Courtesy of MCT
On July 8, 2010, all of Cleveland sat on the edge of their collective seat as “The Decision” broadcast began. The tension was high, but there was great hope that LeBron James would announce his intentions to re-sign with the hometown Cavaliers. Within the hour, the city was brought to its knees as James announced that he would be “taking his talents” to South Beach. That morning was arguably the last time as much hope had surrounded the Cavaliers as it does today.
The new-look Cavaliers, led by 19-year-old point guard Kyrie Irving, the No. 1-overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, have gotten off to a hot start. While by no means a legitimate playoff contender, the group has looked scrappy jumping out to a 4-3 record, which is something that many Cavaliers fans probably did not envision seven games deep.
And there appears to be even better days to come. With the presence of established veterans such as Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker, along with long-time Cavaliers Daniel “Boobie” Gibson and Anderson Varejao, the many young-guns on the roster have teammates they can look up to and learn from.
Still in their teens, Irving and forward Tristan Thompson, whom the Cavaliers selected fourth overall this past year, have looked wide-eyed at times, but have played with toughness and shown grit in the young season.
Thompson, who many thought was drafted too high with the fourth selection, has shown a fantastic prowess on the defensive end. Standing at 6 feet 9 inches with a wingspan of more than 7 feet, his shot-blocking ability has been on full display as well as the energy he brings on both the offensive and defensive boards. Skeptical of the selection myself, Thompson has thus far proved the doubters wrong and is likely only going to get better.
The spotlight though, is squarely on Irving. The face of the post-Lebron Cavs is clearly the 6-foot-3-inch rookie from Duke. Through seven games, Irving has averaged 14.1 points while dishing out more than five assists and grabbing nearly four rebounds per contest. At times, Irving has looked like a rookie, but he has also shown flashes of brilliance and clearly has an eye for making big-plays. His ball-handling is second-to-none and his jump-shot has looked silky smooth early in the season. He needs to cut down on turnovers, but with more playing-time and experience, Irving should only improve on his solid start. Keep in mind he plays just more than 26 minutes a game, which is nothing compared to most elite players in the league, and as his minutes increase, look for an improvement on his already-good numbers.
Part of the lack of minutes is due to Cavaliers’ coach Byron Scott’s 10-man rotation, rarely seen in the NBA. With a compressed schedule resulting from the lockout, Scott’s system is designed to keep players fresh and going hard while they’re on the floor.
An undersized team by NBA standards, the Cavaliers need all the fresh legs they can get with the up-tempo offense Scott has introduced. As soon as a defensive rebound is secured, the Cavs look to push the ball up the floor as quickly as possible to beat the defense down for a score.
Other young players such as forwards Samardo Samuels and Omri Casspi and guard Alonzo Gee have performed well and earned minutes, contributing in great fashion.
The schedule only gets tougher looking ahead, but there is optimism surrounding the team and they are playing with a pep in their step. The future of this once-downed franchise is beginning to look brighter than the sunniest skies in South Beach.