CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns and the Cleveland Cavaliers are not alike. As a matter of fact, you cannot find two more different franchises. Whereas the Browns are grossly calculated and suffocating, the Cavs are a breath of fresh air — an innocence that seems at every turn to make you forget about the blight on the shore of Lake Erie.
And if the Cavaliers can mimic the success of the AL Central Champions Cleveland Guardians, it may help former Browns fans recover from a painful summer.
The atmosphere at Cavs Media Day was palpable. Exciting even. The players were giddy, the media had a pep in their step — everyone seemed to believe the team is on the cusp of something special.
Coach J.B. Bickerstaff refused to put a ceiling on the team’s expectations. Which is fine, and probably what the coach of a young team with potentially four All-Stars under the age of 25 HAS to say, but for a 44-win team that lost in the play-in tournament last year, anything less than second-round of the playoffs is a letdown.
The level of expectation and hype around this team is real. With the recent acquisition of Donovan Mitchell, the Cavs are locked and loaded to make a deep run in the East. You don’t trade for Mitchell and be satisfied with a first-round exit. You trade for a player like Mitchell with the idea of making noise in the postseason. You trade for a player like Mitchell with the idea of being a contender for YEARS to come.
Not putting a ceiling on the team’s expectations is coach-speak for “we have a shot at contending, but I don’t want to put that on the young team.”
Nine-year Cavs legend Kevin Love (and yes, he is a Cavs legend and his jersey will hang from the rafters at The Rock) sees the window for this team and can’t help but think about what COULD be.
“I’ve never been part of a team that’s so young and talented with depth at every position,” he said.
Love understands the unique opportunity the Cavaliers find themselves in. With masterful moves by Koby Altman and Co., the Cavaliers have one of the best young cores in the league, led by Darius Garland, and that’s not hyperbole.
“I think it’s going to be a good season, not hoping,” Garland said.
Garland’s quiet confidence was authentic. It was fascinating to see the players tow the line between confidence and arrogance. It did not seem contrived or fake — the players genuinely believe in themselves. And it was refreshing.
And it made you believe in them as well. And right now Cleveland needs authenticity.