Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Basketball time at the Q returns

Just in time to fill the void of a Browns bye week come the Cavaliers, who tip off their season Wednesday night at home against Boston.

After months of nonsense, ranging from LeBron’s elbow, LeBron quitting on the team against the Celtics in the playoffs, the playoff loss to Boston, the Cavs being the first NBA team to have consecutive 60-win seasons and not make the NBA Finals, the firing of coach Mike Brown, the resignation of general manager Danny Ferry, the summer of LeBron, the nationally televised Decision, the hiring of new coach Byron Scott and the endless speculation that this year’s Cavs team will be the worst team in the history of sports, it’s finally basketball time again at the Q.

And while we finally get to focus on the games, we’re left with two questions:

  • How good will this Cavs team be post-LeBron?
  • More importantly, how good do we want them to be?

Scott’s Princeton offense should be fun to watch as it emphasizes ball movement and works to get everyone involved. Gone are the days of dribble, dribble, dribble, stand around and watch, and shoot.

“When you’re talking about the Princeton offense, basically what you’re talking about is motion and cutting and screens and spacing,” Scott told The Plain Dealer. “To me, it’s just talking about basketball … it’s not just two or three guys playing basketball, you’ve got all give guys getting a chance to play.”

That sounds great, and we like that Scott has a system that he is committed to. Maybe after being a star-driven team for the past seven years, switching to a team-oriented offense is the way to go.

“This equal-opportunity offense gives everybody the opportunity to play – from the one to the five,” guard Boobie Gibson, who should see more playing time this year, told The Plain Dealer. “Everybody is capable of doing it. The way we share the ball, that’s a fun style of play.”

The one thing is that the offense asks players to relearn team basketball concepts and that may take a while. It wouldn’t surprise us to see the Cavs struggle early in the season as everyone gets to game speed with the offense, then show improvement as the season moves along and the players get more comfortable with the offense and find their new roles on the team.

Luckily Antawn Jamison is experienced in the offense, having played it in Washington, and it should be fun to see how Jamison, Mo Williams, Gibson and Jamario Moon work in a quick-shot offense (Scott wants a good look at a shot in six seconds).

So that brings us to our first question: how good will this Cavs team be?

Clearly they won’t be a 60-win team, but they also aren’t going to be a 12-win team either. LeBron was good, but there’s no way – barring several major injuries and/or a purging of the team at the trading deadline – that he alone was good for 50 wins. That’s completely absurd.

The problem with trying to gauge how good the Cavs can be is that the national media has spent the past five years or so telling us how everyone on the Cavs is horrible and that they only win because of LeBron. They can’t now admit how ridiculous that notion is, so it’s easier for them to predict the Cavs to be historically bad.

We can see this team being around .500 and battling for the last playoff spot. Terry Pluto – who knows a lot about the NBA – has them at 46 wins and easily making the playoffs.

And that leads us to our second question: how good do we want the Cavs to be?

There’s a reasonable fear among the fans that the Cavs will just become another team, winning around 40 games a year and losing in the first round of the playoffs. In other words, a repeat of the Mike Fratello years.

The flip side is that the front office should gut the team, accept being crappy while they rebuild through the draft, hoping to land the one stud draft pick that will lead the team back to the top of the standings.

But there’s no guarantees that strategy will work. It worked when they drafted LeBron, but what if the ball hadn’t dropped in the right spot during the draft lottery and the Cavs ended up with Darko Milicic? Or they do get the top pick and select Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant?

Then what?

Maybe the Cavs should just be the best team that they can be. What if this year’s 36-win team lays the foundation for next year’s 48-win team and the 55-win team the following season?

What if the front office learns from the mistakes of the past 3-4 years and uses the resources available to them and the second chance offered to build the team the right way?

What if, instead of this being the end of a golden age of Cavalier basketball, this is really the beginning of something special?

Is that really any more improbable that what we’ve witnessed the past two-and-half years with this team?

We’ll start to get answers Wednesday at 7 p.m. when the Cavs tip-off. We’ll be watching to see how this season unfolds.

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