With 2:58 left on the clock before halftime, an enthusiastic group of people dressed in Sugardale hot dog suits paraded onto the middle of the basketball court, led by the energetic Sir CC. Their mission was simple: to get the fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers pumped up. With the score tied and the home team and crowd alike in need of an energy boost, Sir CC began firing Sugardale hot dog t-shirts out of a cannon and into the arms of the roaring fans within Quicken Loans Arena. The mission was a howling success.
And yet, not everyone was pleased.
“You wanna know what the Spurs are giving away at their home opening game? Replica championship rings, not XXL hot dog t-shirts that no one will ever wear,” said a man simply known as “RJ.”
RJ, an employee of SportsMEDIA Technology Corp (SMT), attends the game because of his job, which entails reviewing arena equipment and technology. He’s a Spurs fan, and since they are the defending NBA champions, he looks for ways to belittle the Cavs in any way he can, as they represent the greatest threat to dethroning his precious team from San Antonio. He isn’t the only one that doesn’t have love for the Cavs’ new look, either. Their sudden ascension to NBA powerhouse naturally opens the door for people to trash talk the star-studded squad.
However, in tonight’s contest, that star-studded squad isn’t in action. Both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are resting due to injury and soreness, and Tristan Thompson, a starter and key player, is sitting out as well.
Even Moondog, the main mascot that handles most mascot-responsibilities, sits out of tonight’s game with an illness. The official Cavs twitter took the time to let everyone know that he couldn’t make it on his behalf. That’s why Sir CC was left with much more pressure to keep the crowd entertained and engaged—a task that normally should not be very hard during this upcoming season.
Tonight, however, was different.
With James, Irving, Thompson (and Moondog) sitting out, the Cavs simply didn’t have the energy or talent tonight that they will be deploying for the rest of the season. Cleveland fans knew the biggest names wouldn’t be playing, and as such, many elected not to come to the game. “Loudville” barely echoed, and the arena was never more than halfway full. The brand new Jumbotron was covered by a tarp since it wasn’t functioning yet, leaving the fans that did show up with the option of two smaller screens to watch for replays. Not to mention, the miserable Milwaukee Bucks were in town and they’re not known for being a “must-see” attraction.
At face value, these all sound like they will add up to a terrible, if not boring game; maybe the worst of the entire year.
In actuality, it’s a recipe for what may be the most unique game of the season.
With all the stars out of action, the Jumbotron cloaked and a vast array of empty seats, the audience is presented with the exclusive opportunity to take in that which is normally ignored at the Q, including both the arena and some of the players. Every game this year will be sold out, but not tonight.
Because of that, fans were left with a different experience and different ways to enjoy the game—including really taking a look at the Q, since it’s so empty. Despite RJ’s hatred of the new-look Cavs, even he marvels at the stadium.
“Organization-wise, I’m super impressed. They’re ready for anything, know where everything is. They have a backup for everything and every scenario that could happen in this arena. This is the fifth arena I’ve been to in the past week and a half, and it’s the best I’ve seen by far in terms of technology and how prepared the staff is. I never expected to be talking to you about this at a Cavs game, but with ’Bron and Kyrie out, there isn’t much else to talk about.”
The arena isn’t the only thing that stands out with the stars resting and the fans at home.
Tonight, other lesser known players rose to the occasion. Bench players like A.J. Price, Joe Harris, Matthew Dellavedova and Alex Kirk all outperformed Milwaukee’s starting unit in the Cavaliers 106-100 victory. They relished the opportunity to play more minutes, demonstrating just how deep this Cavs roster is.
And that fact wasn’t left behind by some of the Cavaliers’ bigger stars, including head coach David Blatt. In his post-game press conference, Blatt lauded the efforts of two of his bench players:
“Tonight was a good body of work from Alex Kirk, a guy trying to make our team, and he was playing against the first-team of Milwaukee, and he played respectably well. As for Matt [Dellavedova] we’re asking a lot of him…and I’m really happy with Matt.”
However, the NBA is all about its stars, and Coach Blatt knows that, too.
“No disrespect to Matt as a player, but I’m also really, really anxious for Kyrie to come back.”
The fans are too. They also want LBJ, Tristan and Moondog to come back as soon as possible as well. And they will. Coach Blatt expects them all to be back either next game or the game after. Then the regular season will start and the crazy, sold-out games will begin.