Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018
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David Briggs

COMMENTARY

Forget the future, Cavs need to win big now

  • Pistons-Cavaliers-Basketball-47

    Guard Isaiah Thomas was among those leaving Cleveland in a frenzy of trades Thursday.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • BRIGGS-MirrorsOnSport-12

Thinking out loud ...

The Cavaliers remind of one of those makeover shows where a tough-love hot shot is brought in to renovate a failing endeavor.

You know, Restaurant Impossible. Hotel Impossible. ... NBA Team Impossible.

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Guard Isaiah Thomas was among those leaving Cleveland in a frenzy of trades Thursday.

ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

Cleveland on Thursday traded its entire team save for LeBron James and a few others, executing a bold series of moves — most notably dumping damaged-goods malcontent Isaiah Thomas — in an attempt to salvage its flaming pile of a season.

With 13 losses in the last 20 games and James appearing disinterested, drastic times called for the detonator, and the Cavs correctly recognized as much. They shipped out six aging and cranky parts for four more dynamic ones, becoming younger, more athletic, and (a lot) better defensively. 

Will it be enough to win a fourth straight Eastern Conference title? Probably. And challenge the Warriors? Uh, no.

But above all, these were win-now moves, aimed to reinvigorate James — who is not without fault — and the stalest roster in the league.

That’s what matters most. For all the talk of Cleveland better positioning itself for a potential future without the free-agent-to-be James, that’s nice. Except there would be no future.

You think owner Dan Gilbert can build a winner on his own, huh? The only reason James returned in 2014 was Cleveland was so unwittingly incompetent in his absence that it lucked into three No. 1 picks. We saw Gilbert at work again last summer, letting well-regarded GM David Griffin go and trading superstar guard Kyrie Irving — disgruntled but absent leverage — to the Celtics for Thomas, Jae Crowder, and a first-round pick. The swap proved the biggest bust in franchise history.

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Thursday, though, proved Gilbert has not lost his wits entirely. When you have the best player on the planet in the final hours of his prime, you have to be willing to try anything. 

■ Toledo football coach Jason Candle is proving a more polished salesman than Don Draper.

We’d be remiss not to mention his work in signing the top-rated class in the Mid-American Conference for the second straight year. If the Rockets are serious about making a run at the mythical Group of Five title and an accompanying New Year’s Six bowl date, this is how you do it. For perspective, a class trumpeted by 247Sports.com as the 65th-best yield in the nation rated ahead of those of Boston College, Kansas State, Texas Tech, and Arizona State among other power-league programs.

Whether Candle stays a while or not, the third-year boss — building on the good work of his two predecessors — has the Rockets set up for the long haul.

■ The craziest stat from signing day: Michigan’s top-rated recruit — defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (No. 112 overall) — would have been the 14th-best prospect in Ohio State’s class.

With recruiting so much about momentum, this is truly beginning to trend toward a now-or-never year for coach Jim Harbaugh.

■ A Purdue hoops fan behind me after Ohio State’s win Wednesday: “How could this happen?”

We’re still not sure.

But a feel-good little story just got serious. Presume the third-ranked Boilermakers (23-3, 12-1 Big Ten) lose Saturday at No. 4 Michigan State (23-3, 11-2). With the Buckeyes (21-5, 12-1) owning the head-to-head tiebreaker against both, they can clinch the top seed in the Big Ten tournament with four wins in their last five games — a manageable slate that includes home dates against Iowa and Rutgers and trips to Penn State, Michigan, and Indiana.

We’d say stranger things have happened, but not really.

Contact David Briggs at dbriggs@theblade.com419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.

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