Lucky bounces bring Cavs legitimacy

Lucky bounces bring Cavs legitimacy

Published May. 17, 2011 11:49 p.m. ET

CLEVELAND — It was perhaps the longest, most disheartening season in franchise history.

But you can rejoice now, Cleveland fans.

It is officially over.

Suddenly, the Cavaliers have an opportunity to become the hot new thing in the NBA — the Oklahoma City Thunder or Memphis Grizzlies of the East.

It's what you've been dreaming about, right? A night like Tuesday, when the Cavs lucked into the Nos. 1 and 4 overall draft picks courtesy of the NBA lottery?

That's not to say luck was a bad thing. On this night, it was everything. And after a season like this past one, the Cavs certainly deserved it.

And man, they got it.

How else is there to explain the Cavs' winning the lottery with a pick they obtained from the Clippers in the Baron Davis trade (for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon)?

How else do you describe the reaction of the die-hards at a downtown establishment, who exchanged high-fives, hugs and handshakes when the No. 2 pick (Minnesota) was announced?

And how else do you fathom the idea that the Cavs potentially have more roster flexibility than at any other time in franchise history — perhaps allowing them to build bigger, stronger, faster?

"What can you say?" asked Cavs general manager Chris Grant. "What a great night."

It was a night this city desperately needed, especially after watching its last No. 1 pick announce in July he was taking his talents to South Beach. But maybe a night like this can help the city put LeBron James where he belongs — in the Cavs' history books and the back of fans' minds.

"It has been a roller-coaster ride," said owner Dan Gilbert. "Obviously, shocking events took place last summer for not just myself, but a lot of people in Ohio."

Gilbert described it as "a slow, long and painful haul to get through it." Then he paused and added, "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 that's what we need."

More to come

Grant offered no hints as to whom the Cavs might select with the top pick. The overriding consensus among media and fans is that former Duke point guard Kyrie Irving will be the guy. But Grant wouldn't go there.

Not yet.

"I don't think we can assume anything yet," Grant said. "I think we still have to go through the process."

That includes the Chicago pre-draft camp, which starts Wednesday and runs through the weekend, as well as bringing in top prospects for individual workouts, physicals and interviews.

Grant did concede that the Cavs have seen all 11 of Irving's college games (he missed most of the season with a toe injury), with Grant calling him "very impressive."

As for Irving possibly becoming the first pick since James, Irving quickly (and politely) put a squash on such talk.

"I don't think you can make comparisons to me and LeBron," Irving said. "One, I'm not 6-foot-8. Two, I'm not a high-flyer. Three, my name isn't LeBron James. Honestly, you can't make those comparisons yet. I think I would bring a different feel to the Cleveland organization, if they do decide to pick me."

Grant strongly suggested winning the lottery is just the start. He mentioned the fact the Cavs still own a $14.5 million trade exception, and even said "we would like to have more (draft) picks."

"With the trade exception, picks and players under contract, we have a lot of flexibility," Grant said. "We'll just take it day by day."

For the first time in a while, that has a nice ring to it — and it does to everyone who has experienced what this organization has been through.

"The people, the fans and the support in Cleveland has been overwhelming," Gilbert said. "It has kept (ownership) going, the front office going and the entire franchise going. For them to get this delivered back to them, and get these ping-pong balls to fall this way, gives them hope."

Hope. In Cleveland. What's not to like?