Saturday, July 10

Mr. Gilbert: Tear Down This Poster!

So the giant "Witness" poster remains intact Downtown across from the Q, which is mildly surprising, considering how disgusting the whole LeBron thing was last night. There were tons of people around it last night after the decision was announced, most of whom were wearing police uniforms. A couple of them should have hung out by the Q's team shop, which appears to have had its window smashed when I walked by today. You'd think the building would want to yank that Witness thing down as soon as possible, given that it's arguably now even more of an eyesore than those ugly billboards featuring Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that are all over town. But then again, the Browns left up those kiosks with their 2008 schedule for a few months, so who knows.

I won't really miss it. I never really like the whole not-so-subtle biblical angle with James; the savior of Cleveland basketball, the "King James" moniker, the "witness" thing. Of course, that's just me, and I don't like a biblical angle on anything. I did think Josh Cribbs' Twittered alternate billboard was an interesting idea, since Cribbs is easily the town's most popular athlete now. My only quibble is the "True to My Word" thing. Which word, the word where you said you'd played your last game for the Browns because of the contract dispute? Don't get me wrong, I think the things Cribbs has done on and off the field since joining the Browns organization are remarkable, and his personality and embrace of Cleveland are great. No one on the team plays harder or better. But this "true to my word" thing kinda brings up the lone blemish on his tenure here, that babyish handling of the contract situation. How about, "Fuck Off Steelers, I Run Wildcat Plays and Return Kicks on Your Ass All Day." It's catchy, admit it. I'm open to suggestions.

As for LeBron, my perspective has changed surprisingly little since he dropped the news. I was a Cleveland Cavaliers fan before LBJ turned two, and now that he's acting that age again, I'm still a Cavs fan. Mark Price is my all-time favorite Cavalier, not LeBron. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Larry Nance, Brad Daugherty, Shawn Kemp - those guys now mean more to me than LeBron. I'm kidding on Kemp. But at least none of those guys held a prime-time TV special to announce that they were ditching us. I don't mind LeBron's actual decision, even though I think Chicago gave him a much better chance to both win titles and be the Alpha Dog, but the way he announced it was simply awful. I know he's pretty well ensconced with Yes Men, but did anyone tell him what an terrible image-destroying idea that was? It's incredible how this one act of supreme douchiness has basically turned the entire nation against him, with the exception of South Floridians who don't care about sports. It's easy to say I'm just taking a sour grapes approach here - we did lose the world's best basketball player, after all - but the circumstances of his exit make it pretty easy not to miss him. I'll always appreciate and respect the things he did for the franchise, but now he's just another guy on another team. "You're nothing to me now, Fredo. Not a friend. Not a brother."

Dan Gilbert sure doesn't miss him either. Wow. He's absolutely ripped James in an open letter to fans, while basically calling him out for quitting in other comments to the media. The letter is actually pretty pathetic, from the Comic Sans font, to the ALL CAPS, to the vindictiveness, to the "guarantee" that Los Caballeros would take a title before El Heat. It's frankly pretty embarrassing - Brian Windhorst made the interesting point that, knowing Gilbert, the first draft was probably much harsher. It's the kind of letter you write and then file away, because the catharsis of actually physically writing the letter is really what you were after. I kinda wish DG had taken the high road, but then again, he probably had like $200 million slashed off of his net worth and I didn't.

But the important thing is still basketball. We're fans of the game of basketball and the Cleveland Cavaliers club, not soap opera press conferences, max deals, and Jim Gray interviews. So how does this affect things on the court? Well, first of all, it makes the Heat a lot better, and it makes me hate them a whole lot more. I've never wanted them to win of course, but now I straight hate them. From their mind-bogglingly stupid "El Heat" jerseys (would "El Calor" have been so tough?), to their fake 2006 championship that they should have dedicated to the officials, to the fact that they've retired the jerseys of Michael Jordan (barf) and Dan Marino (???), and now thefted our finest player, screw those guys. I still don't think they're better than Orlando, or even Chicago if the Bulls can find one more piece.

The Cavaliers, one the other hand, are going to struggle. Who the hell is even going to play on this team next year? Look who we're losing: Z, Shaq, Delonte, and What's-His-Face. I guess we still have Varejao, Hickson, Mo, and Antawn Jamison, but we're all of a sudden pretty thin in a lot of areas. Barring some unexpected free agent or sign-and-trade move, the Cavs could possibly have even dropped out of the East's top 8. The question then is: do you have to blow up the whole team to get back into true contention? Dan Gilbert's deep pockets are the team's greatest asset, but the construction of the NBA is such that he could overspend for the next 10 years for 50-win clubs and never get close to a title. This is to some extent what Dallas has been like under Mark Cuban, a smart, passionate, owner who is willing to spend, though the Mavs should have won the '06 title, as I mentioned. You typically kind of have to bottom out (see: 2003 Cavaliers) to get into a position to become an elite club. I wonder if Gilbert will have the patience for such a project. The remainder of this off-season should provide some hints as to what his approach will be.

But hey, let's look on the bright side: it should be a heck of a lot easier to get tickets next season. Go CaVs!

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