It’s taken me a little bit of time to recover from the Cavs’ devastating play-in loss to the Hawks.
In a game that looked like a sure win, with Cleveland’s lead ballooning throughout the entirety of the first half, we were quickly sobered as the team fell back to earth in the minutes that mattered most.
Credit where credit is due, Trae Young took over the game despite a lackluster start, and put the inexperienced Cavs in their place. But what made me most bitter was that the team seemed to revert to the team that I’d become so frustrated watching over the past few seasons.
Although plagued by injuries throughout the year, the Cavs truly shined while healthy, and honestly looked like one of the best teams in the East. Anchored by rising stars who could compete on both ends of the floor, it seemed like a sure thing that we’d be competing in the postseason.
But, from what I’ve learned as a long-time sports fan, nothing is ever guaranteed until that final buzzer sounds.
I think I’d also set my expectations a bit too high. I was hoping to be sitting here the morning after the game writing about how proud I was of this team, and how excited I was that, for the first time in my 15??? years of watching basketball, a LeBron-less Cavs team had finally made the playoffs.
I had hoped for the best, and was in no way prepared for the worst.
And so, that Friday night, I sat in silence alongside the nearly 20,000 fans packed into the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, stunned at the collapse that made it seem like we still hadn’t awoken from the nightmare that was the past few seasons.
But you know what they say, with some distance, all wounds heal, and while I’m still bummed no doubt about the fact that I can’t watch my guys competing on the biggest stage in basketball, I find it important to remind myself just how proud of this team I really am.
I’ll be honest, since LeBron’s departure in 2018, I started falling out of love with basketball. It’s hard to look at things with optimism when your entire life’s experience with that thing has been negative.
I just didn’t know winning basketball without LeBron James.
And as such, I found myself becoming disinterested in the sport as a whole, because no matter who I was watching, I was reminded that my team was sitting right there at the bottom.
It’s even more difficult to accept it when that thing means so much to you. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve pretty much defined myself by my love of basketball and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
So the past few years have been strange to say the least, as I still wore nothing but Cavs gear and touted my guys at every chance I got despite the fact that I couldn’t bear to even watch games on most nights, whether the Cavs were playing or not.
Maybe that makes me a bad fan. I don’t know, I think I’m still parsing through all of that in my own head.
But what I do know, and what I can say with the utmost confidence is that despite the disappointing end to the season, this Cavs team has reignited a passion that I haven’t felt in years.
I’m inspired by the game again. I’m invested in it in a way I haven’t been maybe since the Finals win in 2016.
I’m rediscovering a passion that has shaped a massive portion of my life, and it’s because of this Cavs team that I’m as optimistic about the future of the sport as I’ve ever been.
I’m excited to see Darius Garland continue to blossom into a leader, and one of the best guards in the league.
I’m excited to see Jarrett Allen (AKA Fro-hio) protect the paint better than any big in The Land ever has.
I’m excited to see Evan Mobley grow from a potential Rookie of the Year into a true superstar.
I’m excited to see the role guys, the unsung heroes like Lauri Markkanen and Kevin Love come back more pivotal to this team than ever.
Am I bitter about that final game? Sure.
Am I disappointed with how the season ended? Of course.
Am I bummed that I can’t watch my team continue to compete? Definitely.
But that’s all outweighed by how optimistic I am about the future of this franchise.
The struggle doesn’t hold a light up to how happy I am to be properly in love with the game of basketball again.
And nothing can describe how excited I am for next season, the future is bright in Cleveland.
This is just the start, can’t hold us down for long. We’re ready to bounce back stronger than ever.