Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert and the Lament of Cleveland Sports
By Steven Pipps
The Cavs can’t beat the Bulls without Kevin Love. It’s a great feeling to know that such a statement is false. After game one, Bulls and Cavs fans alike were mumbling, exclaiming or debating the merits of such a claim.
Game 1 was the second time the Bulls and Cavs played this season with Love on the bench and both times the Bulls won, 98-113 and 92-99. They took advantage of the missing defensive power-forward. The Bulls produced 43 points off of the pick-and-roll in game one and Mike Dunleavy drained a wide open three to start the game for Chicago, a defensive misfire that was all too common for Timofey Mozgov throughout the night. Game 2 saw LeBron James power in the paint, draw fouls and make off balance shots. They spread the ball around better and looked like the team Cavs’ fans hoped the team would be all season.
Two games into the series, and the season record is still against Cleveland when it comes to playing without Love, down 2-1. They can still pull this out; it’s King James we’re talking about.
There was of course another wrench thrown into Cleveland’s spokes. Iman Shumpert left the game in the third with an apparent groin injury, which is a big hit to the Cavs. Shumpert has been playing lights out and the Cavs need him in the lineup. This all leads to the question Clevelanders have gotten sick of asking, why us? Why do the Cavs lose the one player that seemingly holds it all together when facing the Bulls, (Sorry JR your presence was missed but not as much as Love’s) and then possibly lose another force in Shumpert. And will, if it comes down to it, James take control of the series and lead the team unlike so many times during his first stint in Cleveland?
It’s because this is Cleveland we’re talking about and that’s what’s expected of us. Now, James never promised a title this year. In fact he said he is going to be “realistic,” about this year. He said, “I'm going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head.” The team is still figuring each other out trying to make the puzzle pieces fit until the final picture is Cleveland with the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Besides the fact that the Cavs were cobbling together a star studded team, they also had an NBA first-timer for a head coach, (albeit a very decorated one from his days in the Euroleague, Israeli League, Italian League… the list goes on), but coaching in the NBA is a different beast, especially when trying to wrangle the best player in the NBA.
Other franchises and naysayers or just Cleveland haters in general will have a simple retort to this argument: What about Derrick Rose three years ago when Rose was injured after the Bulls landed the No. 1 seed? What about the Thunder in 2013 when Russell Westbrook went down all but destroying the team’s chances of winning the finals? The answer to either of those is still that Cleveland hasn’t seen a championship, in any sport, since 1964 when the Browns won the NFL Championship. It is the longest drought for a city with at least three professional sports teams. Chicago had Jordan and the Thunder have an asterisk because the franchise came to Oklahoma City in 2008 and since then they have made the playoffs five out of the team’s seven seasons in OKC (They failed to make it in 2008 and most recently this season). The Thunder have made it to the conference finals three times and the finals once where they lost to James’ Heat.
The fans have nothing to complain about. They finally got a franchise and it only took one season to have a winning one.
So why does it matter? It doesn’t in the grand scheme of things. This is just sports, but to so many people it’s more than that. Cleveland came close to bringing home a championship in 1997 when they were favorites over the Florida Marlins. The marlins took it to Game 7, which they won in extra innings. It marked the first time a Wild Card team ever won the Series.
James almost brought one home the first time he played for the Cavs. The team made it to the franchise’s first ever NBA Finals appearance and lost in four games to the San Antonio Spurs.
When James came back it was an all but foregone conclusion that the Cavs would win a championship. Maybe not this year, but why not? Well, without Love the task becomes much harder and if, although not likely, Shumpert is out for a lengthy period someone needs to step up.
Granted two games is too small of a sample size especially when the Cavs played so well in Game 2 and so poorly in Game 1. Game 3 will give us a better showing of whose heart is more in it. Maybe we have to wait another year. Is that the worst thing that could happen to Cleveland? Of course not, Cubs fans have been saying it for well over 100 years, but to be let down again when there was so much hope at the beginning of the season would be a blow. There’s five more games in the series, let’s hope James can pull the team together and win it for Cleveland.