The Optimist

by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

How you doin’? My name is the Optimist, and as you can see from the postcard to the right, I’m writing you mooks from tropical New Jersey.

“I’ll bet New Jersey blows way worse than that postcard!”some of you are thinking.

Well you’re wrong.

It’s not all diners and swamps and Jimmy Hoffa isn’t buried everywhere. Sure, I’m from Garbage Heights, and anyplace that’s not wall-to-wall landfills seems like Antigua. But I’m telling you: I worked in the Garden State for a while, and New Jersey’s pretty sweet. They pump your gas here and everything!

And it’s home to some greats like Thomas Alva Edison, Jon Bon Jovi, Lauryn Hill, Vince Lombardi, Grover Cleveland, the dreamy Jonas Brothers, Bruce Willis, Pauly D (summers only), Pauly Walnuts, Little Carmine, Medium Carmine, Snooki, the Sugarhill Gang and four of my musical idols – Count Basie, Bruce Springsteen, Bill Evans and Frank Sinatra.

It’s also home of prolific Esquire writer, Scott Raab, who’s currently working on a piece about Shaquille O’Neal for an upcoming issue. He’s a great guy who’s been hanging around the team, getting to know the Big Fella. Shaq bellows out “Santa Claus!” every time he sees him, despite the fact that Scott almost always wears black and is Jewish.

Scott was born and raised in Cleveland and still carries around his 1964 Browns NFL Championship Game ticket in a zip-loc™ bag. (Eight dollars!) Scott is worried about our Cavaliers without his buddy, the Diesel.

Maybe Monday’s demolition of the Knicks helped him feel better. The Cavs put on a clinic in small-ball. But it won’t always be that easy. The Cavaliers could have beaten the lowly Knicks by triple-figures if they had their gas on the pedal for 48 minutes.

After the tasty win, TheBron – who was dancing to “The Bird” during the fourth quarter – put icing on the cake, deftly rebuffing a New York scribe in the postgame locker room.

Like I said, they won’t all be that easy. But tonight’s will.

That’s not even a knock on the Nets. They’ve played well this week, busting out the filthy Celtics in the Garden and dropping a tough decision to the Wizards.

The Nets’ problem is that the Cavaliers rarely lose to teams that drop tough decisions to the Wizards. They usually – (how do you New Jerseyans say?) – “throw those teams a beatin.’” Kind of like the one they gave New Jersey’s cross-Hudson cousins on Monday.

Hey, have you guys noticed that I’ve decorated today’s column with pictures of J.J. Hickson, the Baby Bull?

J.J. struggled on and off during his rookie season – barely out of his teens and into the bright lights of the NBA. At times, he showed a genuine deftness in the post. At others, it was like showing card tricks to a chicken.

But the Baby Bull has matured into a marquee frontline talent. And on Wednesday night, it’s going to be nothing but Hickson crushing home one dunk after another in those iridescent red shoes.

Hickson joins TheBron with 18-point first halves. Cleveland leads by just three at intermission, however, as Brook Lopez goes off for 18 points of his own as New Jersey shoots 60 percent.

But in the second half, there’s no other way to say it: the Cavaliers simply Washington General-ize the scrappy Nets. Hickson continues his dunkfest. He goes 11-for-12 from the floor through three quarters, with the only miss being a botched alley-oop attempt that J.J., himself, rebounds and dunks.

At one point, Joey Crawford considers T’ing J.J. up for hanging on the rim. Hickson’s actually not hanging on the rim, but the perpetually-cheesed Crawford is just sick of seeing him up there.

TheBron and most of the starters get the fourth quarter off for the second straight night, as the Wine and Gold cruise to their fifth straight win – 113-89. All five starters notch double-figures, as do Anderson Varejao and Delonte West.

Peace be with you, knuckaheads. Diesel or no Diesel – the postseason draws nigh.

Slap on the Gold-Bond™ and gird those loins for the long haul. We have miles to go before we sleep.

First, we go one day, one game at a time.

Choose faith, Cleveland

Your pal,
The Optimist