CLEVELAND, Ohio – In the movie “Dr. Strangelove” an Air Force B-52 pilot, played by actor Slim Pickens, upon receiving the code authorizing a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, drawls his disbelief.
“Well, I’ve been to one World Fair, a picnic and a rodeo and that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of earphones,” he says.
Well, I’ve been to one World Fair, even if it was only in Knoxville, Tenn., a picnic and a rodeo, and I covered an NBA game in which three players played for both teams, and last Thursday, the NBA trade deadline, might still have been the craziest day ever.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ sent six players that-away at the trade deadline last week and brought four players this-away. No such mushroom cloud had ever before billowed over a team with championship aspirations two-thirds of the way through a season.
Yet … why not? The Cavs were going nowhere except from bad to worse, lethargic to comatose, hapless to Hue Jackson.
Instead of stability and continuity, chemistry and patience, the Cavs prefer to shake well before using their playoff lineups.
A whole new world, er, team
Gone to the Los Angeles Lakers was “Little Poison, Isaiah Thomas.” Those became the four deadliest words in the worst trade since the four words “Ted Stepien, Cavs owner,” and his ghastly deals.
It cleared the way for half of the new players, three of whom (Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr.) bring youth and athleticism while the fourth (George Hill) brings playoff experience and 3-point menace.
The Cavs’ new guys are long, swift, and they can switch on defense like going from stick’um to Velcro to Superglue. The previous Cavs’ incarnation did not play defense. Not in any recognizable form.
Midseason retooling a tradition
The Cavs have done this before. Twice.
They vastly revamped the 2014-15 NBA finalists with trades early in the new year for J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov. They also added by subtracting Dion Waiters, much like the aforementioned Thomas.
They celebrated the midpoint of the championship 2015-16 season and the new year by firing coach David Blatt and promoting Ty Lue.
The huge new player influx made for one of the stranger days since the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Nets finished a game the Nets had successfully protested late in the 1978-79 season.
This occurred because referee Richie Powers went farther over the cuckoo’s nest than was permissible even in the NBA of those madcap years, calling three technical fouls each on Nets star Bernard King and coach Kevin Loughery. The legal limit is two apiece.
Then came a swap of four players between the teams before the end of the protested game was replayed. You’ve heard of team players? Eric Money, Ralph Simpson and Harvey Catchings were listed in the box score as competing for both teams.
Will the new Cavs’ lineups work? They certainly have started magnificently.
“Dr. Strangelove” had more fun with nuclear destruction than Little Rocket Man and the Tweeter-in-Chief could dream of in their exchanges of insults, but it was just a movie.
As for the Cavs, their own Doomsday Machine was running down to zero, but at least they stopped the madness.