Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Summer of Love

This appears on the NBA Philippines website.

The Summer of Love
by rick olivares

The Prodigal Son is back. And what a story it is.

Hey, Thomas Wolfe… who says you can’t go home again?

Okay, the jury is still out if the Cleveland Cavaliers can win a NBA title not with the San Antonio Spurs still intact.

But you have to admit that this has feel-good written all over it.

This Summer of Love has Cleveland and all of Ohio buzzing with glee and anticipation.

LeBron James is back and he’s brought a few friends to bring a championship back to Northeast Ohio.

Four years ago, he told an audience of 13 million-plus people in 1,546 words that he was “bringing my talents to South Beach.”

This year, in a 952-word message as told to Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins, the operative phrase is, “what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.”

He mentioned “Northeast Ohio” five times in explaining his moving back.

There’s nothing like a favorite son playing at home and trying to end decades of futility and being the butt of sports jokes.

Carmelo Anthony is staying home in New York trying to resurrect a moribund franchise.

Derrick Rose was drafted by his hometown Chicago Bulls. They’ve come within sniffing distance of the NBA Finals but have fallen short. In his second comeback after a serious injury, this is more or less like a last ride for this team whose championship window is closing fast.

Remember years ago when Kobe Bryant almost left the Los Angeles Lakers for another team? Privately, I hoped he’d move to his hometown of Philadelphia but instead he stayed in Tinseltown. Now, imagine if he moved it would have been Jellybean Redux!

But the reality is even better in Cleveland.
LeBron James, even as a high school player had already captured his home state of Ohio’s imagination and drew a lot of interest throughout the United States for his prodigious basketball skills.

When the King left in 2010 to go to the Miami Heat, his arrival there also saw the addition other huge free agent pick ups in Chris Bosh, Mike Miller, and Jerry Stackhouse. The Heat won went to four straight NBA Finals where they won two but lost the bookends.

Four years later, in a bizarre turn of events, James is back in Cleveland and this time, a cast of veteran players to bring a title to Northeast Ohio. And like some basketball dribbling general manager, he’s brought in reinforcements that include Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, James Jones, and Kevin Love.

Love who is one of the more popular NBA players and who is at the prime of his career (even as Marion, Miller, and Jones are on the downside). Love who is one of the top NBA players in recent years. Love who can help in coring, rebounding, and passing.

The excitement is so hard to contain that there is news that the Cavs’ retired center Zydrunas Ilgauskas is thinking of making a comeback and playing one more time.

The animosity that pervaded the atmosphere in Cleveland after “The Decision”? It’s all gone. Past transgressions have been forgiven and everyone, not only in Northeast Ohio but also in the basketball firmament, are waiting to witness how these new jack Cavs perform.

Save perhaps in Miami, LBJ’s decision to return has been met with acclaim.

LeBron James, Mike Miller, James Jones, and Shawn Marion have NBA championships to their name. Does that mean they are less hungry?

Not at all. Players can get greedy on these championship rings. And don’t think that this doesn’t motivate Kevin Love.

LeBron, Uncle Drew and Wes on one team? Where’s Lights? Where’s Betty Lou? This is going to be fun!

Can you imagine if James is able to inspire this team of ageing stars and supposedly broken ones to a NBA title? That’s going to be one of the biggest sports stories ever!

I might be getting ahead of myself here but consider the Cavs’ four-year record sans James:

2010-11 season: 19-63 5th Central
2011-12 season: 21-45 5th Central
2012-13 season: 24-58 5th Central
2013-14 season: 33-49 3rd Central

That shows that Cleveland has been on a slow and painful upswing. But upswing it is. And this year, they look ready to challenge for Eastern Conference supremacy (more so with Indiana suffering terrible losses as Lance Stephenson left and Paul George is recovering from a crushing season-ending leg injury).

Of those four Cleveland Cavaliers teams, the one constant in those dreary years was forward-center, Anderson Varejao. Hopefully, the faithful son will be rewarded as well.

Now they might have ditched their last two number one over-all picks but this team isn’t built to win two years from now. It’s now or never in this feel good story.

Now if only we can have the Supersonics come back to Seattle…

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