Sports fans in Cleveland have been here before, though not with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But what happened to their Cleveland Indians in 1997, one of the other two pro teams in this hard-luck town, could be instructive.
For the Tribe, too, once had a decision to make: trade a top-tier prospect for a proven All-Star pitcher. The two players were Jaret Wright and Pedro Martinez, and anyone who follows baseball knows who went on to put together what looks like a Hall-of-Fame career.
It wasn’t the flame-throwing Wright, whom the Tribe refused to include in a package that would have almost assuredly taken the club to a World Series victory. The Indians banked on the unseen, and they lost.
According to various reports, the Cavs are facing a similar set of circumstances. They have a chance to add All-Star forward Kevin Love, a 6-foot-10 rebounding machine who can score big points, to a lineup that features point guard Kyrie Irving and some guy named LeBron James.
To get Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Cavaliers will have to part with a talent that might be the second coming of Kobe Bryant. Then again, Andrew Wiggins might be as pedestrian as Anthony Bennett, Jimmer Fredette or Greg Oden.
No one knows how the 19-year-old Wiggins will blossom, if he does. The thought of him becoming an elite player, however, has made the Cavs balk at letting him go. Do they invest in the present in Love or keep their eyes on the long term with Wiggins?
That’s an easy question to answer if you live in a city like Cleveland, which hasn’t won a championship of any sort since 1964.
While sports fans in Cleveland can party like its 1999 now that LeBron has come home, they long for more than his return; they want a championship. And even with LeBron and Irving, the team might be a piece short of winning one right away.
Add the veteran Love to the mix, though, and the youthful Cavaliers become the favorite to win a NBA title in 2015 – next season and not two or three seasons from now.
So here’s where the team is: a championship run now or one later?
That question is even easier to answer. Now, man … win now.
The window for winning championships is small, and the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons proved that fact true over the past decade. Each team had its run; now both are in rebuilding mode. They both might wish they could go back to the future and remake decisions.
The Indians would, too. With a power-packed starting lineup, Pedro would have looked good at the top of a suspect rotation instead of headlining the staffs of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets. And Wright, well … he flirted with fame in the World Series of 1997, but ...
Wiggins might be a Wright, a thought that might make Cavaliers fans push owner Dan Gilbert hard to get Love.
Love’s that missing piece in Cleveland, a player who can complement LeBron as Irving will. And as great a player as LeBron is, he can’t win championships alone. He needs help.
He needs Love, because Wiggins, at least not now, can’t offer LeBron that kind of love just yet.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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