January 25, 2021 at 06:00 pm
Nathaniel Dela Cruz
Cavalier (adjective)—showing a lack of proper concern.
If there is one thing I am sure J.B. Bickerstaff has managed to accomplish this early in the NBA 2020-21 season, it is Cleveland being every bit what the moniker means as a descriptor of human quality.
Cleveland is cavalier. It seems like it doesn’t read right, but this is true and this is real. This is the state of things. This is Cavs’ basketball, by design or by circumstances.
In this world of professional sports bereft of secure tenure, coaches are generally conservative and coach with caution. Bickerstaff and the Cavs appear unintimidated and disinterested in quietly accepting the place many have reserved for them thinking the natural order of things is pre-ordained and unaccommodating to the results of events unforeseen. To say that Cleveland budged and refused subservience is an understatement—with giant strides they leaped, to the surprise of those who seek to put them inside a cage. They are moving the mountains meant to obstruct them, pushing them aside, because the Eastern Conference is a free-for-all buffet, and it seems that the Cavs were left uninvited. Nonetheless, they want their share of the meal. They want to further their worth and value. They want to shape their truth with their own two hands—be it failure or flying colors.
Never mind that they were so easily dismissed as immaterial. They race to the dogfights with death that has no consequence to a world that has already cast them out, so they fight unafraid, and the bigger dogs, wary of losing their crown and stature, find themselves distracted, outdueled, and outmatched. It is not so much as clever as it is cavalier, nonetheless, it doesn’t diminish the value of what was accomplished.
Never mind that superstars are joining forces to build teams chasing a championship, and that loaded teams are making their roster stronger and deeper still, Cleveland took the putting-together-a-ragtag-team route; scrappy and disinclined to settle for scraps.
Never mind that teams are scrambling to design their own brand of small ball because it is in vogue. Cleveland basketball is big and agile. How many teams today put premium on their center, let alone three centers? Andre Drummond plays an average of 31.4 minutes for 18.8 points. JaVale McGree is 16 and 8, and Jarrett Allen is 25 and 15. That is a lot of minutes for a lot of centers in a team that is just as loaded with very talented forwards. If you are a center for a second unit in other NBA teams, you’d be lucky to get 10-15 minutes because more often than not, as soon as the starter at five sits, what remains on the court is an up-tempo guard-forward combo unit. That is the norm for the run-and-gun, but the Cavs opted to field bigger, taller guns, and they’ve won half the shootouts so far.
Never mind that NBA fans picked other teams to occupy the top half of the Eastern Conference thinking Cleveland has neither promise nor potential, the Cavs have a plan of their own, undeterred by the pre-season power rankings and Playoff bracket expectations. Not very many, I’m sure, picked Cleveland to be a surprise contender. I guess that is what makes it a surprise. The East’s best team in Philadelphia wasn’t paying attention and as a result, they suffered their first loss of the season after a 2-0 start.
Many of us pay no mind to the Cavs’ post-LeBron James era because we assumed that it does not matter and it is irrelevant. Obviously, everyone in the Cavs’ organization is changing that. Cleveland is making itself relevant again, this time without a king, and it is not a concern: motivated men are never leaderless, rudderless, and this is what Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, Collin Sexton, and the rest of the Cavs have proven so far. Here is a band of headhunters (who scalped the touted Brooklyn Nets twice), mercenaries and assassins, and they are preparing for a heist that will soon prove inevitable. Perhaps a ring for the ring-less, and days of glory filled with wine and gold.
The eyes of destiny are not meant for man to wear. There, in that incapacity, therein lies the rewards of fortitude.
Until then, and even then—stay cavalier. Live or die with no care to the expectations of those who deny and ignore what you can become.