Cavs hit lottery again
The Cavaliers got the postseason win they needed most.
For the second time in eight years, the Cavs won the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday night, securing the No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks they will use to help rebuild a team that was left at the altar of a championship when LeBron James bolted as a free agent last summer.
''I can't believe lightning struck twice,'' said former Cavs guard and current broadcaster Austin Carr, who sobbed in 2003 when the Cavs won the lottery and the chance to pick James. ''We don't have to rebuild as much as reshuffle. And, to get the No. 1 and No. 4 also helps the mentality of a city that's not used to winning.
''This lottery means more to this town than it ever has - even more than in 2003.''
And it might make bow ties fashionable in Cleveland.
Owner Dan Gilbert sent his 14-year-old son, Nick, to New Jersey as a good luck charm. The kid with the glasses and bow tie, who represented the team on stage, came through in the clutch.
Even James had to be impressed.
The Cavs are the first team to have two picks in the top 4 since the lottery's inception in 1985.
The win was a huge shot in the arm for Cleveland fans, who had their hearts broken by James' decision to go Miami last July. They also endured injuries and a 63-loss season, when the Cavs lost a professional sports-record 26 straight games and finished with 42 less wins than in 2010.
The Cavs finally had another spring night to remember, and hundreds of their fans celebrated wildly at a team-sponsored event near Quicken Loans Arena. When the placard showing Minnesota as the No. 2 team was held up, some fans jumped on tables while other hugged.
After the lottery ended, other fans hollered as they walked from restaurants down trendy rain-soaked West 4th Street next to the arena.
This wasn't a title, but in a city that hasn't had a champion since 1964, you take what you can get.
''A beautiful night and we're thrilled about it,'' Gilbert said on a conference call from New Jersey.
Gilbert said the 10 months since James left have been hard - on everyone.
''It has been a roller-coaster ride,'' he said. ''Obviously shocking events took place last summer for not just myself, but a lot of people in Ohio. It was a slow, long and painful haul to get through it, and maybe this will be the final straw of getting over the hump and getting to the other side and having a lot hope for the future, and thats what we need.''
It was Gilbert's willingness to take on Baron Davis' $28 million contact over the next two years that paved the way to Cleveland's lottery win. In return for point guard Mo Williams, the Cavs got Davis and a first-round pick from the Los Angeles Clippers.
And that's the one - with a 2.8 percent chance - that won the lottery.
''I knew it was the right move all along,'' Gilbert said. ''When it was over, someone on stage told me that it was the Clippers' pick and I thought they were messing around. It wasn't until 10 or 15 minutes later when I actually started to believe it. Kudos to (GM) Chris Grant and our front office for pulling that trade off. Obviously, it couldn't have been better.''
When James left, Gilbert boldly predicted in a famous letter to Cleveland fans that the Cavs would win a title before James. That might still be a reach with the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, but Gilbert's time table to get the Cavs back among the league's elite will be helped by having two high picks.
''It's two major bricks in the wall,'' Gilbert said. ''I'll tell you what. We still have a trade exception and potential free agency and trading options. Hopefully we're not done with this. We'll be very focused on the draft between now and June.''
The Cavs will likely use the No. 1 pick on Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, who played in just 11 games last season because of a foot injury. Point guard isn't necessarily a need with Davis and Ramon Sessions on the roster, but Irving is considered one of the few can't-miss prospects in a draft many believe is top heavy.
Grant wouldn't commit when asked if Irving would be the Cavs' choice.
''He's a very impressive player,'' Grant said. ''He's an impressive person from afar. Because of the rules, we haven't had a chance to talk to people.''
Grant acknowledged that the two high picks could hasten the Cavs' turnaround.
''It gives us two good, very young players to add to our core and keep growing,'' he said. ''It's not a process that happens in one night. It's a process that takes some time and you have to build and let young people grow and flourish. It's day by day and brick by brick.
''It's exciting to have two picks high like that. Regardless of the outcome, we were going to get two good players and we were excited about that. This makes it a little bit sweeter.''
Grant watched the lottery unfold inside an office at the Q along with coach Byron Scott. As the Cavs got closer to getting into the top 5, Grant was so nervous he had to leave the room. And when Cleveland finished on top, the two celebrated along with Cavs assistant GM David Griffin.
''We couldn't hear anything that anyone said afterward because we were hugging each other the whole time,'' he said. ''It's just a wonderful night for our fans, a wonderful night for Nick Gilbert. It's great.''