Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Opening night jitters...we hope

The first game of the Cleveland Cavaliers' 2009-10 campaign was eerily reminiscent of the thuddingly anticlimactic final six games of the team’s 2008-2009 playoff run. Namely, the opposing team killing Cleveland with transitional threes and LeBron controlling the ball too much on offense. Trade Boston’s white over green jerseys with Orlando’s Disneyfied blue ones and there’s not that much difference between the two performances.

LeBron is calling it a “transition period.” Acclimating two new starters into the lineup after a flu-ridden, Delonte-less pre-season will certainly take some games, but I still don’t like to see the Cavs lose to an elite team at home in a manner depressingly similar to past disappointments.

The Cavs just looked slow and disjointed after the first six or seven minutes of the first quarter. The Celts took our opening punch and impressively locked down their defense, while Sheed, Allen and House splashed quick-transition threes. Fans got smacked with even more Orlando déjà vu with the reappearance of Bad Mo - both offensively and defensively – a bench bunch that was thoroughly outplayed, and some head-scratching possessions when the game was still winnable.

It didn’t take long for the Cavs to earn national disrespect. At halftime of the TNT broadcast, friend-of-Cleveland Charles Barkley (looking fairly ridiculous in a suit and a pair of Frank Costanza’s untied white orthopedic tennis shoes) proclaimed Boston and Orlando the top teams in the East.

I’m not going to get too crazy over Chuck’s assessment, his unfortunate choice of footwear, or the first game of a what should be a fun season. After all, the NBA regular season is just one long dress rehearsal for these Cavs, one where I’ll be looking at physical health and a mentally stable Delonte (whose presence was sorely missed last night) as barometers going into what will hopefully be a championship run starting in late April.

However, last night did re-expose flaws that Ferry’s off-season moves were supposed to fix. The Cavs have enough talent to overcome those flaws and beat down poor to mediocre squads on the way to 55-60 wins, but we won’t know until the playoffs whether that will be good enough to take out the top-flight teams.

The new-look Cavs have to prove they’re different from last year’s playoff-flameout iteration, but thankfully they have plenty of time to prove it.