The Jersey Score
The unprotected pick the Wine and Gold received in the deadline deal that sent Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to Los Angeles seemed like gravy at the time – especially considering the impact Baron Davis had in the final month-and-a-half of the season. But it turned out to be much more than that, as the Cavaliers defied the odds and will be awarded the top pick in this June’s NBA Draft.
As expected, Cleveland – which finished 19-63 this past season – locked up a top five pick, landing the No. 4 overall selection. But with only a 2.8 chance of winning the top spot via the Clippers, the Cavaliers stunned the basketball world by snagging the No. 1 pick. By doing so, the Cavaliers became the first team in the Lottery era to land two picks in the
The Cavaliers were already sitting pretty after the first ten results were named. And when Deputy NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that Minnesota would have the No. 2 selection, the Cavaliers’ contingent – led by Dan Gilbert, his son, Grant, Cavs VP of Communications Tad Carper, and a trio of Browns greats – Bernie Kosar, Josh Cribbs and Joe Haden – burst into cheers, applause and several rounds of high-fives.
Not seated with Gilbert and his crew in the audience was the night’s unexpected star, Nick Gilbert – Dan’s 14-year-old son – who was representing the Wine and Gold at their spot on Lottery row. Nick was not only the Cavaliers representative on Tuesday night; he’s also the 2011 National Children’s Tumor Foundation Ambassador.
Nick was born with neurofibromatosis, a nerve disorder that causes tumors to grow anywhere in the body at any time, and has bravely battled the disease his entire life. May happens to be NF Awareness Month and, coincidentally, May 17th is World NF Awareness Day.
Resplendent in a sport coat, trendy thick-rimmed specs and Cavaliers bowtie, Nick – standing alongside Minnesota's GM David Kahn and Utah's Kevin O'Connor – pumped his fist when the Wine and Gold took the top spot. He was easily the youngest (and luckiest) among the 12 representatives on Tuesday night in Secaucus.
“(Nick) has been a lucky kid his whole life and has overcome a lot of great odds,” beamed the proud father. “It’s a very good thing that he was a part of this.”
The last 12 months have been a struggle for the Cavaliers and their fans. Just over a year ago, they were eliminated from the playoffs by the Celtics, followed by the well-documented free agent fiasco two months later. Joe Tait, the voice of the franchise for almost four decades missed nearly the entire season after undergoing cardiac surgery – and that season Joe missed saw the Cavaliers drop 26 straight games at one point.
Some of that young talent could come in the form of Duke’s Kyrie Irving, who was on-hand for the drawing and festivities. After Lady Luck smiled on the Wine and Gold, Irving considered the possibility of coming to Cleveland.
“Honestly, if Cleveland does pick me, I think I can bring a lot to the team, such as diversity and versatility – and I’d just contribute the best I can,” said the precocious point guard.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” said Gilbert, after locking up two of the top four picks. “Obviously shocking events took place last summer for not just myself, but a lot of people in Ohio. It was a slow, long and painful haul to get through it, and maybe this will be the final straw of getting over the hump and getting to the other side and having a lot hope for the future.”
Back in Cleveland, Cavaliers GM Chris Grant took in the proceedings with Coach Byron Scott. Afterwards, Grant admitted that A. he missed much of the post-Lottery reaction because he was hugging his head coach, and B. Nick Gilbert’s performance inspired him to try the bowtie look.
“This give us an opportunity to get two very good young players to add to our core and keep growing,” said Grant, who’s entering his second year as GM. “It’s not a process that happens in one night; it’s a process that takes time. And you have to build and let young people grow and flourish – and it’s day-by-day and brick-by-brick.
“It’s exciting to have two high picks like that. Regardless of the outcome, we were going to get two good players, but this makes it that much sweeter.”
Almost lost in the excitement of landing the top picks in Tuesday’s Lottery is the fact that Cleveland also has the 32nd and 54th overall pick is this year’s Draft. (The Cavaliers will also start reaping Miami’s picks and still have a considerable trade exception at their disposal.)
In just over a month, Byron Scott’s squad is about to get an infusion of young talent. He and his staff made solid rotation players out of undrafted rookies and second-rounders. What they’ll do with top five talent is enough to make Cavs fans salivate for next season.
The Cavaliers have endured some tough times over the past few months. But one night might have changed all that. And once again, maybe the Basketball Gods are smiling on the city of Cleveland.
Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cavs.com. You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.