This was the last team they needed to see. The Lords of the Ring. Not them. Not on this day.
The Cavs knew that. But what were they going to do? Doesn't matter that the Detroit Pistons had nothing to prove. The Pistons' post-April 19th destiny was not just set, but their fate is possibly the exact opposite of the team of the city challenging them.
So the Cavs are the exact opposite of who they were going up against.
The Cavs, a team fighting for their lives; the Pistons, fighting for a win.
The Cavs, a team that hasn't been to the playoffs since 1998; the Pistons, defending a chip.
|Q&A WITH DAN GILBERT|
|Scoop Jackson interviewed new Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert via IM e-mail to discuss LeBron, the fans and the future.|
The Cavs, who finished their season 13-28 on the road; the Pistons, whose 11-game winning streak ended on the final day of the regular season.
The Cavs, a team with one superstar; the Pistons, with stars but none super.
The Cavs, a team that can't fill in the blanks; the Pistons, a team that has its (blank) together.
This is about the rise and eternal fall of the Cleveland Cavaliers. About an NBA team's sweet potato pie of hell after its slice-of-heaven experience. About how one season's mission turned into two halves of inevitability.
This is about two people one named LeBron, the other named Dan. Dan, the new owner of the Cavs, the man the basketball world is about to blame all of this on. And LeBron, the player who might be on limited time with the organization he was born to save.
This is their story.
"You don't understand; we can't handle this!"
His name is Vincent Flournoy. He's from Cleveland. Fan for life. Cradle to grave. The Detroit loss pushed him close to the ledge. He's trying not to lose his head.
"Cavs fans, we can't handle the rumors ... LeBron leaving?! You don't get it; this never happens to us. Not for the Browns, not for the Indians. We never have something [LeBron] happen to us. For once, the cards all fell in place. But at this point, I don't have a clue to what's going on. No one in Cleveland does. We can't take another dose of mediocrity. I mean, we can handle not making the playoffs if there's a plan to fix it, but what is the plan? I need to know. Because if this doesn't happen, if something positive doesn't come out of this, I'm going to jump off a bridge."
Webster's defines a plan as such: "A strategy worked out in advance of an action; a outline or diagram."
When Dan Gilbert took over Cleveland's basketball empire 6½ weeks ago, the future was bright, but dimming. The All-Star break was over, and the Cavs were not hooping the way they were playing before the Denver intermission.
Gilbert arrived, and a sense of deja vu began to seep in. Another hotshot young owner coming into the League? was the cry heard on radio networks. The next Mark Cuban, a Pat Croce remix? A renegade. Art Modell II?
After 11 road losses in a row, after a nine-of-their-last-12 games losing streak, after a loss to the Raptors, the new-old Bulls (despite James' 56 points), something had to be done. So Gilbert fired Paul Silas, relieving him of his head-coaching duties after only a season and a half. It seemed like a knee-jerk reaction to a losing streak, as opposed to something bigger. It was the first executive move Gilbert made as owner; and according to many in Cleveland, it was done with no "real" explanation outside of the standard "We weren't happy with the direction the team was going."