Should the Cleveland Cavaliers lose on Thursday, they will tie the 1995-96 Vancouver Grizzlies and the 1996-97 Denver Nuggets for the longest single-season losing streak of all time: 23 straight. And should they lose their following game as well to the Portland Trail Blazers, they'll tie the 24 straight losses the Cavaliers suffered between March and November of 1982 -- the record for consecutive losses between seasons.
But whether they win or not is utterly irrelevant. It honestly doesn't matter if they somehow beat the Grizzlies on Thursday, and avoid going down as one of the worst teams in history. All you need to know is that the Cavaliers team that lost 24 games between the end of the '82 and the start of the '83 seasons was, before now, the low point in the history of the franchise. At the time, the Cavaliers were run by a man named Ted Stepien, an owner so inept that he makes Donald Sterling look brilliant. Stepien did everything wrong: he appointed the general manager position to a man with no experience in basketball whatsoever, and later promoted him to head coach; he threatened to move the team to Toronto; he traded away everyone with value in an effort to cut costs, and even gave away first round draft picks in consecutive years. He was SO bad that the NBA actually had to suspend trading in the league to prevent the Cavs from making more trades that would damage themselves, and later rewarded them with bonus draft picks after Stepien was gone.
That Cavs team was so bad that they literally had to be protected from their own owner. The fact that this Cavs team, the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers, could very well be worse speaks to one and only one thing: that LeBron James is the unanimous, runaway MVP of the NBA.
This nonsense about Dirk Nowitzki and Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant needs to stop. Basketball writers aren't like baseball writers, who'll happily give Greg Maddox the Golden Glove every single year. Basketball writers want to spread the MVP award around; they don't like seeing one guy get it year after year. So when you hear Durant or Nowitzki's name pop up every once in a while, it's more from their desire to deprive LeBron of another MVP than it is because they really think Nowitzki is having a better year.
You really cannot understate what a disaster the Cleveland Cavaliers are this year, strictly from LeBron James leaving to Miami. This team led the league in wins the previous two seasons! They won 66 games games in 2009, and 61 in 2010. They'll be lucky to win 15 this time around. Their collapse is truly something to behold. Consider that the 1998-99 Chicago Bulls, after the departure of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr and Luc Longley, went 13-37 in a lockout-shortened season. This Cavaliers team retained almost all their role players from last year: Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson, J.J. Hickson, Anderson Varejao, Antawn Jamison and Leon Powe. And yet, if the Cavaliers lose on Thursday, the team will be 8-42 through 50 games -- five games worse than that Bulls team was without Jordan, Pippen and Rodman.
If that doesn't speak to the value of LeBron James, and how he WAS the Cleveland Cavaliers for all those years, then nothing does. The Bulls might be bad if Derrick Rose disappeared, but do we honestly believe that they'd be 8-42 if he left? With Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng in the starting lineup? Do we honestly believe that if Kevin Durant disappeared, that Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green couldn't get the Thunder eight wins through 50 games?
James should be the MVP not only because of the decimation his absence has leveled on his former team, but by how he's lifted his new one, which has two other superstars but lacks a single non-replacable role player. If James won it, again, it'd be three times in a row, which is why most writers would rather give it to someone with a little less bravado and ego, like Durant. But in the same way that the football writers had to wipe their hands and give the Coach of the Year award to Bill Bellichick, the basketball writers will eventually have to give it to LeBron. If this guy isn't the most valuable player in the NBA, then who the hell is?