Hurts so good

Kenny Roda will be writing a weekly blog on Cleveland Scores covering the entire Cleveland sports universe. Check back often for his updates!

The NBA’s second season, known as the playoffs, has brought joy and pain to Cavalier fans everywhere. Expectations were high this year. Making the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons and securing home-court advantage for at least one round were reasonable goals at the start of the season. LeBron and the Cavaliers did both. Win a playoff series and give “The King” valuable playoff experience? Check those off the list as well. Shock the NBA world by upsetting this year’s favorite to win the NBA title, the Detroit Pistons? Well that’s where the pain part comes in.

The Cavaliers held a 3-2 series lead over the Pistons after stealing Game 5 in Motown and set up a golden opportunity for the city of Cleveland to celebrate an upset of major proportions and do so on their home floor in Game 6. The script was written. LeBron James, in his first playoffs, would lead a late fourth quarter charge at “The Q” and the Pistons would be history, while the Cavs would make history in front of their hometown fans. One problem. Well, actually, there were a number of problems. Never underestimate the heart of a champion. You can’t give up four offensive rebounds to Detroit in the final minute of a closeout game. Mike Brown, the rookie coach, failed to use a timeout to draw up a game-tying play for the world’s best player.

You lose the home-court advantage you stole from Detroit. Then you go and get pounded on their court in Game 7 and it is vacation time for the players, as well as more pain and disappointment for the fans of C-Town.

But even though that was the way the Cavaliers’ season came to an end, it was a season in which LeBron James and the rest of the team grew and got better. And they did so without having their key free-agent acquisition, Larry Hughes, for over 40 games. Hughes was supposed to be Robin to LeBron’s Batman and even though that dynamic duo rarely played together, the Cavs still found a way to win 50 games and reach the goals we stated earlier. Now it’s time for General Manager Danny Ferry to go to work and make this team even better in the offseason.

Ferry will have to decide on whether to keep unrestricted free agent Flip Murray and/or restricted free agent Drew Gooden. Who does he spend his $5.3 million mid-level exception on? Does he spend that on one player or two? What about the biannual exception of $1.8 million? Who gets that? With the 25th pick in the June 28th NBA draft, will Ferry find a point guard that this team desperately needs, or does he go after a power forward?

Can he find a diamond in the rough in the second round of the draft with picks 42 and 55? Will that diamond come from France, Italy or Greece, similar to how the Spurs, his former team, found key players? Is there a big trade out there waiting to happen? Will free agents want to come to play with LeBron? Ferry will be very busy and needs to make the right decisions in order to make LeBron happy because the superstar is eligible to sign a contract extension on July 1, 2006. Ferry has already told me they will offer that max contract of 5 years and about $75 million as soon as they are permitted to. Will LeBron accept it, or play out next season and become a restricted free agent at the end of the 2006-2007 season?

So many questions with very few answers at this time. However, if Ferry is able to convince LeBron to sign the extension and the Cavaliers find a few answers to those questions, the pain of the way this season ended will be forgotten. The future for Cleveland could be full of so much joy for the King and his court that it could make up for all those years of futility that included “The Catch” by Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series, Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, Jose Mesa…well you get the idea! All Hail the King! Please stay!

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