Cleveland — We come to you from Quicken Loans Arena, known locally as the Q. To enter the media door of the Q, you walk within 75 yards of the left-field foul pole at the Indians’ ballpark, which used to be known as the Jake (short for Jacobs Field) but is now, I’m guessing, the Prog (short for Progressive Field, which is the new official name).
If you’re looking for positive signs, that’s a pretty solid one. The only time an Atlanta-based professional team has won a title in one of the major North American sports, half the games were played at the Jake. The Braves lost two of the three, but without Pedro Borbon Jr. — remember him? — saving Game 4 of the 1995 World Series, our Atlanta-based professional teams might be 0-for-ever.
(About Borbon: The lefty reliever hadn’t worked in 19 days but was summoned by Bobby Cox when Mark Wohlers yielded a leadoff homer to Manny Ramirez and a subsequent double to Paul Sorrento leading off the ninth. Borbon struck out Jim Thome, struck out Sandy Alomar Jr. and retired Kenny Lofton on a game-ending liner. The Braves would win the Series three nights later.)
I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the Q who’s thinking about Pedro Borbon Jr. The name on everyone’s mind is … well, take a guess. His full-page likeness graced both the front of today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer — not the sports page, but A-1 — and the PD’s eight-page playoff section. His name is Leron Lee.
Just kidding. He’s LeBron James. He’s the best player in the world. He was named league MVP for the first time on Monday, and if you checked a poll on ESPN.com that posed the question, “How many MVP trophies will LeBron win?”, the majority response was, “More than four.”
More from ESPN.com: Of its 10 basketball mavens, not one picked the Hawks to win this series. Not one picked it to last seven games. Only J.A. Adande and Tim Legler see it going six. (Full disclosure: In my own little poll on AJC.com the other day, I cast the first vote. I picked the Cavs in five.) In his exhaustive breakdown, David Thorpe of Scouts Inc. also sees Cavs-Hawks going to Game 6.
This city, as you’d expect, is pumped. We Atlantans moan over the state of our franchises, but Clevelanders have it way worse. For one thing, they have to live in Cleveland. For another, they haven’t seen a pro title since the Browns beat the Colts 27-0 to win the NFL title in 1964. (Gary Collins caught three touchdown passes.) This, everyone here seems to think (including the cab driver who carted esteemed colleague Sekou Smith and myself to our hotel) this is the year.
But first, Game 1. Maybe the nine days’ off will slow the Cavs. Maybe the MVP celebration will dull LeBron. Maybe the Hawks can steal this one. That’s why we’re here — to see if they can.
A gracious GM: Just saw Rick Sund in the hallway. He thanked me for coming and thanked the AJC for sending me. Gee, I remember the days when the Hawks hated the thought of me writing a word about them. I need to rip somebody soon just to prove I haven’t completely lost it.
The voice of the Hawks: Jon Steinberg, a Hawks’ publicist, reports that Steve Holman will be calling his 1,700th consecutive game. Given that he incited civic furor in Miami, I’d say Holman is just coming into his, er, prime.
Some basketball stuff: Mike Woodson said Al Horford will start, which is no great revelation since he started and played 32 minutes on a sprained left ankle in Game 7 on Sunday. (I spoke to Horfy, and he’s in fine spirits. Josh Smith, by way of contrast, seemed quieter than usual. Know what that means? Nothing.)
Woodson also said he plays to start Maurice Evans but is planning to play Marvin Williams around 20 minutes tonight. That’s a fairly big deal, given that the Hawks beat Miami without Marvin playing one second in Game 7.
The commish, again: David Stern, who was in Atlanta for Game 5 of the Hawks-Heat series, is here tonight. He’ll present the MVP trophy to LBJ.
We pause here for a word from our sponsors: Because I hate sitting around ritzy hotel rooms doing nothing, I’ll be doing a live chat Wednesday from 1 to 3 p.m. The idea is to discuss this series, but if you want to ask me something about the UEFA Champions League I’d be happy to respond.
Non-self-promotion: Esteemed colleague Sekou Smith is about to go live on NBA TV. Given that he’s the best beat writer in the league, you all should run and watch.
China syndrome: David Stern just said NBA China gets more hits than NBA.com does in the States. Which is pretty amazing, if true. (Stern never tires of talking about his league’s global reach.)