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Bonjour, y’uns! It’s me – the Optimist – preseason reporting from the Paris of Appalachia. (Tres chic!)
The last time I appeared on the newfangled pages of Cavs.com – after just arriving home from a prolonged sabbatical in Mexico – I was in desperate need of a haircut, some dental hygiene and at least two of the standard “Three S’s.”
Per Dan Gilbert’s orders, I was also deloused.
But as you can tell, my ruggedly-handsome helmet is now nearly as smooth as a baby’s buttocks. And I’m locked and loaded for Cavaliers action.
So why, of all places, did I choose to check in from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvakia? Because Clevelanders like myself have important business here this week, and I thought I’d provide some cover in what is often extremely hostile territory.
On Thursday night, our beloved Cavaliers complete their preseason Texas trifecta – facing off against the San Antonio Spurs at the Petersen Events Center. Three days later, our beleaguered little Brownies come to The Confluence to meet the Steelers.
Go ahead, admit it: The Wine and Gold have performed much better this preseason than many of you had expected.
J.J. Hickson is nearly averaging a double-double, Daniel Gibson looks unfettered under a new regime and Ramon Sessions has been the playmaker the Cavs brass imagined he could be. Christian Eyenga might be ahead of schedule, Samardo Samuels looks like a load in the low block and Leon Powe looks healthy. I could even get behind walk-on guard, Manny Harris, making the final roster – and not just because his middle name is “L’Adorable.”
Cleveland is 3-1 without Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao in the lineup, and without Antawn Jamison having a good game.
I know the preseason doesn’t count. I know it doesn’t count towards the final win total. But it’s vastly important for the psyche of Byron Scott’s young club – as well as the city of Cleveland. Winning breeds winning. And Numeral 23’s departure doesn’t have to be as cataclysmic as the naysayers predict. The year after Alex Rodriguez bolted the Seattle Mariners, they won 116 games.
Do I think the Cavs can win 116 this season? Probably not.
In fact, there’s no shame in acknowledging that these new-look Cavaliers might take some lumps during the regular season. Even I might not call for an undefeated campaign. After last spring’s shamockery against the Celtics, I learned that there really are only three absolute certainties in this crazy world: Death, Taxes, and the George Carlin rule that states: NEVER drive behind a man over 50 who’s wearing a hat.
The annual preseason road trip to Pittsburgh is actually one that I thoroughly enjoy. Despite their hatred and/or pity for our football team, Pittsburghers love them some Cavaliers basketball. I can only assume that they’re fairly indifferent to the Spurs.
These facts don’t obscure the fact that I was extra-cheesed when Shaquille O’Neal donned a Ben Roethlisberger No. 7 Steelers jersey following last year’s drubbing of Dallas in Pittsburgh.
Maybe I’m just a traditionalist or just some provincial putz from Garbage Heights. But if you play for a Cleveland team, you roll with other Cleveland teams – and certainly never with their rivals. To me, a Cavalier sporting a Big Ben jersey is as shameful as, say, one wearing a Yankees hat to a Tribe game.
I’m not bashing the Diesel, but I do know that – for all our faults – Clevelanders can smell demagoguery and carpetbaggery a mile away.
After Thursday’s victory, I don’t expect Daniel Gibson to don a Colt McCoy jersey. But it wouldn’t surprise me if he did.
Boobie is the brand of new Cavalier that the North Coast can get behind and stay behind. “All for One, One for All” is more than some palindromic platitude to these guys. It’s who they are.
Speaking of young Daniel “Colt” McCoy – he and our beloved little Pumpkinheads will attempt to shock the world on Sunday afternoon.
On Sunday at Heinz Field, the freshman from Texas will likely make his first NFL start for the Brownies. On the other side, Big Ben gets his first start of the season following a four-game suspension. Roethlisberger probably won’t have the Big Aristotle around to support him on Sunday. But I’m sure “dahn-tahn” Pittsburgh will still be electric for his comeback.
Naturally, I’m calling for the upset.
I think Colt can fare better than pundits have predicted. I think we haven’t had an enforcer like T.J. Ward in the defensive backfield since Eric Turner. And I think Payton Hillis is more than just another great Caucasian running back, he could one day be the face of the team.
And I think the Browns can win a low-scoring affair.
But that’s getting way ahead of ourselves.
First, let’s look for another Wine and Gold win on the Pitt campus on Thursday evening. After returning home, the Cavaliers will welcome CSKA Moscow to The Q.
That matchup will see the return of former Cavalier, Trajan Langdon, who dropped 20 points on the hated Heat on Tuesday evening. It will also give fans a look at center Sasha Kaun, whose rights the Cavs obtained in the 2008 Draft.
It’s nice that we and the Russians can now coexist through the wide, wide world of sports. It’s not like it was before Ronald Reagan won the Cold War – where we Americans had this belief that our country is so very good and the Russians are so very bad.
That’s almost all for today, comrades …
Before we adjourn, what kind of Cavaliers would we be if we didn’t wish our good friend – the legendary and lovably irascible Joe Tait – our enthusiastic “Get Well Soon” wishes?
The recent Hall of Famer ran into some health complications in the Lone Star State. But he’s on the road to recovery, and his golden voice should grace our airwaves again soon. In the meantime, let’s all think a good thought for the iconic Voice of the Cavaliers.
As for the rest of you non-iconic members of the Cavaliers family, keep up the good preseason vibrations. And more importantly …
Keep the faith, Cleveland
You can follow The Optimist and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsOptimist.