CLEVELAND - Well, that sure was fun, wasn't it?
That's all I could think after watching the Cavaliers open the preseason with a 92-87 win over Charlotte at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday.
It sure was fun to watch LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal take the court together for the first time, wearing the same uniform and playing against a real opponent.
It sure was fun to see free-agent swingmen Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon, and everything each has to offer -- as both hustled and made what seemed to be a seamless transition in their first game with their new team.
And it sure was fun to think that, hey, this J.J. Hickson kid could be a nice surprise this year.
Yes, it was just a scrimmage against a franchise that has never made the playoffs. Yes, the chemistry was at times a little shaky, particularly on offense. And yes, the Delonte West situation remains unclear, and the only thing we can do about it is offer the great all-around guy and quality shooting guard our unwavering support.
Still, there's no denying that for Cleveland sports fans, the Cavs are a sigh of relief.
That was evident right from the beginning, as O'Neal scored the game's first point on free throw, and James scored the next three on a jumper from beyond the arc. Then LeBron made a steal for a breakaway dunk. Then LeBron hit another jumper. Then a little later, Parker curled around a screen, caught a pass 15-feet from the basket, and let one fly. Swish.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet your 2009-10 Cavaliers. You are gonna love them.
Seriously, has there ever been a pro athlete in Cleveland who carries himself like James? Has there every been anyone who just BRINGS IT every game, as James has done night after night, year after year?
LeBron played 14 minutes and 37 seconds. It may have been the best 14:37 in exhibition basketball history, as he made 5 of 7 field goals for 15 points, and grabbed six rebounds. And it all seemed so effortless.
But make no mistake, James is where he is because of hard work and an undying love of the game. We always see the commercials, the books, the movies, the appearances on popular TV shows -- and that's all well and good. But LeBron James is LeBron James because of what he does in the gym, often alone, where the cameras and reporters never roam.
The best thing is, while this is still LeBron's team, this team does not begin and end with LeBron. You know all about the new guys, about Parker and Moon and the big man we affectionately call the Big Diesel.
But let's not forget about old standbys like Anderson Varejao, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mo Williams. All three played crucial roles in leading the Cavs to last season's 66-16 record, the best in the NBA. All are back, happy and healthy, and ready to make another run.
I should add that I've been covering the NBA for a long, long time. I've seen a lot of Cavaliers teams, and remember where I was the night they traded for Danny Ferry. (I remember where Ferry was too, and I can tell you it wasn't the United States, but that's a story for another day.)
And I can tell you that I have never enjoyed following a team as much as this one. Not last year's team, not the team that went to the Finals, not the Brad Daugherty-Mark Price-Larry Nance contingent of the 1990s. This team is just so cool, so classy, so enjoyable to be around. And oh yeah, it's pretty darn good, too.
Are the Cavs a shoe-in for the Finals? Of course not. No one is, and no one knows that better than these Cavs. Not after last year's upsetting loss to Orlando in the Eastern Conference championship.
But after just one preseason game, there is one thing we can say without a doubt, and it is this:
These Cavs? Well, they sure are fun. And that's not even the half of it.
Sam Amico cover the Cavaliers for NBA.com and is a regular contributor to SportsTime Ohio and The Cleveland Fan.