The Optimist’s Year-in-Review

Final Record:

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Konichiwa, Cavaliers fans. Optimist here, with Part I of my 2003-04 Season-in-Review Extravaganza.

If you're not familiar with the Optimist, first of all, where have you been? I didn't write all these columns for my health, you know. But if you're just getting on the unstoppable Optimist juggernaut right now, that's alright too. All are welcome, except Celtics fans.

I have to admit, I've been going a little crazy without any Cavaliers action. I miss LeBron's aerial antics, Booz's furious dunks and J-Mac's nasty attitude. Without the Cavaliers, watching the Eastern Conference playoffs is like watching synchronized swimming. It's nearly as bad as watching Atlanta Braves baseball -- the lowest form of televised sport.

The Heat-Hornets series was tied, 2-2, this past Friday night, yet the Optimist found himself enmeshed in the season finale of "Reba" on the WB. And I’m comfortable enough in my own masculinity to say it was riveting.

But I digress.

It was a crazy year for the Wine and Gold and although they finished 47 games under my prediction of a perfect 82-0 season, I'm not ready to call the campaign a total disappointment. Very few teams have ever gone undefeated in an NBA season and the Cavaliers are, after all, still a young ballclub.

Real men can watch "Reba."
No, I believe the 2003-04 Cavaliers season was a rousing success. The Cavaliers more than doubled their win total from the previous season. They snapped a 34-game road losing streak. Cleveland broke a 16-game losing streak against the Sixers and a 13-game skein against the Celtics. They dropped the World Champion Spurs and won in the Delta Center for the first time ever. At season’s end, The Bron was named the got milk? Rookie of the Year and Carlos Boozer finished second in voting for Most Improved Player.

On a personal note, I was named the Eastern Conference’s Opti-GrabÔ Optimist of the Month in January, March and April.

So as we prepare for next year -- in which the Cavaliers will go 73-9, guaranteed -- let's take a look back on last year's memorable season.

Today, we’ll cover the Wine and Gold's sluggish start in October/November. On Tuesday, we’ll take a look at December. If you're following along closely at home, you'll ascertain that Wednesday will feature the pivotal months of January and February. We'll look at the final two months of the season on Thursday and conclude the Optimist's Season-in-Review Extravaganza on Friday with my annual Awards Banquet.

October/November (4-13)

You wanted the best?
You got the best!
The Cavaliers blew the Optimist's 82-0 prediction right out of the gate with a loss to the Kings in Sacramento in the season opener. The loss was made easier to swallow because of LeBron James' prolific debut. LBJ was absolutely sensational, netting 25 points and nine dimes in his eagerly-anticipated debut.

Despite LeBron's early-season heroics, the Cavaliers were without a win five games into the campaign.

But it was obvious that things were turning around on Nov. 7 in Indiana. DeSagana Diop blocked five Pacers shots and the Cavaliers nearly pulled out the win in Indy. The next night against Washington, Diop swatted five more shots as Cleveland dropped the Wizards at the Gund for their first win of the season. Darius Miles and Ricky Davis each scored 26 points in the victory, prompting hack, Joe Gabriele, to pen the headline, "Miles, Davis Give Washington the Blues." Oy. Gordon Gund pays him for that?!

Cleveland won its second straight when they clobbered the Knicks 94-80 the following Monday.

The highlight of the month, aside from LBJ's jaw-dropping debut in California's capitol, was the Cavaliers' dramatic 91-88 overtime win over Philadelphia on a Saturday night at the Gund. Ricky D blanketed Allen Iverson for four quarters, holding the Sixers superstar to 19 points on 8-for-71 shooting, six shot attempts below A.I.'s season average. Currently-unemployed Philly coach Randy Ayers had rookie Kyle Korver attempt a three-pointer in OT that LeBron promptly smacked into the Huntington Bank Club Level to preserve the win.

Players in "dad socks" do not hit game-winning shots over LeBron.
But that’s about as good as things would get for Cleveland for the remainder of the month. There were ButterballÔ turkeys that had better Novembers than our beloved Cavaliers.

Just after Thanksgiving, Paul Silas' rocky relationship with Ricky Davis came to a head and Davis, Ira Newble and Yogi Stewart were put on double-secret-probation for a Nov. 26 game against the Hornets in the Big Easy.

On the last day of November, the Cavaliers suffered their most painful loss of the young season when they blew a 24-point lead to All-Optimist second team coach Hubie Brown and his vastly improved Memphis Grizzlies. The loss spoiled LeBron's best game as a pro: a 37-point, 16-rebound performance.

Overall, the first month of the season was not kind to the Wine and Gold. The Cavaliers and I were sitting at 4-13 and it was shades of 2002-03.

For my anemic November performance, the Cavaliers paid me with a discount card for 20% off at Kohl’s. But I knew we were just getting warmed up.

Tune in tomorrow for Part II of the Optimist's Year-in-Review Five-Part Mini-Series.