Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hello, World.

Welcome to "Last Chance to Witness?" -- a blog devoted to chronicling the tortured thoughts, observations, and obsessions of a lifelong Cleveland Cavs fan who's both thrilled and terrified about the upcoming playoffs. Thrilled, because the Cavs have the look of a contender, and currently have the NBA's best record. Terrified, because we've been here before (one year ago, in fact) and because if all doesn't go perfectly, it may all come crumbling down. But for better or worse, I'm in for the ride.

If you've read my blogs before (links here and here), you probably know that I'm prone to wild trade speculation, to overreaction to wins and losses, and to falling off the face of the internet a few weeks into my blogging. I can't promise that I'll change the content of the blog (though, as you'll see in a few moments, I'm not entirely sure trade speculation is worth anything at this point) but I can promise that I finally have the time and attention to give my nascent NBA blogging career the attention it deserves. (And if you know me, you know how much time I spend talking about the NBA anyway.)

If you haven't, then you may be wondering: why the hell do we need another Cavs blog? Guys like Windhorst and Krolik provide stupendous game-to-game coverage, and WFNY does a great job blending the fan perspective with in-depth insight.

The answer is that we probably don't. But I really do feel like the stars are aligned, for good or for bad, to decide the future of basketball in Cleveland. With LeBron's impending free agency, the team's ridiculous salary cap status, the number of players on our roster over 34, and the lack of many realistic trade assets and franchise-caliber talent outside of LeBron, it really does feel like this season is going to make or break the franchise. Either we'll win, keep LeBron, and watch a potential dynasty unfold (or at worst, some hugely entertaining smallball that will rival the best of the Suns era), or we'll lose, lose LeBron, and watch the franchise move after painfully trying to convince ourselves that a Mo-Jamison-Hickson lineup can go somewhere.

Think about it: has there been an NBA season in recent history with this much on the line, and this many good/bad omens for a title run? Like some of the best title teams in recent history, the Cavs swung a huge and one-sided deadline deal (think the Gasol or Sheed trades of years past). We just recently re-signed our treasured veteran leader. We've got role players aplenty stepping up -- the newest of which is former NBA champion (and feel-good story) Leon Powe. We seem to find ways to win games that we have no business winning, and are better against good teams than we were last year (by a long shot). Plus, our superstar seems happy -- as you can tell from the pregame warmups, LeBron really seems to enjoy these guys, and they have a lot of odd similarities with his treasured SVSM from "More Than A Game."

On the bad side, we've got the greatest player in the NBA -- perhaps ever -- on the last year of his contract, considering making the most consequential free agent move in NBA history. We've got a bunch of old (really old) guys in our frontcourt and not much size and depth behind them (unless you are bullish on the NBA future of Sasha Kaun). We're not going to add too many guys through the draft, so aside from the remote possibility of using Hickson and Shaq/Z in sign-and-trade deals, this is basically the team we've got. And therein lies the rub of the LeBron scenario -- if you were him, and this team doesn't win a title as constituted, do you really want to stick around and use your best years playing with a streaky, often cold-in-the-clutch PG/shooter, an aging junkballer PF with some admittedly age-defying skills, a dynamic young PF that shows some signs of becoming the next Amare except for the fact that he's less able to catch the ball in traffic than I am (trust me when I say, I am not good at this), and some really, really old centers?

So that's why I'm writing. Because this is a huge playoff run for so many people. For Clevelanders, this may be our last chance to win a title in the immediate future, if not ever. For the Cavs, their finish will decide the future viability of the franchise. For the NBA, how the Cavs perform will decide the fate of one of the greatest talents in NBA history, and the shape of the next handful of NBA playoffs (as I'll discuss later, I don't see LeBron going to a rebuilding team like the Nets or Knicks, so if he moves, I expect it to be to a contender via sign-and-trade).

Now you know the why. So what will I write about? A bit about the games leading up to the playoff run. A lot about potential playoff matchups. And a good deal more about the (hopefully joined) futures of LeBron and the Cavs.

The stakes are high. And I have some free time. So it's official: I'm making the transition from constant-Cavs-related GChat away messages and occasional-Cavs-related tweets, and giving this blogging thing another shot. I hope you'll join me for the ride.