The Optimist

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Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! It’s your hairy little buddy from Garbage Heights – The Optimist. And if it’s a Friday in the offseason, that must mean it’s time for another star-spangled installment of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE!

OK, so I took last summer off. As I wrote upon my return, I wound up in the deepest, darkest parts of lawless Mejico in an attempt to find myself after the dual-heartbreak that occurred one year ago.

With a full season under my belt, I’m much better now. You’ll see.

For those of you who are new to the titillating weekly spectacle known as NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE, here’s a quick tutorial ...

By “NEWS” I mean “stuff” and by “AROUND … THE … LEAGUE” I mean “about anything.” So, for those of you just checking in, “NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE” translated literally means “stuff about anything.”

In other words, if we stray off the subject of professional basketball for a moment, don’t get nervous.

(“NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUEis, however, meant to be read aloud in a booming radio-voice with dramatic pauses between each word.)

We've got balls.

Now that we’ve set the ground rules, let’s proceed directly to the “stuff” – the nearest and dearest to our hearts being this Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery in Secaucus, New Jersey.

As all of you know, the Wine and Gold have not one, but TWO selections in this year’s drawing, via a trade that sent Mo Williams and Jamarius Moon to the Clippers. The Cavs have a 19.9 percent chance at the top pick per their own record and a 2.8 percent chance with L.A.’s pick.

And as the Cavaliers announced yesterday, we’ll be sending a secret weapon to Secaucus – Nick Gilbert, the courageous 14-year-old scion of our beloved owner, Dan Gilbert.

Nick, who will represent the Cavs on stage, is the 2011 National Children’s Tumor Foundation Ambassador and has boldly battled this disease his entire life.

The Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF) is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the more than 1 in 3,000 children born with Neurofibromatosis (NF) – a nerve disorder that causes tumors to grow anywhere in the body at any time. I’ve also learned that May is NF Awareness Month and, coincidentally, May 17th is World NF Awareness Day.

Cavaliers Vice-Chairman and Minority Owner, Jeff “The Inspector” Cohen, will be the team’s “observer” in the separate room where the ping-pong ball drawing actually goes down – just to make sure there’s no monkey business.

I’ll report from the swamps of Jersey early next week. And one week from today, I’ll be writing about how Nick, Dan G., the Inspector and I brought home the bacon.

But as for right now, let’s plunge head-first into this summer’s initial N.A.T.L.

Playoffs?!! – Despite the Cavaliers not participating in this year’s postseason tournament, Uncle Dave decided to hold one anyway. And as of this writing, only one team remains to round out the NBA’s Final Four.

The 2011 Playoffs haven’t gone according to plan, exspecially out West.

Although Dan Ferry returned to the top-seeded Spurs, they still fell to the upstart Grizzlies in the first round. The LakeShow got past the shorthanded Hornets, but Kobe and Co. were swept by the Mavericks, treating J.J. Barea like their personal piñata on the way down. Adding insult to injury, Dallas' KTCK’s investigative reporter, Scoops Callahan, ended the great Phil Jackson’s career with THIS QUESTION.

The East’s two combatants are set as the Conference Finals tip off on Sunday. League MVP, Derrick Rose, led his scrappy Bulls team past Josh Smith and the perplexing Hawks on Thursday night. One night earlier, the Miami Heat put down the hated Celtics, led by the Big Three of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and former Cavalier, Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

But if this year’s Playoffs have taught me one thing, it’s that if you’re stuck in a jam, the only legal team to turn to is Franklin & Bash – a pair of randy young attorneys who don’t play by the rules and are about to turn the court system upside down with their silly, sexy exploits. When Franklin & Bash aren’t making out with foxy, half-naked chicks on the witness stand, they’re holding litigation meetings in their hot tub.

I want to party with those guys.

Indian Fever, Be a Believer – Speaking of parties, they’re throwing one almost every night across the plaza at Progressive Field, where the upstart Indians had won 14 straight before falling to Tampa Bay late in the week.

With tiger blood coursing through their veins, Manny Acta’s men have been rock-solid – from their starting pitching to their defense to their clutch, late-game heroics. Grady Sizemore and Pronk look healthy again. Josh Tomlin and Jason Masterblasterson have been spectacular. Even Chris Perez – who’s slowly morphing into Kenny Powers – has been stellar this season.

This weekend, former skipper Eric “Wedgie” Wedge brings his Seattle Mariners to town. And on Friday night at the Prog, we’re talking A. Student ID night, B. Sugardale hot dog night, and C. postgame fireworks.

That means you cheese-eating college and high school nerds can come downtown, get half-price ducets, stuff your cakeholes with one-dollar hot dogs and check out the fireworks after our beloved Tribe stomps down the Mariners.

This could be one of those lightning-in-a-bottle seasons for the Indians. Take some time to enjoy it.

Sad Farewell – As you regular readers know, we often pause to honor the fallen. We’ve paused for racehorses and rock stars and even some of my best friends who have passed over these past years.

Today, we must pause for one of the Cavaliers family’s best friends, Robert “Tractor” Traylor – who tragically passed away at the age of 34 in his apartment in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico of an apparent heart attack. Reportedly, Tractor was speaking on the phone with his wife at the time.

Like several members of the Cavaliers family, I knew Tractor Traylor – and he was as good a guy as you’ve heard he was. He was as jovial off the court as he was tough on it. He was a great family man.

I interviewed Tractor when he was attempting to come back with the Cavaliers Summer League squad in ’08, and I asked him if his perspective on the game had changed.

“I think my perspective is a lot different,” he said. “The last time I played I was 27, 28 years old and you’re still kind of young at that time of your life – and your career – and now for me, I’m more settled down, more laid back. I just like to be with my family and play the game of basketball. Those are the biggest things for me – being able to play and being with my family.”

So, as we close out this week’s NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE, let’s do two things …

First, let’s first close up our pie holes and remove our hats and or hairpieces and observe a Moment of Silence™ for our old friend, Robert “Tractor” Traylor …

Thank you.

And second, let’s remember how lucky we are to be here. Go see the Tribe while their winning. Soak up the suddenly warm weather. Cook on the grill with your family.

By this time next week, the Cavaliers will have two draft positions that will shape the future of our franchise. The fellas and I are heading to the Garden State to make sure they’re good ones.

All you have to do back home is kick back and …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Your pal,
The Optimist