January 10, 2011
Before this season took off, we were hoping the Cleveland Cavaliers would lose enough games to solidify their chances to win the 2011 draft lottery by sending away all their high-priced talent and undergoing a massive-but-needed rebuilding project. Not because the team's fans deserved a 70-loss season, but because this group wasn't going anywhere unless it bowed to reality and rebuilt.
We just never thought they'd get to the NBA's worst record while shoving extra minutes toward that high-priced talent.
As it stands, the Cavs are 8-29, and their best player appears to be out for the rest of the season. Anderson Varejao(notes) tore a tendon in his ankle while running suicide drills in practice, and he'll be gone until 2011-12. The Cavaliers have lost 20 of their last 21 games, piling up the losses even as they pay Varejao, Antawn Jamison(notes) and Mo Williams(notes) almost $30 million this season.
In no way is this the best of both worlds. I took a ton of heat before the season for picking the Cavs to win just 12 games last July, but that assumption was based around the idea that the Cavaliers would do right by their fans and submit to a proper rebuilding project. This was a skinflint roster outside of LeBron James(notes) as it was, there was a reason he decided to take to Florida as a free agent, and the Cavs were only wasting their fans' time by ... well, what exactly were the expectations this season?
Were they hoping to sneak into the playoffs with an eighth seed? Keep the roster intact and then overachieve and take in a few playoff receipts? Odd plan, but then what? As currently constructed (the same construction we saw last summer, with no deals or rebuilding moves in the months since), the Cavaliers will have just about the same roster with the same payroll next season. Only Jamario Moon(notes) (at just $3 million this year) and Anthony Parker(notes) ($2.8 million) will see their contracts expire. Otherwise, it's more of the same, with everyone a year older.
And more of the same is running at 8-29 right now, and only getting worse with Varejao out. A complete and utter waste of a season. A waste of Cleveland's time.
In reality, we were complete morons for picking this team for 12 wins. Though we made the prediction a few days after James decided to move down to Miami, we based the prediction solely on the Cavaliers making the smart decision to rebuild, and treating their fans to a better future by taking a dive in 2010-11. But once Dan Gilbert made the even-more moronic prediction that the Cavs would win a championship before LeBron James ever did, we should have known that this backward organization would stick to its guns despite evidence that told it it was time to get real and start over.
Cleveland never started over. It replaced James with Ramon Sessions(notes), essentially, and told its fan base to get ready for a whole lot of J.J. Hickson(notes). And that worked, for a month, as the Cavs took advantage of some close wins against good teams on the second half of back-to-backs, and became a fairy-tale story for the first month of the season, almost hitting the .500 mark. But even if it sustained that record throughout the entire season, what was the point?
What was the point of almost or actually making the playoffs with this roster, this payroll, these non-stars? It was just delaying the inevitable, an inevitability that has hit hard by the second week of the new year, even with the high-priced talent still on board. It's the worst of both worlds, and Cleveland deserves so much more.
It's unfortunate that this team's ownership group doesn't feel the same way. It's unfortunate that Dan Gilbert still thinks he can sell the Cavaliers on ... well, what is he trying to sell them on? What a big doofus LeBron is? Still? Is that still the rallying cry? Because it was a pretty lame one in July, and even lamer five months later. He's gone, Dan Gilbert, and you cashed in on your martyrdom mere minutes after he split. Needlessly dragging Cavalier fans behind you the entire time.
Anderson Varejao, sadly, is out for the rest of the season. One would assume that this would be the breaking point, the final straw that tells the Cavaliers it's time to clean house. To try and trade for assets, working that trade exception, looking forward to the future.
But that would mean relying on the Cavs to do what's right. And nothing in this team's recent history suggests they're capable of that.