SPORTS

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February 18, 2003

It's dark and lonely in here

John Lucas was fired from his position as head coach of the Cavs almost one month ago. Lucas's bald pate still graced the front page of Cavs.com, your and my official Internet home of the Cadavaliers, until some undisclosed time in the middle of the night a few days ago. This is some weird nouvelle observational journalism I'm unleashing on everybody here, about Web pages and John Lucas and whatnot, but the point(s) remain(s). On the cruise ship RMS Cavalier, sailing out of the icy breast of the lower Cuyahoga, no one is minding the tiller. In the snack bar on that ship, there is no one minding the counter. No one is there to notice there's no one minding the counter, and summarily steal Hot Pockets. In the ballroom, there are no dancers, no white-jacketed waiters, no lousy band. There's just a drum kit with "CAVS" splashed across the bass and a spider. Maybe a banner saying "Welcome Darius M" is fluttering down from the ceiling, à la the end of Jurassic Park. The lights are on, and if anybody lived on the boat, they would most certainly not be home.

A quick check of the usual NBA avatars can tell you the following things about the Cavs: They stink and they have no fans. Despite this stinkiness, the avatar will tell you the Cavs are young but dumb, talented but unrefined, and generally an Eastern answer to the dudish ways of the L.A. Clippers circa 2001. The acquisition of Darius Miles from those Clips last summer (for Andre Miller, the Cavs' only polished young guy) and the selection of Iverson Lite practitioner DaJuan Wagner occasioned an ill-advised run on blind optimism late last summer. That optimism grew with the reappearance of Zydrunas Ilgauskas's feet intact. The Cavs were 2-2 on November 5. The optimism could not be reached for comment when the Cavs were 2-17 on December 2.

And the really sad thing, to get back to the boat thing, is that there are no icebergs on the great Lake Erie to end the misery on this ghost ship. Sure, a few thousand Clebians might file into Gund Arena every few nights to see if the ship sank yet. The only thing resembling an iceberg for the Cavs is June's draft and the possibility that LeBron James might wind up with the Boys in Light Blue, (who will be the Boys in a New Expression of Wine and Gold this time next year).

That last sentence is where the Timeliness Monster jumped through the flimsy matte backdrop of this article, and put LeBron James in italics. Yes, the LeBron James. Rwaarr, the Monster growls. He's only 17 (LeBron, not the Monster), but his deification paperwork is already in interdepartmental mail. Everybody thinks the lottery will funnel LBJ to the Knicks, but the Cavs have the worst record in the NBA. Sure, the last time there was a NBA Jesus Giveaway, Ricka Pitino was left crying all over his many game pieces while Gregg Popovich and his weird face were running off with the Free Tim Duncan ticket. But the Cavs. The Cavs are due. James will revitalize a Cavs franchise, rebuild a fanbase, and lead the Cavs back into the playoffs.

Here's where my theory about Cleveland sports teams comes into play. My theory about Cleveland sports teams is that nothing good ever happens to them, especially where winning is concerned. This axiom applies to drafts. Take for instance the 1995 NFL Draft, in which the Browns were poised to grab TE Kyle Brady, who, as far as abstinent meatheads are concerned, was not yet known to suck as much as he is now. The Jets grabbed Brady one pick in front of the Browns, who were so flabbergasted by this that they immediately traded the 12th pick to the Niners in exchange for the 30th pick, which is obviously very dumb.

Back to the narrative drive, taking my theory at face value, this means the Cavs will get cuckolded by some random team, possibly Denver or maybe even the Knickerbockers, lose out on James, and blow their pick on Ferrick Piewright from DNP State, and immediately set their brain trust to the task of coming up with a good excuse for blaming everything on the coach when Ferrick gets arrested after propositioning a female referee for sexual favors.

But there are wrinkles to examine here, or one wrinkle, anyway: What if the Cavs do get LeBron James, and he just sucks? The list of guys who had it and lost it, who had it but lost some of it on a glass table somewhere, had it but died, had it but shot somebody, is particularly long in the NBA. For every Kobe or KG there's a Connie Hawkins or Dontonio Wingfield. There's even a few Earl "The Goat" Manigaults in circulation. While James will see the NBA almost without fail, his success is no given. As LeBron exists now, he's all hype and no payoff, all green light and no dock. So the Cavs dribble on, ill-advised three-pointers against the current, borne back relentlessly to the NBA's third division. While my screed about life with the Cavs and the Timeliness Monster and that whole Gatsby thing may be working at cross-purposes, let the Monster and I pull the bigger ideas here into watch-your-finger-it's-sharp relief:

1. The Cavs stink, and I am working through it.

2. LeBron James is a burgundy herring, a false idol, a Kyle Brady in short pants.