Former Cavs enjoying ride

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CLEVELAND - Cavaliers legend Austin Carr got teary-eyed the night the franchise won the right to draft LeBron James.

Cleveland's LeBron James shoots over San Antonio's Michael Finley (left) and Fabricio Oberto in the first quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Finals.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Cleveland's LeBron James shoots over San Antonio's Michael Finley (left) and Fabricio Oberto in the first quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

"A lot of people tease me about that," Carr said. "I just felt when we got LeBron our fortunes were about to turn."

He couldn't have been more right.

In four seasons, James went from the local high school sensation to the NBA star who transformed a 17-win team into Eastern Conference champions, taking the Cavaliers to their first finals.

For Carr and other former Cavaliers, this unprecedented postseason run is the next best thing to doing it themselves, and it's an accomplishment that couldn't be lessened by San Antonio's 3-0 lead entering Game 4 on Thursday night.

"Things are not going as well as we would have anticipated," said Campy Russell, who led the Cavaliers in scoring three consecutive years in the late '70s. "But I think everybody has enjoyed the ride. At this point, we have to at least win a game and not let those guys celebrate on our home court."

Russell, the team's director of alumni relations, says former Cavaliers such as Jim Chones, Dwight Davis, Clarence "Foots" Walker and Bobby "Bingo" Smith were to attend Game 4.

They all suffered through some tough times with the franchise, putting together only three winning seasons in its first 17 years.

Carr, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1971, joined the franchise in its second year and has waited a lifetime for the Cavaliers to reach the finals.

"It's meant a lot because this is my life," Carr said. "I've been competing against the other NBA cities for a long time. To have an opportunity to get back on the top and hopefully stay there for a while is a good feeling."

Craig Ehlo, who lives in Spokane, Wash., has been watching the playoffs with his family, enjoying every minute, and is happiest for the fans back in Cleveland.

"It just brought that town a lot of fun and joy," Ehlo said.

The Cavaliers have looked like the newcomers they are in the finals, running up against a more experienced Spurs team.

But Cavaliers veterans say that hasn't cheapened the season.

"I don't think any of the accomplishments have been diminished at all," Russell said. "You're in the finals."


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