The Optimist

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Merhaba, true believers. It’s me, the People’s Champion – checking in from a frigid freaky Friday on the North Coast.

“Merhaba” is how Turkish people, like new Cavaliers center and the pride of Gaziosmanpaºa, Istanbul – Semih Erden – say “Hello.” (But not on the phone. On the phone, Turks say “Alo.”)

It’s a freaky Friday because on Thursday, Chris Grant and the Cavaliers Brass pulled the trigger on a pair of Deadline deals, reshaping our beloved Cavaliers for the homestretch and beyond.

Semih Erden is just one of the three new members of the Wine and Gold. One of the others is Luke Harangody, Erden’s Celtic teammate.

We’ll get back to these guys in a minute.

The third new Cavalier is, of course, Baron Davis – acquired, along with an unprotected 2011 first rounder from the Clippers.

By now, you knuckaheads have deduced that an “unprotected” first rounder could, and should, come in the form of a lottery pick. And as great as the possibility of two top ten selections sound, let’s wipe the drool off and try to concentrate on the trio Chris Grant brought in on Thursday. (And reflect, sadly, on the trio that left.)

Baron Davis comes to Cleveland with bona fides. He’s a two-time All-Star with numbers on par with his fellow generation’s greats. Of course, many of us remember watching him personally dismantle the 67-win Mavericks in the 2007 Playoffs.

Some pundits are painting a bleak picture for the native Southern Californian, already predicting his displeasure.

You might want to close that up until around
mid-April.
Do I think he’ll be overjoyed with Cleveland in February – cruising down Euclid Avenue in his Kia, tossing alley-oop passes out the sunroof? Of course not.

Even Clevelanders don’t like Cleveland in February.

But I do predict that once March rolls around, he’ll warm up with the weather. I predict that he’ll rekindle his relationship with Coach Byron Scott. He’ll form a formidable duo with Ramon Sessions. And he’ll see what a first-class operation the Cavaliers have, from our fans to our arena to our state-of-the-art practice facility in Independence.

And unlike the last place he worked, Baron definitely won’t have his new owner, Dan Gilbert, sitting courtside, chiding him that his belt size is the Equator, or some such nonsense.

Once the grey slush goes away and March Madness takes hold at The Q, he’ll see the beauty of springtime hoops in Cleveland. He’s got the knowledge, experience and pure point guard skills Byron Scott is looking for. He’s got a built-in Playoff Beard™. Yeah, I think Baron Davis will fit right in.

And there’s a chance to resurrect his career right here in snowy old Cleveland.

The other duo of Cavaliers acquired on Thursday – Semih Erden and Luke Harangody – came at the expense of the entire second round pick acquired in the Delonte West deal with Minnesota.

Erden was the 60th overall selection of the 2008 Draft after playing five seasons in the Turkish League. The 24-year-old rookie is a legitimate seven-footer. He’s notched double-figures in four games and grabbed seven or more boards in five for the Celtics this season.

The 23-year-old Harangody was the 2008 Big East Player of the Year, a three-time All-Big East first-teamer and the only Fighting Irishman to lead the conference in scoring and rebounding in two straight seasons. In high school, if my facts are correct, Harangody led his small but scrappy Hickory Huskers squad to an improbable Indiana state championship.

Half a second-rounder for a bruiser who dominated the Big East – basketball’s version of the Big Ten – over the past two to three years? I’m on board with that.

But as the great Bret Michaels once sang: Every rose has its thorn.

Jamario Moon, the deserving winner of last year’s Austin Carr Good Guy Award, was one of the two players dealt in the Baron Davis deal. Jamario is a dude who’s happy anywhere, and Southern California will make him a little happier.

Leon Powe was waived on Thursday as well. This isn’t as harsh as it sounds, as the tough but affable big man will hopefully be able to hook up with a squad down the stretch.

In my book, Mo Williams will always be remembered as a good Cavalier. He liked Cleveland – he wanted to be here. He was an All-Star in his two-plus seasons in Cleveland and probably won’t get enough credit for his final campaign here, playing hurt to help a young and shorthanded club.

Mostly, though, I’m glad he’s going to a Western Conference team because before we acquired Maurice Williams, he was the current king of Cavalier-Killers with Milwaukee.

Speaking of Cavalier-Killers, with all this trade hubbub swirling around Cleveland, we almost forgot about Carmelo Anthony – the newest Knick and a player who loves to make Clevelanders miserable.

Anthony, dealt to New York in a blockbuster deal this week, is 10-4 all-time against the Cavaliers, including 6-2 at The Q.

He hates our guts.

What he doesn’t know is that Byron Scott’s Cavaliers have New York’s number. The Wine and Gold stymied Stoudemire’s Knicks back in December and, if my spidey senses are correct, I think they’re aligned to do so again on Friday night.

I’m not going to get into clerical aspects of the game, like statistics and such. Suffice to say that Ramon Sessions stays strong, J.J. Hickson returns in a big way from All-Star Break and Christian Skyenga continues to dazzle with his aerial acrobatics.

Do I see Friday night’s game going into overtime, as the two squads did on December 18?

Yes.

And I see the new-look Cavaliers emerging victoriously – with Antawn Jamison scoring eight of Cleveland’s 11 points in the extra session.

Ahhhhhh.

I feel a lot better. And I felt great when I started this column.

The Wine and Gold are turning a corner here, people. I’m not saying they’re going to run the table on 2010-11. Heck, winning 25 straight games is even harder than losing 26 straight.

But I do feel that change is in the air.

And I feel like the Wine and Gold have a big, fat bright future.

At the Deadline, the Cavaliers got two young players from the Celtics for a second-rounder, and, for those of you who remember, Thursday wasn’t the first time we fleeced the Clippers. Many moons ago, I remember sending Ron Harper to L.A. for a bushy-haired youngster by the name of Dan Ferry. And I don’t need to remind you nerds of the long and illustrious career he had here on the North Coast.

But, alas, that’s a stroll down memory lane best reserved for another time.

Right now, we’ve got a Cavalier-Killer and the Knickerbockers on the loose in our city.

The best thing for us to do in this situation is to remain calm and …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Fondest wishes,
The Optimist