Historically Inept: How Did We Get Here?

By Aaron Goldhammer

Earlier this week, SportsCenter committed three minutes of airtime to a “Not Top Ten” dedicated entirely to the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers. In six months, the Wine and Gold went from the brink of a title to the brink of NBA infamy. Doesn’t this feel like a bizarre nightmare; small pieces of familiarity mixed with a scenario so bizarre it doesn’t really seem like it could be a reality? Sitting in press row at the Q the other night, I half expected myself to wake up and be back in the land of LeBron, Maverick, and Gloria. How the hell did we get here?

Most fans want to put all the blame for this historical fall from grace on the shoulders of our old pal LeBron James. Obviously, LeBron’s betrayal is the chief reason the Cavs are historically bad this season. I’m not even going to waste my time writing a blog to tell that to Cleveland fans.

However, it would be shortsighted for any Cavs fan to put all the blame on the guy Esquire’s Scott Raab calls “The Whore of Akron.”

My great-grandfather died when I was very young, but he had a saying that has since been passed down from generation to generation in my family. “Hope for the best,” Grandpa Gene would say, “and prepare for the worst.”

Now, Rizz and I are both supporters of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. We are excited for the upcoming casino and both of us truly believe that Dan has Cleveland and the fans best interest at heart.

That being said, Dan is like a lot of other billionaires: He doesn’t like to admit when he makes mistakes. Trust me, Cleveland’s basketball stock could not have fallen this far this fast without crucial mistakes on all sides of “The Decision.” Case in point:

– The Cavs never had a Plan B. Can you really fault the organization for trying to win with LeBron the last few seasons? Can you blame them for trading for parts that helped in the short term and NOT long term? Maybe not, but any smart businessman follows Grandpa Gene’s sage advice. The Cavs never prepared for any scenario in which LeBron was not a part of the team. They are paying the price for that flawed philosophy right now. They hoped for the best and refused to acknowledge that the worst was a realistic possibility.

– To this day, Dan Gilbert has yet to take any responsibility for the fact that he failed his fans. From the day he bought the team, Dan’s job was to convince LeBron James and his cronies that Cleveland was the best place for him. Blame LeBron all you want, but Dan didn’t do his job in this regard. He gave LeBron the key to the franchise, allowed his friends to run amuck, and built a giant practice facility in LeBron’s honor. It was not enough.

Dan was never able to bring in strong, credible basketball leadership. Dan needed his version of Mike Holmgren. He tried with Larry Brown, but was never able to secure someone to compete with Pat Riley.

So, here we sit, on the brink of history. The Cavs are one of the worst teams of all-time.  I can’t believe it.

If the Cavs do win the Kyrie Irving sweepstakes this June, I sincerely hope that they are not so cocky to think that they can’t learn something important from their owner’s recent, painful mistakes.



  1. Goldhammer.

    That is probably the best articulated argument I’ve yet heard on why a certain portion of the blame would fall with Dan Gilbert.

  2. It goes back further to the mess that was left behind by Paxon. Not only allowing Boozer to leave but blowing draft picks that could have been core pieces.

    What do you think the fans response would have been if the Cavs pursued a Plan B and wrote off James before July 8th? There’d be more backlash by letting the “hometown hero” walk w/o a fight, per se.

  3. C’mon Goldie…really??? You guys ALL (outside of the useless Bacon Brinda) wanted the Cav’s to blow up the team this year to get a high draft pick and look to the future. What has ended up happening is they suck without having to trade all the real talent away due to injuries and an over complicated game plan by a weak coach.

  4. Since Reghi got the boot from and his agendais to put down Gilbert at every opportunity, it only makes sense that the rest of the KNR “talent” follows suit, no that Gilbert is easy pickings. Maybe if Goldhammer, Brinda, Fedor etc had expressed this view once the season ended, that the Cavs need to explore a Plan B, I’d be impresssed.To make this kind of statement in the midst of a 23 game losing streak is too obvious. Everything is always easier when it’s 20/20 hindsight, especially when voicing ones opinion.

    • Here is what I see…EVERY time there is an opportunity to take the opposite view on a subject related to Cleveland or Ohio State sports, GOLDIE will take the opposite view of most Cleveland/Ohio State fans – book it. Every single time…

  5. Joe… would you rather this team win 35-40 games and be just good enough for the 8th spot in the playoffs or miss the playoffs with enough wins to miss the lottery? Come on man…you saw this team in the late 90’s early 2000’s!!! That’s not where any team wants to be. Look, we will get an impact player (we are assured of at least one of the top 4 picks in the draft) I agree with this school of thought. What if the Cavs had won 25-30 games in 2002? We would’ve never gotten LeBron. The Cavs have a lot of picks this yr. Might have the # 1 over all pick. They just need a good draft. I agree with what Scott posted. The drafts under Paxton and the entire Boozer fiasco probably cost this team a championahip while LeBron was here. That said, this 2011 draft is the most important draft since 1986. Just look back to 86 to see how 1 draft can turn around a franchise.
    Hammer- you put together a very articulate argument. I have to say, I completely agree with your Buckeye hate as well! I graduated from the REAL Ohio college(Ohio University) that pre-dates OSU by 70 yrs. These Buckeye honks kill me. this is Cleveland not columbus. Pretty much none of these people attended the school? I don’t get it? Buckeye fans remind me of Yankee fans with their sense of entitlement. Screw you Buckeye fan!!! The Bobcats will have a little something for you next time we play!!! Don’t sleep on the Cats!!!

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