May 3, 2012
Welcome, wistful well-wishers of the Wine and Gold! It’s your old pal – the Optimist.

Whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Cavaliers fan or you just stumbled pie-eyed through the banquet hall from the wedding reception next door, you’ve arrived just in time for the NINTH ANNUAL OPTIMIST AWARDS BANQUET.

The 2011-12 NBA season was a strange one and, regrettably, I was on the IR for most
of it.

I wasn’t alone. Despite Uncle Dave’s recent proclamations, the intense schedule claimed more than its share of victims. After starting the season strong, I was diagnosed with acute carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists. I wanted to keep going, but after consulting a doctor (he’s not a real doctor; just a buddy with a doctorate in Comp Literature), it was suggested that I either shut it down for the season or have both arms amputated below the elbow.

I need my arms for reading magazines and eating french fries. So, along with Anderson Varejao, I stuck strictly to my rehab schedule. And I’ve emerged a stronger Optimist because of it. I could, for example, write this entire column and afterward destroy Ben Wallace in an arm-wrestling contest.

But I’ll need to spend at least an hour at the cash bar before we move on to the arm wrestling portion of the Banquet. It’s good policy to get the hardware passed out before proceeding straight to the Feats of Strength.

Unlike last year, this year’s Banquet will not be split into two parts. The lockout affected everyone and we’ll be scaling back slightly this spring. We couldn’t afford to fly in J.J. Hickson, let alone rent him the white-on-white tuxedo from last year. And instead of the usual opulent smorgasbord, we’ll be having city chicken along with cabbage rolls and coffee.

Our beloved Cavaliers toiled through another trying season in 2011-12. But the team is laying the foundation for future greatness with a pair of rock-solid rookies and what should be an offseason bounty via the NBA Draft and free agency. The Wine and Gold’s return to splendor won’t be long now.

Please hold your applause until all the nominees have been announced and – as always – please: NO gang colors.

First Annual | Second Annual | Third Annual | Fourth Annual |
Fifth Annual | Sixth Annual | Seventh Annual | Eighth Annual Awards Banquet

2011-12 All-Optimist First Team
After the events leading up to it, the 2010-11 season was pretty crazy. But this most recent 66-game campaign was plum loco.

The regular season started on Christmas Day and ended on the edge of May. Schedules were arduous and unforgiving, and teams – like the Cavaliers in the final month – found themselves withering beneath it: playing back-to-back-to-back-to-backs or stretches of seven games in four nights.

Along with their starting Optimist, the Cavaliers lost Anderson Varejao and Boobie Gibson to season-ending injuries. But through the clouds shone a pair of incredibly promising rookies: Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson. Solid veterans held the club together through some rough patches. And other players seized the opportunity that Byron Scott presented them.

So is it any mystery why the All-Optimist First Team is once again littered with Cleveland Cavaliers?

Head Coach
Kyrie Irving
League’s best rookie and a cold-blooded killer in the clutch.
Anthony Parker
If they gave out points for professionalism, he’d be scoring champ.
Tristan Thompson
Answered critics all year, was the league’s top rebounding rookie.
Antawn Jamison
Played in 65 of 66 games, was the epitome of class and commitment.
Alonzo Gee
Like a true Clevelander, returned from Poland with a new lease on life.

Again: Like a bridge over troubled water.

2011-12 All-Optimist Second Team
If you haven’t noticed in the previous eight seasons, I generally prefer players from my Second Team to be crazier than a blue firetruck.

Every player in the NBA has skill and talent, but not all of them are willing to celebrate a made basket by elbowing an opponent in the melon or jabbing them with a random Wet Willie™. Some – if not all -- of my Second Teamers would be more than happy to do both if it’d help the squad.

Everyone can’t make the list, so I’ve had to release Aminu Al-Farouq, Bismack Biyombo, Kyrylo Fesenko, Jonas Jerebko, Nikola Vucevic, Nikola Pekovic, Nene (nee Hilario), Hasheem Thabeet, Hamed Haddadi, Ian Manhimi, Manu Ginobili, Solomon Alabi, Timofey Mozgov, Luc Mbah a Moute, Ben Uzoh, Beno Udrih, Ekpe Udoh and Ersan Ilyasova – the first Vulcan-born player in the NBA.

My xenophobic side won’t allow me to focus exclusively on foreign players. And what All-Optimist Second Team omission would be complete without excluding the Earl of Boykins, Ish Smith, Kevin Love, Thaddeus Young, Ben Wallace, Norris Cole, Chris Kaveman, Mickell Gladness, Big Al Jefferson, Von Wafer, Walker Russell, Ramon Sessions, John Lucas III, Craig Smith (but not Greg Smith), Jannero Pargo (but not Jeremy Pargo), Drew Gooden and, as always, Joel Przyzbilla, the Vanilla Gorilla.

Head Coach
Delonte West
You just don't know where that finger's been.
Isaiah Thomas
Went from Mr. Irrelevant to The Earl's heir apparent.
Kris Humphries
Why do fans boo him? He married the hot Kardashian and got out in time.
Metta World Peace
Don't get in the way of the man's celebration.
Ivan Johnson
Even Delonte and World Peace are afraid of this dude.
Papa Bear
Scrapped with Tyrus Thomas for being too friendly with Celtics. Guess who my money's on.

2011-12 Optimist All-Nemesis Team
It can be a fine line between being an All-Optimist Second Teamer and an All-Nemesis First Teamer.

It’s not supposed to make sense to normal, rational-thinking basketball fans. But these are the players who cheesed me during the previous season. This year’s roster is loaded with big men, so the team might be jerky, but they’d easily dominate in the low post.

Head Coach
Lamar Odom
Didn't marry the hot Kardashian. Quit on his team.
Blake Griffin
Tired of every dunk/offensive foul being the top highlight on ESPN. Also, was kinda cheap vs. Andy this year.
Kevin Garnett
Thought maybe I’d like him after finally interviewing him this year.
Dwight Howard
I don't remember the real Superman being this wishy-washy.
Spencer Hawes
Just because I totally disagree with his politics doesn't mean I can't put him on the team.
Scott Skiles
Despite warm, fluffy demeanor, is actually kinda jerky in real life.

The 2011-12 Edgar Jones Seventh Man Award
As it is every season, the Seventh Man voting went down to the wire, the results tighter than a duck's buttucks.

The award – named after the toothless and tenacious former Cavaliers forward – goes to the reserve who simultaneously stimulates the Quicken Loans Arena crowd and concurrently contributes to the Cavaliers’ cause.

This year, we saw several Cavaliers come off the bench to spark the squad. Manny Harris, Donald Sloan and Luke Harangody battled their way through the D-League. Samardo Samuels was buried in Byron Scott’s doghouse until he found out that Coach didn’t have one. And he played well from that point forward.

But this year’s "Edgie" goes to Corperryale L'Adorable Harris, who overcame an early-season injury, was released by the team, fought his way back through the D-League and worked his way back into Byron Scott’s rotation. For his persistence and for ending the season strong, Manny is this year’s winner.

Luke Harangody
Manny Harris
Samardo Samuels
Donald Sloan
The Nominees

Manny Harris

Professor Chewy's 2011-12 All-Bald Team
A tradition like no other, Professor Chewy has singlehandedly made male-pattern baldness infinitely sexier than a full-head of flowing locks – with guys like Fred McLeod and Coach Joe Prunty wishing they could lose it all and compete with Chewy’s virile, masculine group of smoothies.

Notable omissions include James Gandolfini, Stanley Tucci, Lou Gossett, Jr., Lex Luthor, Jr. Sir Ben Kingsley, Sir Kimbo Slice, Andre Agassi, Cal Ripken, Alan Arkin, Robert Duvall, Terry Pluto, Hector Elizondo, Ghandi, Ed Harris, John Amos, "Hey Now!" Hank Kingsley, Ron Howard, John Malkovich, David Cross, Curly Howard and Charlie Brown.

The rules are very simple – NO RUGS, NO PLUGS AND NO DRUGS.

With that in mind, presentamos

Woody Harrelson
Rob Corddry
Ralph Fiennes
Murray Slaughter
Larry David