(This is another in a series of 30 guest columns that will run in October, when optimism reigns supreme across the NBA. The theme will be “Five Reasons to Feel Positive About … ” We encourage you to follow the authors on Twitter and visit their sites. – CS)
For the Cleveland Cavaliers, rock bottom came on January 11, 2011. On that night, already entrenched in what would become a league-record 26-game losing streak, they were demolished 112-57 by the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. It barely resembled an NBA game.
That first season post-LeBron James was sort of like being lost at sea without a clear direction, or even sight of the horizon. The Cavs were devoid of young talent. Their only assets were a couple of lottery picks, although most experts agreed that it would be a weak draft.
But then Kyrie Irving fell into their laps. And with Irving, the future instantly became clearer. A fan base that had been punched in the gut in the summer of 2010 suddenly had reason to believe that brighter days were ahead.
Now that Irving’s sophomore season is upon us, there are plenty of other reasons to feel good about the direction the Cavaliers are headed.
1. They (hopefully) have a shooting guard
For more than a decade, shooting guard has been a position of need for the Cavaliers. You would probably have to go all the way back to Ron Harper for the last time that wasn’t the case in Cleveland.
Now, they hope they have found a backcourt running mate for Irving in the form of Dion Waiters. They drafted Waiters fourth overall this summer, much higher than almost everyone predicted he’d be selected.
There are certainly reasons to doubt whether or not Waiters was worthy of a top-five pick. He is listed at just 6-4; he came off of the bench at Syracuse; he didn’t work out for the Cavaliers, or any other team; and he looked out of shape during the Summer League.
But coach Byron Scott is a big believer in Waiters, even going so far as to compare him to Dwyane Wade on draft night. Waiters reportedly is in much better shape now, and if he lives up to his potential, the Cavaliers could have the most exciting young backcourt in the NBA.
2. Coaching stability
A coach who posted the second-worst record in 2010-11 followed by the third-worst record in 2011-12 wouldn’t ordinarily feel very good about his job security. But I think Scott feels just fine.
Entering his third season in Cleveland, Scott appears to have earned the complete trust of owner Dan Gilbert. He also has the respect of Irving, who grew up in New Jersey while Scott was guiding the Nets to the NBA Finals in consecutive years.
Scott runs a version of the Princeton Offense, and it can be difficult for players who are unfamiliar with his system to grasp it. Now that many of the key pieces have had a chance to play in it for a couple of seasons, it should finally run the way it is supposed to run.