This week, in a departure from my usual little amount of research and large amount of verbiage, I am going to forgo the research for the most part and just write from the gut. Needless to say, nothing here will be objective. Gut feelings rarely are.
I sat down and thought about why the Cavaliers should be considered to have a ghost of a chance of making the playoffs, and I came up with five reasons why they very well could. You will notice that the headline says "Will Make The Playoffs" -- that should say "Might Make...".
But if it did, it would negate the fan factor, and the hope-against-hope factor. Old as I am and jaded as I am, I still retain hope against hope, and I will always be a fan.
So here goes: My five reasons why the Cleveland Cavaliers will make the 2010-11 NBA playoffs. Of course, once in the playoffs, I would expect a short stay. But that is not what this column is about.
It is about a journey that many people see as strewn with sadness and much losing. I prefer to see it as a journey fraught with possibilities.
# 5 -- Hey, we've got nothing to lose
Playing loose, playing hard, playing fast and playing relaxed.
If any team can do that, it should be this year's edition of the Cavaliers.
After all, we have got nothing to lose, right? Nobody expects much. Some pundits are saying that less than 20 wins is a realistic expectation for this year.
The target that Cleveland had on it for the last seven years, and especially for the past five or so years, has been removed. Now when a team sees Cleveland on the schedule, it will be the same, psychologically, as a game against the Nets, or the Timberwolves, or the Clippers.
If the Cavs can take each game as a single entity, just get out there and play hard and loose, play their best and leave no regrets or effort on the floor...the sky might be the limit.
# 4 -- We are not as bad without LeBron James as everyone thinks we will be
Here is where professional and personal pride come into play.
Do the Cavaliers buy into the theory that they were only a success because of LeBron James, and that they were helpless without him? Do Mo and Antawn and Andy and Boobie and J.J. and Jamario and Jawad cave in and bow down to the media's assumption that they frankly sucked without # 23?
I don't think that they do cave in.
In fact, this and the first "reason" go hand-in-hand. Play with attitude, play with a chip on your shoulder, play as if it is us against the world, prove the "experts" wrong, and watch and see momentum become a living, breathing thing if you can hold your head above water for a couple of months...
Pride alone should be good for more than just a few wins.
# 3 -- Fast, faster, fastest
The look of this year's team is going to be a shocking departure from what we have seen in past years.
No more will it be "walk the ball up, move around a little, clear out and make room for # 23, and then stand around and see how many plaid jackets you can count in the crowd while # 23 decides whether to drive or launch a 30-footer."
The Cavs are going to be fast -- faster than we have seen in recent memory. They are going to be small but pesky, and when they get out on the break there won't be a Shaq lumbering behind the play, or a Z limping up the court. Nothing against either gentleman. Shaq gave us his best and Z was an icon and deservedly so.
But now this team will run and run and run and it may be that "better" teams will be worn out at the pace. There will be many losses, many times when things seem out of control, but there will also be times when someone blows by a defender and either scores or has three other guys pounding the boards in his wake. Plays like that can be contagious.
Fast, faster, fastest.
# 2 -- Byron Scott
Here is a man who walked into what could have been the best of all possible worlds and instead was hamstrung before he even really got started.
But Byron Scott won't back down. Byron Scott has been there before, taken on programs that were shaky and has been able to win.
When he began coaching at New Jersey, he inherited a bad team and within a couple of years he had them in the NBA Finals. And then he took them back. And yes, the team got beat in the Finals both times, but truly, it was the getting there, of taking a downtrodden franchise and bringing them to the doorstep of glory.
Then he moved on to New Orleans, held that team together in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in the madness of having to move the Hornets' "home" to Oklahoma City on the fly. Yes, there were a couple of sub-par seasons, but when stability was restored, the Hornets put up a 56-win season, followed by a 49-win campaign in 2008-09.
Pressure at the defection of LeBron James? Yes, there will be that. There will be moments when he will probably shake his head watching the kids trying to come together.
But a man who held a team together in the midst of a national tragedy is not going to let a "Decision" make him surrender.
# 1 -- YOU, the fans
I have written before of the 2004-05 Cavaliers, who began their season at 2-19 and yet somehow came back and made the playoffs at 36-46, and then gave the Boston Celtics fits in the playoffs before going down three-games-to-one.
What I remember about that season was the cathedral-like silence of the Coliseum early in the campaign, as inevitable loss followed inevitable loss...
As the Cavaliers began creeping back, winning a few games here and there, the crowds coming to life, and the players feeding off of the new-found energy of the fans. I remember World B. Free grabbing the microphone at mid-court after yet another thrilling win in the playoff run and there being an absolute ocean of noise.
It is you, the fans, who will be as much responsible for any Cavaliers' success this year as almost anything that goes on on the court and in the locker room.
Do you sit and watch lethargically and with a sense of doom?
Or do you get out there and CHEER THIS TEAM ON?
We have a chance here, a chance to show the rest of the NBA that we are not dead and are not going to allow ourselves to die. A chance to get behind this team and to show LeBron James that we have survived and we will survive.
It is YOU, the fans, who might well be the number one reason that the Cavaliers make the playoffs, if you can shake off the hangover of James's departure and support what we have. If you can look at one victory as the pathway to two, and two as the pathway to four, and give energy to this team that will already be fast and loose and relaxed and yet seeking an odd sort of vengeance...
If you can get behind this team, give them your best, support them when they try and lose and support them when they unexpectedly win, and then expect more wins, and more wins...
...if you can do that, just watch and see what happens then.
Put this all together, and if all the ingredients mentioned above synchronize, there is no reason -- none -- that the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers cannot win 35-45 games and be right in the thick of the playoff hunt.
I, for one, am more than ready...