Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

What a difference a year makes for Cavs

What a long, strange year its been for the Cavs.

A year ago, we were waiting to see if owner Dan Gilbert would fire the most successful coach in franchise history. Once Gilbert made Mike Brown the scapegoat for the team’s playoff failings, we spent time dreading that Gilbert would hire Tom Izzo before wiser heads prevailed and the team hired Byron Scott.

General manager Danny Ferry left when his contract expired.

We all witnessed the debacle at the Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich, Conn.

Then there was the season filled with injuries, a 26-game losing streak and a nagging feeling that the Cavs were becoming irrelevant in the NBA.

But last night’s NBA Draft lottery wiped the slate clean.

”Shocking events took place last summer and it was a slow, long, painful haul to get through it,” Gilbert said in published reports after the lottery. ”Maybe this will be the final straw in getting over the hump, getting to the other side and having a lot of hope for the future. That’s what we need.

”Above all, it means hope, and this is a lot of hope for one night. When you combine this with everything else going on, optimistic days are ahead.”

The Cavs now hold the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the upcoming NBA Draft, giving them an opportunity to continue the rebuilding process.

The last time the Cavs found themselves in this position was 1986 and their are similarities to that draft and this one.

The key lies with the front office.

In 1986, the Cavs were able to trade Roy Hinson and cash to Philadelphia for the 76ers No. 1 pick – the first overall – so they could select Brad Daugherty. They then used their own lottery pick – No. 7 – to select Ron Harper. Finally, the Cavs traded a future second-round pick to Dallas for Mark Price.

How’s that for a day’s work?

The current front office deserves credit for making a trade similar to the Daugherty trade, as they were able to turn Mo Williams and Jamario Moon into Baron Davis and the Clippers’ No. 1 pick – the very pick that turned into the top selection in this year’s draft.

Well played.

”This gives us two good, very young players to add to our core and keep growing,” said Cavs General Manager Chris Grant in published reports. ”It’s not a process that happens in one night. It’s a process that takes some time. . . . Regardless of the outcome, we were going to get two good players and we were excited about that. This makes it a little bit sweeter.”

Grant and the scouts now need to do their work to ensure the Cavs really do walk away with two good players – at the least. If they can do that, the Cavs will be that much closer to returning to their winning ways.

Of course it will take time. Don’t forget, the ’86 Cavs went 31-51 in their first year together – it wasn’t until their third season that the team had its breakout 57-win season.

But, while the team would be better if LeBron James was still on the roster, the Cavs are better off than they were when they won the lottery in 2003. That fall, James joined a roster that included Kevin Ollie, Ricky Davis, Dajuan Wagner, Ira Newble, DeSagana Diop and Tony Battie, to name a few.

Now the Cavs will add two potential impact players to a roster that includes Anderson Varejao, Antawn Jamison, Baron Davis, J.J. Hickson, Ramon Sessions and Boobie Gibson.

Not a powerhouse by any stretch, but certainly better than the group from ’03.

And what’s not to like about that?

***

At every good party someone has to play the fool and last night it was Minnesota general manager David Kahn.

“This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible story lines,” Kahn said after the Cavs won the first pick. “Last year it was Abe Pollin’s widow and this year it was a 14-year-old boy and the only thing we have in common is we have both been bar mitzvahed. We were done. I told Kevin: ‘We’re toast.’ This is not happening for us and I was right.”

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kahn was at the center of this. He’s the same GM who drafted three point guards in the first round in 2009 (of the three, only Johnny Flynn has played for the Timberwolves), called Darko Milicic “Manna from Heaven” and blamed Michael Beasley’s trial and tribulations on “smoking too much weed.”

***

Here’s one man’s vote for the Cavs to take Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 pick.

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