulls.  Our city gets the best of him, if they beat him, not to successfully grovel for his services, not after he burnt that bridge.

ChampsSo, here’s the difficult part, how do I convince the fans that shake their head at me that I still want to see the Cavaliers win?  How do I convince them that I’m not interested in cutting off my nose to spite my face?  What can I tell the people who tell me I’m petty to be willing to sacrifice an NBA Championship and all of its glory for a little bit of pride?  And, let’s not forget that I’m taking pride in a city that I myself abandoned over a decade ago.  So, the question I’m prepared for is, how does it feel to throw stones in that glass house of yours?

Well, I’m tired of eating the damn garlic sticks.  I don’t like to take on the whole ‘woe is me’ attitude about Cleveland.  Despite not residing there, it will always be home, even if a river caught fire for twenty minutes a decade before my birth, even if Earnest Byner got stripped, and even if Tony Fernandez couldn’t handle that ground ball.  I know that the likes of Anthony Sowell and Ariel Castro don’t represent the good people of Northeast Ohio any more than the success of the Indians, Browns, and Cavaliers dictate whether people in the area are winners or losers.  Perhaps, I don’t need a major sports championship to validate my pride in my hometown.  That’s a silly thought, coming from a fan, isn’t it?

The Cavaliers have been playing basketball in Cleveland and Richfield since 1970, a span of 43 seasons.  One thing that every one of those seasons, including the 7 with the man from Summit County, has in common is that not one of them ended with the Cavaliers hoisting a championship trophy.  Do we see him as the only viable option, mostly because he grew up just a ways down 77?  Would we dismiss the idea of the Cavaliers ever being that team that could do what no other since 1964 has been able to do, if not for the best talent in the league having those roots?

jerseyWhat remains true is the name on the front of the jerseys, “Cleveland”, “Cavs”, or “Cavaliers”.  If it happens, and the status quo among Cavaliers fans get their way, one of those names will be on the front of every player’s jersey, even his.  I’m going to root for the team to win; I’m not interested in spite, even if I were a spiteful individual.  I would remind myself that nothing is guaranteed, namely a Cleveland sports championship, even if LeBron James joins Kyrie Irving and Player X from the 2013 NBA Draft.

Look, I concede that this reunion that everyone seems to be clamoring for, a la New York Knickerbocker fan (circa 2008-2010), could be sold on me.  The games would be on national TV quite often and I wouldn’t be shelling out the cash for League Pass.  I might take some interest in the NBA as a whole, and not reluctantly watch college softball at a sports bar instead of the Eastern Conference Finals.  I miss enjoying the NBA’s postseason, even the semi-annual Opening Round spats that the Cavaliers had with the Wizards that seem like a lifetime ago already.  I want that back, but I want it to happen in some other way, a way that I’m not yet analytical enough to propose.

Until then, I’ll be eating these terrible garlic sticks, marking my calendar for the Lottery and the Draft, and wondering if anyone at 1 Centre Court has a Plan B.

The TCF Forums