Anyone who's read what I had to write about the way the Cavaliers have been approaching ball games lately knows I haven't exactly been thrilled with that approach.
Anyone who's had real or virtual conversations with me knows that I was concerned that the first 25 games or so didn't answer many of the questions we had about the roster and the team going into the season.
Anyone who read the Weekend Wrap last Monday or during the week knows that I wasn't optimistic about the likelihood of a successful road trip after the Cavs went into Dallas and were handled by a Dirk-less Maverick team to start the road trip. Yes, it was me who wondered aloud whether this team had the focus and the drive to get things done.
But I'll shut up now.
After watching the Cavaliers answer the bell against Phoenix, win an overtime thriller in Sacramento when Mark Price.....err...Zydrunas Ilgauskas knocked down three triples in the extra session, and walk into the Staples Center on Christmas Day against Kobe and the Lakers and simply steal the Lakers stockings, well, let's just say the Cavaliers answered a lot of questions for me. They couldn't have treated the Lakers any worse unless they collectively whizzed on the Lakers' logo at center court on their way to boarding the bus to the airport.
What a gift to give a Cleveland fan base for Christmas day. A 102-87 win over Kobe and the Lakers would taste great any day, but coming as the feature game of ABC's Christmas coverage it was even better. And not only did it inflate the hopes of some Scrooged-out Cavs fans, but it also exposed the Lakers and the plastic-assed fans for exactly what they are when the Lakers made the second half a whine fest and their fans showed their true colors by throwing crap out onto the floor when calls didn't go their way.
That was the cherry on top of the week for me. Capping the Lakers in their house and watching them melt like fake boobs in a fire was tremendous. But getting to that game with a 2-1 record on the roadie was the meat and potatoes of my restored faith.
The Dallas loss was ugly. Not the score so much as the focus and intensity. Having to go to Phoenix the very next night and play that up-tempo style of play on tired legs isn't easy.
But it sure looked like it was.
The Cavs came out Monday night and just pummeled the Suns. They took away the Phoenix running game and established their own and they played with a determination born maybe out of embarrassment from the night before in dealing the Suns their first home loss since the Cavs beat them in Phoenix last season.
We should take a big chunk of knowledge away from that Suns game: the Cavs did not like to lose in Dallas and they have an internal conscience as a team. Call it pride for lack of a better word. They can be embarrassed and they can feel a little shame and they don't like it. The Cavs responded by out running the Suns and successfully apologizing for the fiasco in Dallas.
On Wednesday in Sacramento they showed they have a heart.
Sacramento is young and talented and the Cavs were in that ‘trap' zone where it was possible they could have been feeling pretty good about their Phoenix effort and looking ahead to Christmas day against the Lakers.
But they got it done. They may have proven that Tyreke Evans is a star in the making in the process of getting it done, but they got the ‘W' in as entertaining a basketball game as you'll see all year. No matter that Sacramento threw a donut up on the scoreboard in the second half. That was a fun basketball game to watch.
On Friday they simply rolled the Lakers. They punched them in the face by taking a 20 point first half lead. Then it seemed like the Cavs extended a hand to pick LA up off the ground at the end of the half. But that was only to actually punch them right in the mouth again by getting back out to another 20-point lead.
It was great fun. It was great to see Kobe weeping like a little lady and watching their douche bag fans act out like soccer hooligans.
But the best part of the week to me was the role LeBron James played in each win. You can look at LeBron sometimes and see a talented guy with a lot going on both on the court and off and there are times when you can't help but wonder if a particular game really affects him or matters.
The one thing I hadn't seen from LeBron was that ‘Kobe Moment' up until this week. That time in his career or a game when instead of talking about leading and taking responsibility because it's cliché and it's what people are dying to hear, LBJ actually shut up and led.
He set the tone on Monday in Phoenix (after looking disinterested himself Sunday in Dallas). On Wednesday in Sacramento he did everything. Then, when it was necessary, he did more by taking the responsibility for defending Evans down the stretch and in overtime and, as Fred McLeod might say, completely shutting off Evans' water.
But Friday in LA James may have fully come of age.
Not only did he go out and earn his 26 points and nine boards against Ron Artest (as big, strong and tough a player for James to play as anyone on the league), but James also displayed a sense of maturity, purpose and discipline throughout the day. When the Lakers were melting and getting chippy, it was James who stood between Mo Williams and Derek Fisher and came to his PG's aid. When Kobe started bawling and the fans started throwing their foam fingers and water bottles it was James who gathered his teammates safely in the middle of the floor and told them, "Keep playing the game."
We forget that LBJ turns just 25 years old later this week because of what he's already done and brought to the floor. But what he did this past week on the road is what lifts my spirits in regard to the Cavaliers future success.
He didn't talk about recognizing the moment and willing his team through adversity. He just did it. It wasn't lip service or cliché and there may not even have been games scheduled on the days when he was doing the most work in regard to making this team better.
It may be crazy to say that James was capable of another level of stardom. But what we watched this past week indicates LBJ took another big step in that direction and that the Cavaliers as a team are along for the ride.
Merry Christmas to us.