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Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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Published: Friday, 5/23/2014

SPORTS COMMENTARY

Cavs’ lottery win creates intrigue

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

To steal, and then paraphrase, a line from a friend, the Cleveland Cavaliers have no problems with ping-pong balls. Basketballs? That’s a different story.

We’d need a mathematician to figure the odds of the Cavs winning the NBA draft lottery two straight years, three times in four years, or in four of the last six times they’ve been in the ping-pong dance, dating to 2003, when they used the No. 1 pick on LeBron James.

Let’s just go with colossal. The Cavs went into this season’s lottery draw with the No. 9 post position, meaning they had a 1.7 per cent chance of winning. No sweat.

In the seven years they had LeBron the Cavaliers compiled a 349-225 regular-season record and closed with five straight playoff runs. In the four years since, they’re 97-215 and the playoffs are something the players watch on TV.

The team’s last two No. 1 picks were Kyrie Irving and Anthony Bennett. We need no help figuring that batting average. It’s .500.

This will be a deep and ripe draft with the cream coming to the top in the likes of Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Duke’s Jabari Parker, both strong forwards. Throw Kansas center Joel Embiid in there too for the sake of argument among teams looking to go big.

But there may be an intriguing back-story to this draft for the Cavaliers. LeBron still casts a long, long shadow.

King James can opt out of his contract with Miami after this season or he can return to the Heat for one more season before becoming a free agent.

He left Cleveland with some monstrously ill feelings after his regrettable, made-for-TV The Decision. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, you may remember, took it personally and offered some harsh reactions.

But in a 2012 interview, James, an Akron native, said he could see himself returning to Cleveland, and that buzz has surrounded every move, good and bad, the Cavaliers have made since.

Charles Barkley then chipped in with this about LeBron a couple days ago after the Cavaliers won the ping-pong title: “I’ve always thought he was going to go back to Cleveland.”

Could that happen? Well, yeah. But it would cast a different light on that No. 1 pick in the June 26 draft.

If the Cavaliers have any sense a LeBron return could become reality, they have to position themselves in two ways. First, they have to be very careful in how they fill their coaching opening.

Second, they have to present James with the sense that he would be joining a team poised to not only compete but contend.

So perhaps the best move would be trading that No. 1 pick to Minnesota for 6-10 center/​power forward Kevin Love, who has informed the Timberwolves that he is not interested in a contract extension. The Wolves can trade him or be left empty-handed in a year when he becomes a free agent.

Love is a proven commodity with career averages of 19.2 points and 12.2 rebounds. With Love, Irving, and LeBron the Cavs would be in the money.

But does Cleveland make that kind of move without any guarantee that James would be on board?

As we said, lots of intrigue.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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