Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 2/6/12
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- When the media showed up to the Cavaliers practice facility Monday, all but one question was about the Cavaliers. The other one came late in the interview session and was directed toward rookie point guard Kyrie Irving. It had something to do with the Miami Heat. That's the team the Cavs face Tuesday night (7:30 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio). It's also the team for which LeBron James plays. You remember James, don't you? The Akron native whom the Cavs selected with the No. 1 overall pick in 2003? Sounds like a silly question, but there's a point behind it. Namely, that most folks in these parts finally seem ready to focus on their own town and their own team -- as well as Irving, their most recent No. 1 overall pick. Really, that has to be considered good news. It appears the Cavs and their fans are over James and his departure in the summer of 2010. Now, the Cavs vs. Heat is about the actual game. It's about the Cavs' win over world champion Dallas this past weekend, and over Boston six days before that. It's about Irving's strong fourth quarters, the Cavs' recent ability to overcome large deficits and make a game of things, and whether Irving and Anderson Varejao will make the All-Star team. What it's not about is James and the Heat. At least, not any more than it would be about Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers. "It's just another game to us," Irving said in answering the lone Heat-based question. "The Miami Heat have a lot of talented players. (But) it's not one person vs. another. It's two teams." Clearly, Irving meant no disrespect to James or Miami. Just the opposite actually. Irving was just stating the obvious. After all, only four players remain from James' last team in Cleveland -- Varejao, Daniel Gibson, Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison. And Jamison was only teammates with James for less than half a season. The Cavs have a whole new image now, a different mission. Unlike the LeBron era, nobody in Cleveland will be overly heartbroken if the Cavs don't win the championship. Instead, the Cavs want to see Irving continue to dazzle, Varejao continue to hustle and Alonzo Gee and others continue to energize off the bench. The playoffs would be great, for sure. But not getting there would be OK, too -- as the Cavs would be back in the lottery. That's where they found Irving and rookie forward Tristan Thompson, two huge pieces to their future. And postseason or not, the Cavs could certainly use another young piece or three. As for James and the Heat, well, you know the story. Actually, the fact James' decision to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is hardly even a story these days. The Heat's realistic quest for a title still makes headlines -- but James' decision sure doesn't. Not in Cleveland, not anymore. Now, don't misunderstand. Most Cavs fans are still angry with James. Most still root feverishly for the Heat to fail. Most still check James' statistics in the box scores and the Heat's progress in the standings. The difference today, it seems, is they check to see what Irving and the Cavs are doing first. In most cities, that may not be news. Free-agent superstars leave all the time in every sport. Heck, even Bosh did it in Toronto. But in Cleveland, trying to forget the memory of James and conquer the concept of What Could Have Been has taken some real effort. Unquestionably, that pain remains. Not like it once did, but it's there. But the Cavs and their fans have made big strides, bigger than a lot of folks thought they would, especially this soon. To them, James is just a member of the Heat. And Irving and Varejao and coach Byron Scott are members of the Cavs. It's the latter that feeds this city's passion, and that tells you a lot about how far this city has come.
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