Cleveland has been waiting for a savior for a long time. Since the Browns topped the Colts in 1964 to bring the city its fourth major sports championship in fifteen years, the city of Cleveland has suffered through a remarkable stretch of futility. Three major sports teams. The Indians. The Browns. The Cavaliers. And yet nothing to show for it.
In fact, the Browns haven't even qualified for the playoffs since 2002, and even then, they only barely qualified, losing in the wild card round. Cleveland's world series drought of 67 years is the longest a city has currently endured, almost doubling the drought of the next worst city to house a professional team in each consecutive year (Pittsburgh). The Cavs have been unable to reach the pinnacle either.
This city needs a savior. For years, they hoped a man out of Akron would be the person to lead them to the promised land. And tonight, a St. Vincent-St. Mary's graduate returns home, to lead his team to glory
Okay, fine. I'm talking about JaKarr Sampson, and Cleveland's championship hopes ride on the shoulder of LeBron James. But it should be a nice homecoming for JaKarr, the only current NBA player to have attended the same high school as LeBron. Earlier this year, JaKarr spoke about his relationship with LeBron through their shared kinship.
Akron is a blue collar town south of Cleveland, where JaKarr says James was an inspiration to many of the people living harder lives there. "Everybody looked up to him. We didn't ever have anybody come out of Akron big time like that, or the state of Ohio even." Sampson's life was informed through the experiences of LeBron, who has made giving back to the community as priority. Sampson played on the same AAU team and even worked out with him during summers and participated in games on LeBron's private court.
While the two have wildly differing capabilities at this point, I'm sure it will be meaningful for JaKarr to return home with the opportunity to check LeBron on D. It's always great to return home. Doing so under these circumstances should be doubly meaningful.
Not much has changed since Monday's game.** Both teams are still wrecked by injury, and in fact both are missing a key shooter who played earlier in the week. Robert Covington re-injured his knee in practice, while JR Smith is nursing a knee contusion that kept him out of Wednesday's action.
**Side note: How ridiculous is it that the Sixers and the Cavs are already playing each other again after LITERALLY JUST PLAYING FOUR DAYS AGO?? The crazy thing is that this isn't even unique to the NBA schedule-- the Warriors have already embarrassed New Orleans twice, playing two out of the first three games of the season against each other. The Clippers demoralized the Kings twice in three games. I know that the NBA schedule is incredibly difficult to plan for myriad of reasons (arenas booked for other events, reasonably equal SOS, limitation of back to backs, etc.), but shouldn't this be easier to avoid? This seems really silly to me.
The team's goal should be to reproduce more of the same. A tough stretch in the 2nd and 3rd quarters put the game out of hand on Monday, but it was a generally positive showing that demonstrated that the Sixers should be much more competitive this year than they have been the last two.
In Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson, the Cavs have two strong perimeter defenders to throw at the Sixers' two strong big men. After struggling monumentally in the pre-season, Okafor had a great game against both players the other day. It would be fantastic to see him continuing that progress, by demonstrating that his efficiency was not a fluke.
Noel, meanwhile, should be challenged by the multidimensional offensive talent of Kevin Love at the 4 position. This is a good opportunity for both stars to stretch their wings and push themselves a bit.
It looks all but certain that these Cavs, under the direction of their real Akron savior, are headed for another deep run in the playoffs and probable Finals appearance. Here's to hoping the Sixers can be more than merely a speed bump on the way, and perhaps can earn themselves the first W of the (still) nascent season.