Thursday, November 30, 2006

The more things change ...

New York, Atlanta, Toronto, and Charlotte. Great vacation spots? Some of the largest cities in North America? Better places to live than Cleveland?

Or, all crappy teams that have defeated the Cavs this season? Actually, that, and all of the above. And maybe soon, all places that Lebron James would rather play than Cleveland, knowing our luck.

The Cavs' 101-98 loss to the New York Knicks Wednesday night -- at home, nonetheless -- marked the team's fourth loss to the dregs of the Eastern Conference. The Charlotte Bobcats (4-11), the Toronto Raptors (5-10), and the New York Knicks (6-11) have the three worst records in the East. Atlanta (6-7) is already 4½ games out of first in their division, the largest deficit of any second-place team. Combined, those four teams are 21-40. Take out their victories against each other and the Cavs, and they are 13-36 in all other games. Extrapolate a 13-36 record over 82 games, and you've got a 21-win team.

The Cavs have four losses against a 21-win team. Atlanta and Toronto are two of the next three opponents, which should make the Cavs as confident as a high-school freshman at his first dance.

Just when we finally thought we had a good team, the Cavs go and pull this on us. The best player of his generation playing ball in his backyard for a team that plays in what some call the worst conference in the history of sports. The Indians disappointed, the Browns went in the tank, but the Cavs were there waiting for us, waiting to build on the promise of last year.

But once again in Cleveland, it's not next year, it's last year. After Friday's game, Larry Hughes will have missed half the season. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is playing like he thinks it's still the playoffs. The Cavs can't turn up the dial against lousy teams. And God is laughing.

It's kind of funny -- here's the Cavs with a 9-6 record, a half-game out of the Central Division lead, just 2½ games behind the Orlando Magic for best record in the conference. They've defeated the Spurs in San Antonio, which happens as often as Rasheed Wallace says something nice about a referee. They're on pace to win just as many games as last season. They've got a presumably happy Lebron James locked up until the end of the decade.

And yet there's that Cleveland smell lingering around this team. Do we look at the 9-6 mark, which puts them in the top quarter of the league in any given year? Or do we look at the fact that 13 of the first 15 games were against teams currently with losing records, and wonder why that mark is only 9-6?

No one wonders what God's looking at. And really, after what's happened in this town for four decades, no one really wonders what the rest of us are looking at either.

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