Can the Cleveland Cavaliers keep the good vibes flowing?

Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview

Products You May Like

The Cleveland Cavaliers have young talent, depth a new star and all the positive momentum they built last season. How long can they ride it?

If you were to make a list of the most likable players in the NBA, several Cleveland Cavaliers would make an appearance. There’s Jarrett Allen with one of the biggest and most winsome smiles in the league, waving to the Cavaliers fans before tip-off. There is also Darius Garland with his own, slightly shier grin — like a child trying to not let on just how delighted they really are — and Ricky Rubio who, over a decade into his NBA career, still retains every bit of the charm he had upon entering the league with the Timberwolves.

All of this is to say that the Cavaliers were a delight to watch last season and should be again this year. There’s something special about watching young players discover what they are capable of, each game a pleasant surprise as they see their long-held dreams become realities. It is an even greater thrill for that to happen not only to you, but to your teammates as well. The joy on the faces of Garland, Allen, and rookie sensation Evan Mobley was palpable. It made watching Cleveland basketball last year not only exciting but delightful as well.

Last season also functioned as a sort of breaking free for the franchise as they liberated themselves from the past and embarked on a new path. The Cavaliers have, for the last two decades, been defined by either the presence of the absence of LeBron James. With him, they’ve been one of the league’s best teams; without him, one of the worst. Now though, the team finally appears primed for a future no longer determined by the best player in franchise history. Only two current Cavs — Kevin Love and Cedi Osman — were on the 2018 team that made the Finals. This is a new era.

These are not the same Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers have not made the postseason without LeBron since 1998 and they have only won a single division title without him, back in 1976. Now, they have a promising young core. Allen and Garland were all All-Stars last season and Mobley looks sure to join their rank in the very near future. No one is considering the Cavaliers title contenders right now — at least not quite yet — but this is a team that no one in the Eastern Conference would be eager to match up against in the postseason.

Yet one of their most threatening players also threatens to disrupt the joy. Donovon Mitchell is not necessarily unlikeable but he seems like a man of many moods, several of which are a variation of dourness. There’s something severe and sensitive about him, as if he believes praise for another diminishes him. One of the worst ways to get respect as an athlete is demanding it and few NBA players have been more forceful in their demands in recent years than him. Maybe the vibes were just off in Utah and he got infected by them. If so, then maybe spending time with the Cavaliers’ younger, chiller players will lessen the proverbial chip on his shoulder.

Though the Mitchell trade does threaten to upset the balance that made the Cavaliers so fun and likable and carefree last year, it is a theoretically prudent move. After all, how many promising young teams have failed to stay together due to financial realities or personality differences? The Cavaliers have Allen, Garland, and Mobley now. Why not capitalize on their certain presence instead of banking on an idealistic future that may not come to pass?

Youth is not a renewable resource. Time moves forward and potential turns into either actual success or an unfulfilled promise. The Cavaliers’ previous season was the equivalent of finding a few $20 bills in your coat pocket that you didn’t realize you’d lost. Even if it ended with two consecutive Play-In losses, keeping them outside of the postseason, the team outperformed every expectation that had been placed upon them. They were free to fail, and that same freedom played a role in creating their success. This year though, with the front office making a move to win now by trading for Mitchell, the calculus is different.

I believe that the Cavaliers can again surprise NBA fans once again this season — even with higher expectations placed upon them than last year — and that they can be delightful while doing so. Though holding on to that spark may be more difficult as time passes and standards rise, having players as talented and good-natured as Allen, Mobley, and Garland is a good start. Darkness never swallows up light; it is light that casts darkness away. And what could be more luminous than Jarrett Allen’s smile?

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

10 trades and free-agent signings the Lakers would like a do-over on
‘I’m a foxhole guy’: Pat Bev tossed for Ayton shove
LeBron returns, teams with AD to lead Lakers’ win
Mike Budenholzer calls on NBA officials to ‘protect’ Giannis Antetokounmpo
Sources: AD expected back Monday vs. Pacers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *