In early January, the Cleveland Cavaliers added J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. Just a little while later they brought Timofey Mozgov aboard. They had drafted Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson a few years prior, and traded for Kevin Love. LeBron James decided Cleveland and Akron meant enough to him, and Irving and Love were good enough, to justify coming home.
My first thought after Mozgov was brought aboard was of the scene from Hoosiers, when Gene Hackman's Norman Dale addresses a skeptical school missing its star player Jimmy Chitwood and says "This is your team."
Well Cavs fans pic.twitter.com/6TWhk98cxU— David Zavac (@DavidZavac) January 7, 2015
The point? The Cavs doubled down on the Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Love core, even though the win-loss record wasn't great. If you were coming to this blog, you knew that the Big 3 was playing pretty well together. It made sense. I loved the moves. But this was going to be your team. As long as Kevin Love stuck around, as long as James stuck around, the core was in place. It wasn't clear that it would work, but hey, David Griffin and Dan Gilbert made their bet.
In the movie, Hickory is struggling waiting for Jimmy Chitwood (JC initials, who comes from the wilderness to lead his team to ...) to come back. LeBron James was taking his own sabbatical.
What was the bet? It was the Big 3. Irving and Love, who hadn't won anything, with LeBron James. But it was also Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson and Timo Mozgov. You'd have to work pretty hard to find a Cavs fan who wasn't happy with the way all six of those players came through. Well, maybe you wouldn't have to work hard, but people are pretty crazy out there. J.R. Smith might have played his way into the core. He hasn't been re-signed yet, so who knows?
There wasn't a championship at the end of the line. Love got hurt, Irving got hurt. In the end it was LeBron James winning himself an ESPY and two Finals games. When he's on stage looking uncomfortable at winning it's not an act. The man has higher goals; he needs titles, in the plural sense. But Griffin and Gilbert's bet looks good, largely because of the way the Cavs played when healthy, but in part because Kevin Love re-upped long-term.
Kyrie Irving has a five year deal that kicks in this season.
Kevin Love has a five year deal that kicks in this season.
Iman Shumpert has a four year deal that kicks in this season.
Timo Mozgov is on the roster for at least one more year.
Tristan Thompson might end up with a five year deal that kicks in this season.
The team is in place. It's crazy expensive. The signs point to it being crazy good. There are a few other teams that are crazy good. The Warriors loom large, again. The San Antonio Spurs. I could just list random Western Conference teams, really. Miami improved. The East isn't a disaster.
What additions Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson do is important without being important. In the long-term, it's the Cavs' Big 3 and a select few role players. But we also learned in the playoffs you need a couple guys who can step in when guys go down. We'll see if they are enough. My gut tells me if Love and Lebron and Kyrie aren't ready to go, you just take the results as they come. It's hard to complain at that point.
It's an expensive roster. It's a good roster. It's a fun roster. This is your team.