The Cleveland Cavaliers' season ended in bitter disappointment when the Boston Celtics knocked them out of the playoffs in May. That setback paled in comparison to the blow absorbed two months later when LeBron James made "The Decision" to leave his home state to join Miami.
The Cavaliers are no longer one of the league's marquee teams and may be hard-pressed to even make the playoffs as they begin to pick up the pieces following the departure of James in their season opener Wednesday night at home against the Celtics.
The date of July 8, 2010, will forever be remembered in Cleveland (0-0) after James -- an Akron native who became an iconic figure in Ohio after being drafted first overall by the Cavaliers in 2003 -- used a nationally-televised, prime-time special to utter the infamous words that he was "taking his talents to South Beach" to try to earn his first NBA title with the Heat.
The loss of James capped a tumultuous offseason in which popular coach Mike Brown was fired and general manager Danny Ferry opted to leave the organization.
The moves were thought to be orchestrated by owner Dan Gilbert in an effort to re-sign James. Gilbert was rebuffed by Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, and eventually hired former Nets and Hornets coach Byron Scott on July 2.
When the two-time MVP departed six days later, Gilbert lashed out in an open letter to Cavaliers fans, guaranteeing that Cleveland will win a championship before "the self-titled former 'king' wins one." A local radio host hired a witch doctor Tuesday to try to jinx James and his attempt to win a title elsewhere.
Cleveland won the most games in the NBA the previous two seasons (127), but never reached the stated goal of winning the franchise's first title. The expectations are far lower now.
"I love the underdog theory," Scott said. "Being a guy who came in and was put in the same situation, I can relate to it. I know it's a very motivating factor for a lot of players.
"As much as possible, I'm going to keep bringing it up. I don't want them to forget what people are saying and writing about them. If that's the thing to keep them motivated and playing at a high level, I'll say it every single day."
Williams -- the leading returning scorer at 15.8 points per game -- is questionable for the opener after missing most of the preseason with a groin injury.
"So yes, it was a time where I felt their same pain," said Williams about losing James. "But at the same time, when you get here and get around this organization and the new team and Byron and the new coaches, you feel excited."
A less notable departure for Cleveland was the loss of Shaquille O'Neal to Boston (1-0). The declining 38-year-old center had a minimal impact in his lone season with the Cavaliers in 2009-10, and signed a two-year offseason deal with the Celtics.
O'Neal and Boston got the NBA's first look at James in an 88-80 victory over Miami in the ballyhooed league season opener Tuesday. While James scored 31 points, the Celtics held Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to a combined 21 and limited the Heat to 36.5 percent shooting.
Rajon Rondo, who averaged 20.7 points and 11.8 assists in last season's playoff series against the Cavaliers, handed out 17 assists. Ray Allen scored 20 points, and O'Neal was limited to nine and seven boards in 18 foul-plagued minutes in his Celtics debut.