Sunday, December 7, 2008

Embrace the Machine

As the Cavs systematically dismantled another opponent last night, cruising to a 20 point win over a Charlotte Bobcat's team prominently featuring Dwayne Jones and Shannon Brown, it's time for Cleveland sports fans to fully embrace this team. With the Browns currently wallowing in their ineptitude and the Indians treading water, the Cavs have become the most complete franchise this town has seen since the Tribe teams of the late '90s. In rolling to a 17-3 record, the Cavs aren't slugging it out with "opponents" to the final buzzer. Rather, after displaying suffocating defense and relentless offense, Cavaliers' games are now routinely safely out of question by halftime, turning players like Tarence Kinsey and Darnell Jackson into household names as they dribble out the clock.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Cavs have tied a NBA record by during their eight game winning streak by winning each contest by at least 12 points. While national attention focuses on the hot starts of the Lakers and the Celtics, the Cavs have quietly elevated their play to that of NBA elite. What is rather shocking is how quickly the Cavs have overhauled their roster from last seasons. This is a team who made it to the NBA Finals only two short seasons ago. Gone from the opening day roster of last year are: the Browns (Devin and Shannon), the Jones (Dwayne and Damon), Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, Ira Newble, Demetris Nichols, Cedric Simmons, and essentially Eric Snow. Only five players remain (LBJ, Z, Boobie, Sasha, and Andy).

The Cavs have added depth, talent and heart to this basketball team at the expense of overpaid, under performing roster fillers. With the exception of Gooden (and perhaps a healthy Hughes), none of the jettisoned players can be considered adding much to an NBA team. In their place, the Cavs now have a bonafide potential All-Star in Mo Williams, a reinvigorated Ben Wallace, playing the tenacious D we all remember from his days in Detroit, a vastly underrated Delonte West, a proven veteran in Wally Szczberiak (who could be moved for another big man later in this season), and a solid, contributing rookie in J.J. Hickson.

The Cavs have the sort of depth which wins NBA titles. And perhaps most importantly - in blowing out almost ever opponent the Cavs have accomplished two goals 1) Resting the starters (Read: Lebron [averaging 35 minutes a game - five below his career average - and routinely being reduced to a cheerleader in 4th quarters], Z, and Wallace [with their history of injuries]) and 2) Giving valuable minutes to the backups and rookies - so that when the inevitable injury occurs the Cavs will not have to worry about playing a mere bench warmer.

Perhaps the most pleasing thing about the Cavaliers, is that there are so many positives about this team that it is impossible to write about them all in one article. It's hard to spot any weakness with the current play, attitude, or coaching of this team. Each night, you see guys playing shutdown D, diving after loose balls, and continued efforts to pour on the points. When in years past the Cavs would build a lead, only to see it crumble, this team possess the needed killer instinct of a champion. Instead of watching the Ken Dorsey lead the Browns to slaughter for the rest of the season, Cleveland sports fans need to book their ticket on the Cavaliers' band wagon. Because if the team keeps playing as it has, space will become vastly limited on the way to the league title.

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