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​Cleveland Cavaliers 2014-2015 Season Wrap Up

Chad W. Lutz
​It’s amazing to consider the difference a single person can make; a single act can make. Sometimes the effects of those moments and individuals are immeasurable. You can’t simply take a poll or ask around to find out what kind of impact they make, they just do. They matter. They mend, they bend, they mold and fold the future and reshape how we consider the past. Even acts as simple saying, “Please,” or “Thank you,” to a total stranger can change the outcome of that person’s day. Words are powerful, acts are infinite, and together they transcend time and space to the present moment and beyond.

Why am I waxing so god damn whimsical on a Saturday morning? Well, for one, it could be the weather. Right now it’s a scintillating sunny 60 degrees out with very little wind and no rain in the forecast for at least the next 36 hours. As far as weather is concerned, things are immaculate. People are out bustling on bike paths, walking dogs, washing cars, tending gardens. The greens of the grasses and the buds on the trees are practically bursting to life. The energy in the world is teaming. Spring in Ohio, in other words.
​Another reason for my philosophical diatribe to start this final article in a time-honored annual installment is the prospect of a brand new series of articles I hope to still be writing in the middle of June. Would it surprise you at all to read this far only to find out this is an article about the Cleveland Cavaliers? Well, I hope not. The contents are clearly laid out for you in the article’s title. But I’m not here to talk about you. This isn’t about you (sorry). This is about the Cavaliers’ last ten games of the season, their first playoff birth in four years, and how one man and one act have made an impact on the City of Cleveland, the State of Ohio, and Cavs fans across the country even catalogs of words may not ever rightly put in place.

I can still remember being 21 and piling into my brother’s geriatric red Ford punctuated with rust and a plastic cactus wearing sunglasses and a sombrero impaled on the antennae that whipped wildly in the wind at speed, en route to Game 6 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons. My dealer and my brother’s then girlfriend Lindsay joined us for the adventure. The Cavaliers poised on the verge of a Finals birth for the first time in franchise history, on the young, rippling shoulders of a sprightly and future-four-time-league-MVP Lebron James? That right there is what the girlies call a Hot Ticket, no matter how you slice it, and we all knew we had to be there. Work, family, friends, previous commitments be-damned.

Our charge was to get as high and as drunk as possible, but still maintain enough clarity to follow and enjoy the game. Not that we really had to do any of that to enjoy the game, but tall times call for tall measures. And getting lit up sounded about right on the measuring stick. When we got to the Q watch party on the lawn between the arena and Jacob’s Field (it was still called that then), there were already thousands of people geared up for the game. Most of them looked a little ahead of us in our own game. Look left to find food vendors. Look right to find beer stands issuing coins to be exchanged for Great Lakes, Miller Lite, and Budweiser with lines miles and miles long. Giant screens sat at either ends of the lawn area, with the massing hysteria mounting between them with each bucket. In a town so traditionally rooted in Indians and Browns folklore and history, it was invisible that day. The only thing that mattered was Lebron James, his merry band of ballers, and whether or not they could stymie the juggernaut Detroit Pistons one last time to punch themselves an historic ticket to the Finals.

What resulted is now history. The Cavs put the Pistons away that game and went on to face the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals that year, only to lose in a disappointing sweep and slink quietly back where we came from. But we’ll always have that moment; the city, in one giant rush of adrenaline, threw their arms up in exaltation as time expired. It was the kind of moment where you look around, and everyone you see is hugging someone else or just jumping wildly into the air, whooping and hollering as if they just won the lottery. People threw beer like it was champagne. It was a magical time for a city that deserves moments like that. My brother, his girlfriend, and my dealer left Cleveland that night blaring Queen’s “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” as loud as we possibly could with the windows down and the celebratory smoke rolling out of the vehicle like we had set the truck’s cabin on fire. Victory had made us oblivious to everything around us. You probably could have told us we were making our way down the turnpike in a flying car and we would have just nodded, smiled, and agreed.

As much as my inner clock doesn’t want to admit it, that was almost ten years ago. It’s 2015. Lebron and Co. version 1.0 never hit that high-water mark again, and the result was a third-round exit the next year against Orlando and a second-round exit the following year again Boston, the year that almost became Lebron’s last a Cavalier. Then we fell into a hole and carried a league-worst record over the next four seasons that infamously featured a 26-game losing streak the first year Lebron was in South Beach. We had glimmers, we were shown glimpses, but we’ve never been allowed to dance at the ball. Not like Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

But we have that opportunity again. Tomorrow night marks the first playoff game the Cavaliers will have played since Lebron tore his jersey off in disgust in a now infamous and seriously overplayed video clip. I think that young version of Lebron knew what was going to happen then, but did he ever envision himself in Wine and Gold again? I suppose that’s for him to know.

Times are different. Back when the Lebron and Co. 1.0 held court, our key players were Mo Williams, Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, and Daniel Gibson. Ignorance is bliss. Fast forward, and now we look at a lineup that has hardware, if not chutzpah. Kyrie Irving is an MVP candidate in his own right and has played as such over the last two seasons. Kevin Love is another candidate when, if given the room to roam, can be as lethal as any other No. 1 option in the league. Mix in the additions of athletic big man Timofey Mozgov and swingmen J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, not to mention a recovering Anderson Varejao and a versatile Tristan Thompson, and we have a core group of players tethered by perhaps the greatest player of his generation, and perhaps the game itself.

The last ten games were less of a dress rehearsal than they were a taper. It took a two-week rest in the middle of December for Lebron to regain his composure, and both Kyrie and Kevin Love have been banged up throughout a majority of the back half of this season. We lost a few more games than anticipated, especially back-to-back contests to the Boston Celtics, the very team we’re playing in the first round beginning tomorrow night, but we finished with 53 wins on the season, more than half the total amount of wins we were able to patch together between 2010 and the end of the 2013-2014 season.

I’ll save anymore talk about the playoffs for when I begin my game-by-game coverage of the Cavs starting tomorrow night. I may be a little older and perhaps not as wanton as I used to be in my formative years, but I’m just as excited to embrace strangers and run screaming into the night over another milestone achievement in the game of basketball, reeking of what I assure you is pure elation and nothing else.
Let’s Go Cavs