Monday, December 13, 2010

Tornado Alley inspiration

Another night and another blowout defeat for your reeling Cavaliers. However, unlike the other thumpings the Cavs have taken over the course of an eight-game losing streak, Sunday’s 106-77 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder can at least provide a teachable moment for Cleveland fans.

That moment is this: When it comes to salvaging this quickly sinking franchise, owner Dan Gilbert and GM Christ Grant should be using the Oklahoma City model for inspiration. The Thunder, like the Cavaliers, don’t play in a glamorous city that’s going to attract prima donna free agents looking to party with the rapping singer "Akorn" or whoever the kids are "Spacebooking" (my mom's word) about these days. Nor is Tornado Alley the place where $600 sunglasses-indoors types are flocking to in order to “grow their brand.” Remember when Chris Webber complained about Sacramento having no good soul food restaurants? That's the NBA star secret shoe phone code for, "This place is boring." Like it or not, that's how big shot free agent athletes view our city.

But see here: The Thunder are currently 17-8 after a slow start to their season, with a roster that includes the purported "next big 3” of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green. This core trio, all acquired via draft or trade, is surrounded by a decent supporting cast, although the Thunder are at least a capable big man away from dethroning the Western Conference’s elite clubs.

Still, the blueprint is there, and is one the Cavs must copy. The crushing, embarrassing defeat to Numbah Six and friends - a laydown exacerbated by the roster’s seemingly complacent attitude toward said debacle - has exposed the Cavaliers as not only a bad team, but a mentally weak one as well.

Instead of using the game as a rallying cry, the Miami loss ushered in an avalanche of ass-kickings by such NBA luminaries as Minnesota, Detroit and Philadelphia. The Cavs have no reliable scorer, and more damningly have looked completely lost on the defensive end. At the beginning of the season, I expected this team to at least play competitive hoops and win around 35 games. At this rate, they’ll be lucky to win 20.

I’d be fine with that. I’d even be OK if the Cavs matched ESPN honk J.A. Adande’s pre-season prediction of 12 wins. Last month on this very blog, I vacillated on whether or not I wanted the Cavs to tank the season in order to get a high lottery pick. I suppose the Miami game was my “moment of clarity;” as hollow and sad as it is to root for ping pong balls, that’s what the Cavaliers have relegated us to at this point.

A roster led by Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams and JJ Hickson is rice cake-bland and good for nothing but a “three days in April” first-round waxing should the Cavs somehow stumble into the eighth playoff spot. One or two painful years for a chance to get a Durant or Westbrook is preferable to 10 seasons of low-playoff-seed water treading.

Of course, as we saw with our ex-savior, a top pick is no guarantee of anything. But high lottery selections, timely trades and a complementary free agent or two are the only way the Cavs get back to contention anytime soon. That’s reality, folks. Gilbert and Grant must look to Oklahoma City to cure what ails this roster. The rest of us must take our medicine in the meantime.