Blast from the Past: Journeyman's Gallery
We’ve bared our shame from the Stepien Era, quizzed you on the coaches, traveled to Summit County and the Richfield Coliseum, dealt with the deals, analyzed the organization’s penchant for point guards and detailed the Cavs duds throughout the team’s history.
Last week, we looked back on some of the franchise’s record-holders – those players and teams who posted some of the greatest games and individual seasons in Cavs history.
And today, as we wrap up our final installment of “Blast from the Past,” Cavs.com is prepared to pay tribute to the guys behind the guys (behind the guys). The role players. The journeymen. These Cavaliers are approximately one level below Craig Ehlo and Roy Hinson and one level above Jay Guidinger.
Every great team needs great role players. They do the dirty work; they eat up minutes and fouls. To paraphrase Rocky Balboa – they fill gaps.
It’s hard to define what makes some historic Cavalier role players special in our memory. Maybe they hit a big shot that Joe Tait called late at night. Maybe they wore the number you did or was an underdog that you and your buddies had fun rooting for. Edgar Jones played 79 games for Cleveland. But any Cav fan worth his salt knows the man’s an all-time great.
All role players are not created equal. There’s a big difference between Donny Marshall and Donyell Marshall. So in today’s final “Blast from the Past” of this arduous offseason – and while the franchise acquires some new history in the coming months – we break down a Journeyman’s Gallery …
LUNCHPAIL GUYS – This is the biggest group of Journeymen; guys who knew how to impress a blue-collar crowd.
Fan favorite, Michael Cage, was another tough guy on the floor who was friendly off. Same with Tree Rollins, who played 108 solid games at backup center. As far as Cavs fans were concerned, after biting Danny Ainge, Tree was playing with house money.
The ursine Ben Poquette manned the middle for George Karl’s comeback Cavs of the 1985-86 season. The late, great Robert “Tractor” Traylor had two separate stints – plus a Summer League appearance – wit the Wine and Gold.
The Wilkens-Fratello Era Cavaliers almost couldn’t miss when it came to point guards. But the small forward position was one that vexed the club for years. They never found the superstar to complement the rest of the roster, but some of the solid 3-men that Hot Rod Williams replaced seven minutes into the game included Mike Sanders, Winston Bennett and Gerald Wilkins.
MR. BIG SHOT – Some Cavalier journeymen went years doing yeoman’s work and never finding the spotlight. And some found that magical moment in the sun.
Dick Snyder, who hit the game-winning runner to beat Washington in Game 7 of the Miracle of Richfield, is immortalized in Cavaliers lore despite only playing four years with Cleveland.
Tyrone Corbin’s dramatic tip-in against the World Champion Lakers in 1987 cemented him in Cavs folklore despite playing just two years in Cleveland. In 2008, a player named Billy Thomas – signed on a 10-day deal to fill out the roster after a blockbuster trade – scored nine points in 19 minutes, canning three three-pointers in a raucous win over the Wizards.
One player who never got the big ink from a big game with Cleveland is Rick Roberson – whose single-game rebounding mark of 25, set in 1972, stands to this day.
JUST PASSING THROUGH – The Cavaliers have been a stop for several players who have either come from big things or are headed there after a stop in Cleveland.
Dan Majerle played just one season in Cleveland after six stellar seasons with the Suns. Majerle still averaged 10.6 ppg when the Cavs acquired him in 1995 (16.7 ppg in three playoff games), but his presence was a constant reminder that Cleveland actually traded the pick that Phoenix used to draft Thunder Dan.
In terms of Phoenix, two members of today’s Journeyman’s Gallery – Mark West and Steve Kerr – were both GMs in the Valley of the Sun after their playing days. (Another member, Tyrone Corbin, is the head coach of the Utah Jazz.)
Chris Dudley, who played three years with the Cavaliers in the late-80s, ran for governor of Oregon and lost. Kevin Johnson, who spent 52 games with the Cavaliers in the late-80s, ran for mayor of Sacramento and won.
NOW, FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT – The Cavaliers have had their share of characters over the years and some role players have been just a little off.
No Cavalier since their first season in 1970 could top the exploits of Gary Suiter – who once ran up a $700 phone bill at a funeral home (long story) calling other teams for a tryout. As legend has it, he was cut after getting busted buying a hot dog at a concession stand an hour before a game. But other Cavaliers have tried.
Derrick Chievous, acquired for three second-round picks in 1989, wore a band-aid on some part of his body for every game and burst his mouth wide open every time he attempted a free throw.
As far as big men that weren’t quite right, Edgar Jones has nothing on Scot Pollard, who wore a Mohawk, would routinely tell jokes on the team bus' loudspeaker after games and, on camera, once gave some really, really bad advice to kids.
Bimbo Coles and Smush Parker make the list because they have funny names and were part of Cavalier teams that combined to go 76-170 over a three year period – neither of which are entirely their fault.