June is either going to be the most epic sports month in Cleveland history (or at least in the last half-century) … or it’s going to be an epic gut punch that sends an already cursed sports city further into despair, perhaps for another half-century.
There’s no wiggle room.
(OK, there’s always wiggle room. Even when Mike Zimmer issues ultimatums to Adrian Peterson about playing here or nowhere else, there is wiggle room).
But let’s think about this: The Cavaliers, after LeBron James came back, went about as all-in on one season as a franchise can possibly go.
They traded away the past two No. 1 overall picks to the Wolves, one of whom (Andrew Wiggins) became Rookie of the Year and a potential star, for Kevin Love.
When that wasn’t enough (remember, the Cavs were 19-20 at one point), they added Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in trades for first-round picks.
Then Love got hurt in the playoffs. Kyrie Irving, the very good Robin to LeBron’s Batman, is battling through tendinitis. James openly talks of spending much of his time between games healing his body, which has taken a pounding as he has willed Cleveland into the NBA Finals.
If the healthy enough bodies can will themselves to four more victories, it will touch off an unbelievable celebration. If you think Minnesota fans have it bad, remember: no Cleveland team has won a major U.S. pro sport championship since 1964.
And of course: if Cleveland and LeBron bring home a championship, everything absolutely will be worth it. He is playing at a ferocious level and nobody should doubt his ability to do just that. But that doesn’t mean it will happen. And if it doesn’t: this could go downhill in a hurry.
Sure, any team with LeBron and Irving should be considered a contender every year, and the path to the finals in the East is far clearer than it is in the West.
But LeBron will turn 31 next season. With the emergence of big man Tristan Thompson in the playoffs, there’s no guarantee Love will have a second season in Cleveland — particularly after James, who shares an agent with Thompson (a free-agent-to-be), said recently, “Tristan should probably be a Cavalier for his whole career.”
Don’t forget, too: the Cavs were teetering on the brink in the second round, trailing 2-1 in their series with Chicago and needing a big fourth-quarter comeback (and clutch LeBron shot) to survive Game 4.
Every year is different. Every trip to the finals is precious. Nothing is guaranteed to any team, particularly these Cavaliers.
Rarely has there been a team and a city with so much to gain and so much to lose.