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Cavs Cavs Archive Generation Ping Pong Ball
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

Ping Pong Ball TimeI sincerely hope that there aren’t too many so-called fans of the Cavaliers disappointed in the wake of victory on Wednesday night.  One’s perspective might yield the joy of victory, but for too many, they would rather experience the thrill of defeat in January for a few extra ping pong balls in the hopper this May.  Sadly, those fans really exist; they believe you live at the top of the draft until you become a legitimate contender.  If it’s up to me, I choose to root for my team to win every night they take the court, but that isn’t to say that I can’t see the world through the eyes of the other side.

Look, nobody wants their team to be stuck in that NBA purgatory, because it’s so difficult to rise from the bottom of the playoffs or the bottom of the lottery to the top of the Association.  No team puts together a plan or, what it really is, a model to rebuild with the intention of being a 5th or 6th seed.  You just don’t plot it out like that, but so many teams end up in that place, knowing that they can’t climb any further.  That’s when you see Joe Johnson getting max contracts in hopes of keeping the Atlanta Hawks at the top of Mount Mediocre.  It isn’t just the Hawks; you can look at Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Portland, and any other team that has a franchise index that resembles the Black and Lavender Cavaliers from their Fratello years at Gund Arena. 

Watching a team that rotates 1st Round Playoff exits and 1st Round picks out of the Top 10 is just excruciating.  This is how you end up trying to build a team around Andre Miller and Chris Mihm.  That’s why you hang out at the bottom of the playoffs for a few years, winning 42-47 games a year, and then you win 20 or 30 some games for a few years before becoming a bottom two team.  That’s when you hope for some love with the ping pong balls, and also hope that lotto love comes in the year with a talent pool that doesn’t put Michael Olowokandi, Steve Francis, or Stromile Swift in the Top 2.  Even being at the top of the draft doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to net a decent players, imagine how stacked the deck is against you when you’re trying to improve your team picking in the mid-teens year-in and year-out.

What's Not To Like?You have to thank last year’s Mavericks and the 2006 Heat (it’s okay, it was a different time) for crashing the exclusive Larry O’Brien party the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Pistons, Bulls, and Rockets have hosted since I started watching sports in the mid-80’s.  You aren’t building an NBA Champion from the middle of the draft, you just aren’t.  The 2004 Pistons are the sole Champion that didn’t have a bona fide Hall of Famer, and their stiffest competition was a dysfunctional Lakers team.  The point is, pining for one of the have-nots, or specifically the Cavaliers, to win a title without divine intervention is like pissing into the wind.  You’re going to be disappointed with the results; it’s just the way it is.

Last June, we all saw it firsthand.  Winning the NBA Championship is difficult, but we didn’t need last June to tell us anything in Cleveland, it was our 2008, 2009, and 2010.  Sixteen wins, it was just too much to ask.  Whether it’s being an undesirable landing spot for free agents, having no high picks after landing the first pick in 2003, or building around something that offered no commitment to the future, it just couldn’t happen.  I understand the value of being dismal until you’re extraordinary, which is referred to as the Oklahoma City model, but I don’t want to be among Generation Ping Pong Ball.

There’s just something about letting nature take its course, and that’s where I’m at.  The panic started after the fifth game after the Cavaliers convincing victory over the Charlotte Bobcats made them 3-2.  They still hadn’t beaten a good team, and in fact, they still haven’t done so after 17 games.  While I don’t think their “true colors” were represented in losing to Chicago by 39 or Atlanta by 25 on consecutive nights last weekend, the losses themselves are indicative of what this 2011-2012 team really is, a young team that’s going to have some growing pains.  I can root for them every night, especially with a tangible view of the future.  Of course, I am the same fool that found ways to root for that Rec League team that Byron Scott led a year ago, one that had no direction at all.

Mo beat MilwaukeeNow, I can’t spin a 19 win season into anything other than dreadful, but I was never completely miserable.  Sure, there were 3 quarters that pissed me off so much that I found more productive ways to live my life than watching some of those 4th quarters, but the season wasn’t a complete waste.  Of course, searching for that silver lining was a lot like polishing a turd, but I found my ways.  Sure, the 26 game losing streak stunk, but I kept tuning in, thinking “it ends tonight”.  It didn’t end until they took down the Clippers on a Friday night in February, and it took overtime, but Cleveland created a playoff atmosphere for the home team that night.  We weren’t even too proud to celebrate win #9 with confetti 54 games into the season.

Here’s the thing.  Whether it was the win that ended the streak, defeating the Knicks on consecutive Friday’s after the All-Star Break, the “Not In Our Garage” game, the short-term rental on Baron Davis, or Mo Williams buzzer beater on November 24th, I really enjoyed watching my team win basketball games (or even the inadvertent Twitter beef that Demetri created between Kelly Dwyer and Dan Gilbert).  That’s all I can think about right now.  I can’t think about the lottery, the draft, or free agency.  I don’t care about the 2012-2013 season at all, when there’s so much of the current season to be played.  I know this season is not going to be fantastic, we've seen a substantial enought body of work to know they will lose more often than they win.  It will happen without any of us hoping for failure in any way, so why should any of us waste our precious energy on the negativity?

I say “ping pong balls be damned”, let’s watch our team win.  Let’s enjoy it.  Besides, it was the eight worst record that was blessed with winning the lottery a year ago, so I can totally deal with fewer chances there.

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