To Cav and To Hold
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NOT MILWAUKEE, Dec. 19 -- If you're a fan of sports, you've more than likely seen the incredible commercial for Gatorade where Derek Jeter doesn't have enough in him to make his spectacular backhanded flip against the A's, where Dwight Clark doesn't have enough lift to grasp Joe Montana's desperation heave and where Michael Jordan's last-second shot over Craig Ehlo in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round does not fall.

Oh, for Cavs fans, if only that were the case.

Faithful CI readers may remember this column describing what it's like to be a Bucks fan.

(And if you're not a faithful reader, and you're reading for the very first time... welcome.)

Well, Bucks fans are not the only Central Division fans to know pain. How would you like it if the most famous (not necessarily the best) on-the-court moment in franchise history not only proved to be the genesis of nemesis MJ's legend, but also has become the key vignette in a commercial suggesting that your opponent always has a little extra.


So, why bring this up? Am I trying to dig into the Cavs and their followers? No, not at all.

Then why did you, Ro-Pete?

Pardon the interruption, readers. This is Joe Gabriele, beat writer for, a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the Wine and Gold and good friend of this column's fine scribe.

Cavs fans and Bucks fans are not so different, you see. But the Cavaliers have been infected by the mythical "Cleveland Curse" and, like other local sports, our history is lined with heartbreak. There's just this strange gravitational pull that yanks us abruptly from the thrill of victory toward the agony of defeat.

Perhaps our greatest moment 1976 Miracle of Richfield saw the Cavaliers knock off the heavyweight Washington Bullets, only to lose in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Celtics. How's that for an inferiority complex? Our greatest moment a first-round playoff victory and we call it a "Miracle!"

Since then, there was George Karl's Comeback Cavs, who scored exactly the same amount of points as Larry Bird's Celtics in the 1985 playoffs and lost the series, 3-1. And of course, Jordan's done us in on several occasions, including his seminal shot rehashed by Ro-Pete.

But for us, those days are done. When Akron's own, LeBron James, came to Cleveland, he brought hope with him. The new No. 23 is on our side and he could barely remember or doesn't care about any mistakes on the Lake. A new day has dawned on the North Shore since the Cavaliers chose the Chosen One.

A wise man once said that self-pity is stronger than morphine. Now that LeBron James is here, we've kicked the habit with hope. And we hope that heartbreak remains in our history where it belongs. The young King is our future, and the future is now.

CI casts its gaze upon the Cavaliers for two reasons; one, we've broken down every team in the Central but the Cavs, so it's about time we look at what kind of legs this wine and gold has; and two, it's way past time to look at one of the contenders for the Eastern Conference crown.

At 14-9, the Cavs are in the thick of it not only in the Central behind the steady Pistons and the surging Bulls, but in the East as well, where no team has yet separated itself from the pack.

In order to get a better read on the Cavs, we got an NBA scout on the horn to tell us why Cleveland, which made the conference semis last season, could make another deep run in the playoffs this season.


Scout: "Obviously you have to start with LeBron James when you talk about the Cleveland Cavaliers. He's a guy who is capable of putting up a triple-double every night from the forward spot.

"This guy, he can get 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He is probably one of the top two, three, four, players in the league with his versatility and his great athleticism.

"They're starting to surround him with players who fit his style of play. They're getting some good shooters around now that they brought in David Wesley. They have Damon Jones. Young players they drafted Gibson and the kid from Michigan St., Shannon Brown. So, they got some young athletic guys that can shoot the ball and then, I mean, Donyell Marshall up front. You can space the floor with him."


Scout: "During the regular season they'll look for them to help them some so that Wesley and Damon Jones don't have to play as many minutes so that they can be ready for the playoffs. You know, those guys are already playoff tested, so if they can keep their minutes down, I don't know how much they expect those guys to do."


Scout: "They need to dig in defensively. And I think that starts with LeBron. If he can night-in and night-out come in and give them a defensive presence, I think that will spill over to the rest of the team.

"Instead of just having a few guys on their team and just relying on them to be defensive players, if he can come out and set that tone, I think It can spill over and I think that the sky's the limit if he comes and does that for this team."


Scout: "This guy's been hurt, he just came back. He is a big addition to this team, getting healthy again. If he is healthy and he can give them that other big time scorer, they're tough. Because I mean, he's a good defensive player as well."


Scout: "If Zydrunas Ilgauskas can stay healthy, he's the key. If he stays healthy, they can be very tough because Anderson Varejao, he's really come on. He is a great hustle player and energy guy for them. Drew Gooden, he's the same type of guy for them.

"So, right now, they're one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference."

If that's the case, maybe these Cavs can begin creating new memories. Who knows, maybe one of those moments will be in a commercial one day.


Mail? Wait, that's not part of the Cavs column.

Nope, just wanted to say thanks to everyone who sent in mail regarding our best point guard in the division question. Most of the readers agreed that Chauncey Billips was the division's top floor general, while we had the a few Bucks fans put Mo Williams ahead of Hinrich. (You wouldn't be Bucks fans if you didn't.) Then, we had Nate from Nap Town pull up a soapbox for Jamaal Tinsley:

"Well, I feel Jamaal could become the best point guard in the division, and it has recently been shown he has the will power to do so. Now all that remains is to see how he carries out, he already played through being sick. I would have to agree that as of right now Billups and Hinrich are on top, but then I would have to say Tinsley, then Mo, then Snow."

Like I said, Jamaal is talented. He needs to stay on the floor. He's started all 26 Pacers games. That's a good start.


This is the last CI of the 2006 calendar year. We'll see you on the flip side. Happy holidays!