Saturday, October 17, 2009

State of play, Part I

October is CST’s favorite sporting month of the year. It presents a convergence of college and pro football, baseball playoffs and on-the-horizon NBA action. With a fresh start represented by the Jewish New Year (5770 and it, Pharaoh!), October is also a month that gets me thinking all expansive-like about the state of Cleveland sports. In that spirit, I will present to you a three-part round-up of where our three professional teams stand as the leaves fall and another long winter approaches the North Coast like hell on icy wheels. This week I will ruminate on the franchise that’s closest to bringing our city its first championship in a generation:
I have not seen too much of the Cavaliers this pre-season...I’ve come to despise pre-season anything, so I’ll be damned if I’m watching more than five exhibition minutes of Cavs vs. Olympiakos, which means “striped pajamas” when taken from the Greek. Did you see those uniforms? That catty bitch Mr. Blackwell is already sharpening his claws for his next international basketball uniform fashion review, believe me. Still, I’m pumped about a fast-approaching NBA campaign that’s sure to contain plenty of “LeBron-watch 2010” drama, as well as cheeky quotes from Shaq.

If that doesn’t do it for you, how do you feel about a whole lot of wins and one of the top playoffs seeds in the East? Another division title, if not 66 wins, is almost a certainty. Along with acquiring the Big Man for the proverbial hill o’ beans, the Cavs also strengthened their backcourt with the acquisitions of Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon. And while I don’t love Andy V’s new contract, I suppose I can live with it as long as he (1) remains the fifth offensive option at all times,(2) never shoots outside of 7-10 feet when he does feel the need to hoist one up, and(3) grabs double-digit rebounds every night. I also want to see what Leon Powe can do if and when he returns from microfracture surgery on his knee.

I’m hearing good things about Parker thus far. While not a perennial All Star, he seems to be a guy that can come off a screen and hit the mid-range jumper, a skill that’s a lost art in the NBA. He could be big depending on the situation with Delonte West, who practiced with the team this week for the first time since leaving on an excused absence Oct. 7.

Ah, Delonte...a true wild card in numerous senses of the word. I don’t know if the Cavs need him to win a ring, but even with Shaq around, West is still arguably the second-best player on the team--a hard-nosed, highly undervalued shooter and the best on-ball defender on the roster. West’s also the only guy after LeBron who came to play every night against Orlando in last year's ECF.

The organization is dong well to keep a sensitive situation in-house. (If this were the Browns, Delonte would be cavorting atop Key Tower, brandishing a bazooka and screaming, “Top of the world, Ma!!” Then Mangini would trade him to the Jets for a conditional draft choice.) By all accounts, the daily grind of the NBA is what helps keep Delonte focused.

One wonders, however, just what in the hell West was doing sans medication hauling ass through Maryland on that ridiculous three-wheeled motorcycle, carrying two handguns and, for a final touch of cinematic absurdity, a shotgun in a guitar case. Unless he was waging war on Virginia or is, in fact, The Punisher, one also must wonder how many missteps West can take before Ferry is forced to unload him. If I know Delonte, and I don’t, I think he’ll be with the team for the opening tip against Boston on Oct. 27. Hey, I’m an optimist.

Well, I’m usually an optimist...come back next week for an exclusive Cleveland Sports Torture breakdown on the state of Cleveland Indians. Try to keep your chin up.