Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! I’m an Optimist – whipping out another installment of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE from that winter wonderland we call Cleveland.
I can barely express how reinvigorating it is to be back in C-Town! I don’t care how snowy it is or how completely gruesome our people are. This is terra firma, yo. The homeland.
We’re going to talk a lot of basketball today, guys. I hope you’re prepared for that. I know we normally like to cover the wide, WIDE world of sports and sometimes soccer. But aside from the NFL Pro Bowl – which we’ll touch on briefly later – it’s hoops season across America.
Coming off a five-game roadie out West, it’s been a busy week back on North Beach.
The week started out terribly for the Wine and Gold, with news of Anderson Varejao developing a blood clot in his left lung, sidelining him for the rest of the season plus playoffs. Everyone who knows him – even Kevin Garnett – wish the Wild Thing the best and a speedy recovery. I think I speak for Cavalier Nation, Clevelanders, and fans of sport worldwide when we say: Get Well Soon, ya big lug.
Garnett might’ve thought he’d have an easy day at the office with Andy out. But he found out that Tristan Thompson’s got a brand new bag. And young Tyler Zeller was in no mood for his guff. Alonzo Gee had Paul Pierce looking as clueless as Moondog did when he beat him from half-court back in 2004.
But the star of the show, as is his wont, was Kyrie Irving.
Irving notched 19 points in the first period and 10 of Cleveland’s final 12 points en route to a 40-point effort, his second 40-plus game of the year. (Both times against elite Eastern Conference defenses.)
Dropping a 40-burger on Avery Bradley and the Celtics in Tuesday night’s 95-90 win didn’t put Kyrie Irving into the 62nd annual All-Star Game. But it sure as cuss didn’t hurt.
On Thursday night, Kyrie got a double-shot of love, first being named to the Eastern Conference All-Star Squad, then later that night, winning the prestigious Professional Athlete of the Year award at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards.
Kyrie has become more than a great ballplayer in Cleveland. He’s become a great Clevelander. If you are one, you know how important that is.
I could list Kyrie’s statistics, but you’ve already read them all. And anyone who’s watched him play doesn’t actually need stats. As far as Kyrie Irving goes, let me sum it up for Cavalier fans with a simple question: Based on what you’ve seen from him at the age of 20 – especially his performances in the fourth quarter – what do you think he’s going to be like when the Cavs start making the Playoffs every year?
If a big, shart-eating grin doesn’t immediately cross your face at the thought of that, then you ain’t a Cavaliers fan. Not smiling about something like that would be like not smiling if someone told you that GM Chris Grant could get two of the Memphis Grizzlies’ top reserves, a promising young point guard and a future first-round draft pick for Jon Leuer.
You’d be like: ‘No way!’
Well … Chris actually just did that this past Wednesday. It was great.
The Cavaliers continued to accumulate assets and are now deeper and more experienced in the frontcourt – with the addition of Marreese Speights – and in the backcourt – with Wayne Ellington. Both players are former first-rounders, have already shown glimpses and are only 25 years old.
By the time many of you read this column, you’ll already have seen them in action for the Wine and Gold.
The Cavaliers face the Bucks on Friday night, but that almost seems anticlimactic after all the cool stuff I just wrote about. But if NBA Schedulemakers say we have to play Milwaukee more times than the Tribe plays the Kansas City Royals, I’m on board and ready for a win.
On Saturday, the Cavaliers board the Team Bus for a North-of-the-Border contest with Kyrie’s Spanish-Canadian nemesis – Jose Calderon – and the Raptors.
I’m so geeked for Cavaliers action this weekend that I don’t want to slow momentum with our housecleaning items – Birthdays, Today-in-History and Current Events. I’ll put myself on a shot-clock.
Last week, I explained how much the month of January sucks, and it still does. So – other than Browns legend Lou Groza and Cavs great Chris Mills – these Birthday boys and girls should be glad they get mentioned anywhere ever. They include: author Virginia Woolf, race car driver Buddy Baker, singer Etta James, defenseman Chris Chelios, singer/actress/ultra-fox Alicia Keys, and pro wrestler, the Honkey Tonk Man, who was a college graduate, held the WWF belt for 64 weeks (before losing to the Ultimate Warrior) and whose past managers include Sgt. Danny Davis, Judd the Studd, Peggy Sue, Judge Lawless and Gentleman Jim Holiday.
So much nothing happened Today-in-History throughout History that whatever happens this afternoon or tonight might be the most important thing that’s ever happened on January 25.
In 1949, the first Emmy Awards were held. In 1960, the “payola” scandal erupted. In 1971, Charles Manson and three Family members were found guilty in the Sharon Tate killings. And in 1995, Russia almost launched a nuclear war against the United States before realizing the missile they detected was a Norwegian research rocket that had a rocket-name even the Russkies wouldn’t mess with: “Black Brant XII.”
Speaking of rockets, it’s hard to do Current Events with little Kim Jong Un rattling his sabers, isn’t it? You’d think he’d be pacified by the West once he won People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” But here’s Pyongyang, talking smack to the U.S. early in the week and to their neighbors in South Korea in what was supposed to be a chill weekend.
I’m not going to let North Korea's little-man syndrome ruin Current Events, not while we have totally awesome Current Events going on right here in America.
The number, from a statistical standpoint, is 30.
That is, of course, how many giant, man-eating Burmese pythons have been killed in the month-long “Python Challenge” in the Florida Everglades.
But – that is only the number of pythons that have been killed by the time of this writing! How do we know, as we read this column, that there isn’t some country-strong hillbilly that isn’t ‘rassling one’s jaws open in a life-and-death struggle? Or maybe a sheriff, shooting at an oxygen tank that’s wedged in the python’s jaws, hoping it explodes before he finishes the sentence: ‘Blow, you son of a b …!!!’?
The Python Challenge – which began on January 12 and runs until February 10 and has over 1,000 participants – has the full blessing of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Snakes skeeve me out, man. The closest I like to get to snakes is wrestling with them at church on Sundays.
Because we’re in a hurry and determined not to lose momentum, let’s stay on the topic of larger-than-life snakes and discuss the Black Mamba and his fellow Lakers in Los Angeles.
I’m not a guy to delight in another’s suffering. I’d always rather light a candle than curse one’s darkness. And back when I worked at NBA Headquarters, the Lakers mailed me a huge Championship Ring no smaller than a baboon’s heart. I still keep it on my desk. (The ring, not the heart.)
But the Lakers are the early story of the NBA, and it seems like their misfortune began when they gave our old pal, Mike Brown, the can opener five games into the season.
This is nothing against Mike D’Antoni, but now I’m wondering if Kobe didn’t bring him in just so they could make fun of other player and coaches in Italian behind their backs.
Either way, it’s not working in Tinseltown. I’m a fan of the Lakers franchise and loved them back in Byron Scott’s day. And I need them to make the Playoffs this year for the Draft day ramifications.
But it’s not looking good for the LakeShow as we rapidly approach the All-Star Break. And for this Steve Nash got a nice new haircut and everything?!
Speaking of Byron Scott, his old squad – the New Orleans Hornets – will only be the “Hornets” for the remainder of this season. Next year, as many of you know, they will be known as the “Pelicans.”
When I first heard about this, I was thoroughly unimpressed. A pelican is a pretty flaccid bird, whether it inhabits New Orleans or not. Sure it hunts fish, but it has to scoop up a whole mouthful just to land a couple of minnows. In bird-terms, the pelican is nowhere near as cool as an eagle, falcon, jayhawk, cardinal, hawk, war-hawk, or war-eagle. Nobody would mess with an ostrich. The stork is dopey, but at least it carries babies.
But just this week, the Pelicans unveiled their new logo and colors and I have to admit – they pulled it off!
Check it out.
Good for you, Pelicans. I’m a huge fan of the city of New Orleans and the Saints and the Hornet/Pelicans are a non-Cavalier team I could one day maybe have a Western Conference team-crush on. They’re kinda cute. But Anthony Davis will have to shave that unibrow first.
Either way, I have bigger fish to fry with the Wine and Gold for now. And that starts on Friday night v. the Milwaukee Bucks at The Q.
I know we didn’t break up today’s column. And some of you are thinking: ‘Hey! Where are the sub-headlines?! I love the sub-headlines!!’
Well that’s tough tinsel, Tonto. Today it was basketball, basketball, basketball and a little pro wrestling. But here’s a quick word of advice for you football fans …
I know Pro Bowl weekend is widely considered America’s national holiday, but that doesn’t give you the excuse act a fool this weekend. I know you’ll be tempted to throw down plenty of delicious, delicious alcohol. And that’s fine. But please call yourself a cab or find a designated driver. If the fuzz catch you drinking and driving, it’ll be bad news. Some police can be cool. But I once saw a movie where a cop called in “The Gimp.” And that didn’t look like something you’d want.
Have a good weekend, y’all. I’m heading the IX Center when the Team Bus gets back from the Cavs’ win over the Raptors. My best pal, the Maniac and I are going to the Progressive International Motorcycle Show. It’s gonna be mint!
Whether you’re joining us at the I-X Center or prepping for your Pro Bowl party or packing a bag and your python-hunting gear for south Florida, I wish you good luck this weekend and in the awful weekdays until we meet next Friday.
Once more, Mazel tov to our young star, Kyrie Irving!
Now that’s a young man who knows how to …
Keep the faith, Cleveland