Most everyone who follows the NBA suspects this will be the Cavaliers’ year.
And even in season-opening defeat, the Cavs gave a few examples as to why.
Yes, the Cavs dropped a 97-95 road decision to the Chicago Bulls. Yes, they had a chance at the end — only to have their last gasp go kaput. And yes, they displayed several areas in which there’s room for improvement.
But hey, as far as season-openers go, it sure beats last season.
Last season, the Cavs opened at home to tons of buzz. LeBron James was back. Kevin Love was in town. Kyrie Irving was still a key member of the team. And David Blatt was making his NBA coaching debut.
And the Cavs went kaput — and to the lowly New York Knicks to boot.
This time, hype is an afterthought. Everyone understands the Cavs’ potential, assuming they get (and stay) relatively healthy.
Much like the end of last season, the Cavs are without Irving, who’s still recovery from knee surgery in June. They’re also minus Iman Shumpert (wrist surgery), their starting shooting guard in the Finals.
But they were right there, on the road, against a very good team — with an opportunity to tie or win at the end.
"That’s all you can ask," James told reporters in Chicago.
And there was plenty of good news to come out of it.
James scored 25 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Love went for 18 and eight, respectively. That included two big 3-pointers near the end to give the Cavs their fighting chance.
And old friend/newcomer Mo Williams filled in for Irving at point guard to the tune of 19 points and seven assists.
But those are just numbers from one night. One night that, aside from perhaps President Barack Obama’s presence, doesn’t really mean a whole lot.
What’s more telling is how the Cavs stuck with it, how they dug deep when everyone else in the building wanted them to fail, how you could tell that none of this was new to them.
Basically, they didn’t know what to expect last season. They knew they’d be really good — they just didn’t really seem sure how to go about getting there.
Today, though, not much is new.
Blatt knows his players and his players know the coaching staff.
James knows Love, Love knows Tristan Thompson (12 rebounds), Thompson knows Timofey Mozgov, Mozgov knows J.R. Smith … on and on it goes.
And these Cavs know winning. They know surviving. They know the regular season is one massive basketball marathon, and that what matters most is to play your best at the end.
That’s not to say they were content with final result Tuesday. It’s just that they understand what happens now isn’t the end of the world, nor the beginning of something great — regardless of whether things bounce their way.
It’s just a time to improve, to show the rest of the league they’re truly the force everyone says they are, and a team that isn’t as concerned with finding its way as it is with letting that way come to it.
The Cavs lost a close game to a good team on the road on opening night. That’s really all you need to know about the first game.
The rest, and the best, is likely yet to come.
Sam Amico is an NBA broadcast analyst for FOX Sports Ohio and the editor of AmicoHoops.net. His Cavs column appears each week during the season on FOXSportsOhio.com.