The Optimist

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Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! It’s just me – the Optometrist – back from sunny Secaucus, New Jersey. And as you readers know: May 20 is not only Cambodia’s 27th annual “National Day of Hatred,” but also the highly-anticipated release of another installment of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE”!

When we last spoke, I predicted that the Cavaliers representative – young Nick Gilbert – would bring home the bacon from the NBA Draft Lottery. I then implored you readers to take in the Tribe game on Friday night.

As for our beloved first-place Indians, later that evening Travis Hafner lined an 0-1 pitch into the centerfield Davey Trees at Progressive Field – capping a dramatic 5-4 walk-off win over Wedgie’s Seattle Mariners.

As it turns out, Pronk’s poke was nothing compared to the events that unfolded this past Tuesday night in the meadowlands of the Garden State.

By now, you’re all aware of the jaw-dropping conclusion to the 2011 NBA Lottery.

Although I predicted that the Cavaliers would land the top pick in the Lottery, I tried not to think of it as a “win-or-lose” scenario if they didn’t.

But once the Pistons came out of the hopper at No. 8, I wanted two top-5 picks like the ax wants the turkey. Little did I know that within the next seven minutes, 14-year-old Nick Gilbert would become a Cleveland sports legend and the baddest dude in horn-rimmed glasses and a bowtie since Malcolm X.

When NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver announced the T-Wolves would pick second, Nick threw his fist into the air as Utah’s Kevin O’Connor and Minnesota’s David Kahn stood dyspeptically in what will soon be considered one of the iconic photos (left) in NBA history.

As we now know, that top pick came via the Clippers – whose brass had to wake up on Tuesday morning thinking: “As long as the Cavaliers don’t get the No. 1 choice with the pick we gave them, we’re cool.” Perhaps they thought Lady Luck would pull them through. She’s always smiling on the Clippers.

Instead, the Wine and Gold defied the odds – 2.8 percent, to be exact – and landed the top spot. Which player they’ll choose at No. 1 (and at No. 4, 32 and 54) is still undecided.

Personally, I’m old enough to remember the Cavaliers snagging the No. 1 choice in the mid-80s and selecting another soft-spoken ACC star with bushy eyebrows. And that turned out pretty well.

But I’ll leave the drafting part up to Chris Grant and his crack staff.

Over the past calendar year, the Cavaliers crawled through a river of crap and came out clean on the other side. There is still much work to be done, but the Wine and Gold got off to a great start on Tuesday night.

The NBA Universe seemed horribly out of alignment just 11 months ago. But one Lottery later, all is right in the world. That’s why Uncle Dave (pictured) strolls down Fifth Avenue with a foxy showgirl on his arm and Roger Goodell makes a dollar a day (before taxes) and roams around Manhattan telling people his car ran out of gas.


All this Lottery talk has put us behind schedule – and just two N.A.T.L. episodes into the offseason, no less.

Now, there’s virtually no chance that we’ll get to topics like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – who’s cheesed again because everyone in L.A. gets a statue but him. We won’t get to the Governator’s dalliances or Barry O’s new strategy in the Middle East. We don’t even have time to provide a Moment of Silence™ for recently-deceased Hall of Famer, Harmon Killebrew – who went an entire major league career without ever having a smoke or a drink, but deserves our respect anyway.

Sorry, gentlemen. Today, we are on a VERY TIGHT TIMETABLE – as you’ll see a few paragraphs from now.

Wrath of Kahn – Speaking of Uncle Dave and Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn – something tells me the former has a Bruno Magli wingtip with its sights set on the latter’s posterior.

After the Cavaliers won the top selection in the NBA Lottery, Kahn – who was fined 50-large last season for commenting on Michael Beasley’s love of the chronic – was at it again, claiming: "This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible story lines. Last year it was Abe Pollin's widow and this year it was a 14-year-old boy and the only thing we have in common is we have both been bar mitzvahed. We were done. I told Kevin (O'Connor of Utah): 'We're toast.' This is not happening for us and I was right.”

Yep. A quote like that will likely put Kahn right between the hammer and the anvil. And with good cause.

The Timberwolves had as many as 12 former first-rounders on their roster this year – including two No. 2 overall picks. They also had the league’s Most Improved Player. All this and they still finished with a worse record than the Cavaliers – a team that dropped 26-straight games and had no incentive to win down the stretch, but did so anyway.

Knowing how Kahn feels – (he’s since played this off as a “joke”) – makes that iconic photo and subsequent results that much sweeter. Sorry Kevin O’Connor had to be part of it, but he and the Jazz were complicit in the Great Boozer Bamboozle of 2004, so I guess what goes around comes around.

Nobody likes a sore loser, Mr. Kahn. Next time, a simple “mazel tov” will due.

Playoffs?!! – I know what you readers are thinking. You’re thinking: How much more of these NBA Playoffs must we endure before Franklin & Bash premieres?

Keep your pants on, people. With both Conference Finals raging on, we’re nearing the climatic end of the road. And as the old saying goes: “A series doesn’t start until the home team loses a game.”

In the East, the Heat – led by former Akron prep standout, LeBron James – tied the series at 1-1 heading back to South Beach. The Bulls inexperience seemed to show in the closing quarter on Wednesday and the Heat stole one in Chicago despite Zydrunas Ilgauskas on the bench in street clothes.

Out West (kinda), the Thunder stole one of their own – topping Dirk and the red-hot Mavericks with star guard Russell Westbrook on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. OKC’s James Harden, flashing the fiercest Playoff Beard since King Leonidas at the Battle of Thermopylae, propelled the Thunder with 23 big points, including a four-point play to end the fourth.

The series now shifts to Oklahoma City, one of the greatest home venues in the league, despite not having fat, dancing dudes like Dallas.

This is the End, My Friend – Normally, I close NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE by telling you readers to enjoy your weekend – see the Tribe, cook some steaks on the grille, don’t fill the inside of your car with Patron. That kind of thing.

But this week, you’ll have to pack all your fun activities in before 6 p.m. on Saturday on accounta that’s when the world is supposed to end.

That’s right: May 21, 2011, according to Harold Camping of Family Radio, a Christian broadcasting network based in Oakland, California, will mark the Day of Rapture and the start of Judgment Day – which will last five months.

If this old coot is right, we're all doomed.
I was hoping the Rapture wouldn’t come until around 9:30 or 10 p.m. ET so I could go watch the Gladiators stomp Jon Bon Jovi’s Philadelphia Soul at The Q. But when Ezekiel 33 says Jesus is coming, that probably means no football and all judgment – which doesn’t sound fun to me in the least.

I wish the Cambodians wouldn’t spend their last day on Earth player-hating. But that’s their choice. I’m going to spend my last Friday night celebrating my dad’s birthday (Happy 79th, Poptimist!) and getting my things in order for Saturday night’s apocalypse.

If the end is truly nigh, I think we had a pretty good run. But I sure wish we could’ve gotten those two Draft picks we just won.

Of course, if the world doesn’t end on Saturday, I’ll just see you knuckaheads back here next week.

Either way, it probably wouldn’t hurt to …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Su hermano,
The Optimist