When the Cavaliers went up 2-1 on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, the city of Cleveland was ecstatic. This year, fans thought, would be the year that Cleveland ended its 51-year championship drought.
The Warriors inserted Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup in Game 4 and won three straight games to win their first NBA title since 1975.
For Cavs fans, there was depression. Then there was pride for what the team accomplished in the face of injuries and adversity. And now? Now there’s a little bit of a dread.
“I think you got to get by free agency,” Cleveland Plain Dealer Cavaliers insider Chris Haynes said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “There’s a lot of guys – Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith – that’s free agents. They got to try to retain that core in order to get back into contention for a title, including LeBron James there as well. But they got to get past that first. If they can get past that free-agency period with bringing back those core pieces of guys, then I think everyone is expecting next year to be the year.”
To be fair, a lot of NBA fan bases are probably a little worried when it comes to free agency. Optimistic, yes, but also a little worried.
But Cleveland is different.
“This is a glass-half-empty type of a town,” Haynes said. “They’ve been through so many downs, and every time it feels like this is their moment, something happens. This year when Kevin Love went down, it was like here we go again. Kyrie Irving went down. (People were like), ‘I knew it.’ This is the city’s makeup. That’s their mindset. So yes, every little thing gets to them because they’ve been through it all. So yes, they want to get past the free-agency period knowing that they’re going to have their core group of guys back before they can feel some type of relaxation.”
The Cavaliers’ biggest priorities will be resigning Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. If J.R. Smith walks, well, that can be overcome. But resigning Love and Thompson is key.
So is resigning James – even if he isn’t the first player the Cavs lock up.
“I was told last week that LeBron is going to wait out and see what happens with Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert – those guys,” Haynes said. “That way he’s putting pressure on the organization to make sure they get deals done and make sure they bring players in that’s going to be able to contribute and add to their depth issue that they had this past postseason. And so him waiting and sitting out and signing at the last minute has nothing to do with helping the Cavs out whatsoever. It’s about sitting back and kind of making the organization nervous. Even though he’s not going anywhere, just the threat of him just being free (could be cause for concern). Say they strike out on Kevin Love; say they strike out on Tristan Thompson. Then you got to worry about LeBron. Will he do it again? I think not. I think everybody believes that he definitely can’t do that again, but you don’t even want to play with a situation like that. So I thin he’s just putting the Cavaliers in a situation to where they’ve got to make sure they get deals done and improve this roster.”