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SI:AM | The Cavs Go All In

Good morning, I’m Kevin Sweeney, filling in for Dan Gartland. The Cavaliers are fun again. Enjoy the long weekend, and we’ll be back in your inbox Tuesday.

In today’s SI:AM:

🕷️ Donovan Mitchell to Cleveland

💰 A thriller in the Backyard Brawl

🏈 Previewing Ohio State vs. Notre Dame

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The Cavs are going for it

Just when the NBA offseason seemed quiet, the Cavaliers and Jazz made a blockbuster trade that sent three-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell to Cleveland in exchange for a huge package of draft picks, swaps and players. Mitchell had been in trade rumors all summer, especially after Utah dealt Rudy Gobert to the Timberwolves in July. But after plenty of buzz about a deal to the Knicks and even some cryptic Twitter bio changes, Mitchell is off to a Cavs team coming off a surprising season in 2021–22. Here’s what it all means.That looks like a compelling start to what should be a compelling season. Here are some of the biggest story lines to keep an eye on this year.

Why Cleveland is ready to compete 

This move alone may not make the Cavs a bona fide title contender (though their odds drastically improved), but this was the right time in Cleveland’s rebuild time line to make a big swing. The Cavs were a fixture at the top of the draft lottery for several years before accumulating one of the best young cores in the NBA, with foundational pieces in Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, along with other impressive talent to build around. The best chance a small-market organization like Cleveland has of competing for a championship is winning with young talent, and that’s what the Cavs have.

Plus, as Rohan Nadkarni broke down, there weren’t any other obvious avenues for the Cavs to drastically improve their roster.

How else was Cleveland going to improve? The roster is ahead of schedule, which makes trying to add star talent in the draft difficult. The city is not a free-agent destination. Mitchell may not be a perfect star, but then again those players rarely become available. It’s a worthy gamble for a small-market team to put together this much young talent.

I can’t wait to watch a Garland-Mitchell backcourt, and Mobley has the potential to become one of the most impactful defensive players in the game. This gives the Cavs a three-year window while Mitchell is still under contract to truly compete at the top of the Eastern Conference. But for the team to reach its ceiling, the 25-year-old has to buy into the Cavs’ rapid defensive improvement, according to Chris Herring.

The Jazz are in full rebuild mode

Between the Gobert and Mitchell trades, Danny Ainge and the Jazz’s front office have amassed a multitude of first-round picks and three pick swaps in drafts through 2029. They’ve also added a pair of ’22 first-rounders (Ochai Agbaji from the Cavs and Walker Kessler from the T-Wolves) and other young players in the process. Plus, they still have tradeable players on the roster who could get dealt.

The Jazz will almost assuredly be one of the worst teams in the NBA next season, and potentially for a few years afterward as well. But there are some major prizes in the draft in upcoming years, headlined by French sensation Victor Wembanyama. Plus, we know from his time in Boston that Ainge does a good job getting value out of draft picks.

Lincoln Riley’s first season in L.A.

For much of the summer, all roads involved in the Mitchell trade saga appeared to lead to one place: Madison Square Garden. And while Knicks fans seem less than pleased to have once again missed out on a star, Chris Mannix thinks it might have been a blessing in disguise. Instead of pushing the chips in now with a team that still likely wouldn’t have been good enough to seriously contend in the East, the Knicks will continue their slow rebuild with a large war chest of picks and young players.Players to watch

The best of Sports Illustrated

Arturo Olmos/Sports Illustrated

In today’s Daily Cover, Alex Prewitt tells the story of Gabriel Taylor, a strong safety at Rice trying to carry out the legacy of his late brother and Washington star Sean Taylor.

“I wish Sean was here,” Simone [Taylor, Gabriel’s mother] recalls Gabriel saying as he climbed into her bed and began to draw. “Because if he was here, I could’ve been the artist and he could’ve been the baller.”

“You can still be an artist,” Simone countered. “Sean would’ve wanted you to be whatever you wanted.”

“No, Mommy; you don’t understand,” Gabriel replied. “When I’m running, I feel him running with me. When I hit, I feel him in my chest. When I catch, I feel him in my arms. Sean wants me to be great.”

Expectations are sky-high in Columbus this season ahead of Saturday night’s showdown between Ohio State and Notre Dame, and Pat Forde breaks down why Ryan Day isn’t backing down from the hype. … The details of Russell Wilson’s monster contract extension with Denver are a win for NFL owners, according to Andrew Brandt. … Will Laws looks at the historic company Aaron Judge is in as he pushes for Roger Maris’s home run mark and whether Judge can actually hit 61.

Around the sports world

Venus and Serena Williams fell in Round 1 of the women’s doubles competition at the U.S. Open, but Serena is back in action in the singles draw tonight. … Atlanta youngster Spencer Strider set a franchise record with 16 strikeouts in eight scoreless innings. … Pitt and West Virginia kicked off Week 1 in thrilling fashion with the Panthers going home victorious thanks to this pick-six. … And in the other big college football game, Sean Clifford led a game-winning drive to give Penn State the win over Purdue in a back-and-forth game after throwing his own pick-six earlier in the fourth quarter.

The top five...

… things I saw yesterday:

5. This strange failed fake punt.

4. A Tennessee lineman signing … a shoe after a touchdown.

3. A middle-aged man living out his CFB dreams.

2. The Backyard Brawl drinking Pittsburgh dry.

1. Donovan Mitchell’s meme ability.

SIQ

Around this date in 490 B.C.E. (the exact day is tricky to figure out), Pheidippides is said to have run from Marathon to Athens, providing the inspiration for the 26.2-mile race. After the first modern Olympic marathon in 1896, which city became the first to start holding an annual marathon?

  • Athens
  • Boston
  • London
  • Chicago

Yesterday’s SIQ: After Michigan’s famous 2007 loss to Appalachian State, the Wolverines were blown out at home the next week by which out-of-conference foe?

  • Utah
  • Notre Dame
  • Oregon
  • Pitt

Answer: Oregon. The Ducks won 39–7, Michigan’s largest margin of defeat since losing to Ohio State 50–14 in 1968. It was the first time the Wolverines opened with two straight losses at home since ’59.

Coming on the heels of the loss to Appalachian State, the Oregon loss was somehow even more crushing. The headline in The New York Times was a classic: “After One Embarrassing Loss Comes Yet Another.” Times writer Clifton Brown wrote that the scoreline “did not fully reflect how one-sided this game was” and that Michigan’s offense, which gave up 624 total yards to a Ducks offense piloted by the electric Dennis Dixon, was “inept,” “tackled horribly,” “allowed huge plays, made mental mistakes and was manhandled at the line of scrimmage.” Other than that, though, everything was fine.

After a pair of losses like that, anyone could be excused for writing off Michigan’s year as a lost season, but the Wolverines actually managed to turn things around. They pasted a terrible Notre Dame team 38–0 the next week to begin an eight-game winning streak, rising as high as No. 13 in the AP poll. Though they lost their last two regular-season games (including 14–3 to No. 7 Ohio State), they closed out the year with a win over Florida in the Capital One Bowl and finished 18th in the final AP poll.

—Dan Gartland

From the Vault: Sept. 2, 1974

Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated

Few people in U.S. history have been as adept at the art of self-promotion as Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel. In 1974, his plan to launch himself across Idaho’s Snake River Canyon in a specially made steam-propelled rocket earned him a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Knievel had talked of trying to jump a motorcycle over the Grand Canyon, but, having been denied permission by the federal government to use the national park, had to settle for the site near Twin Falls, Idaho. Robert F. Jones’s cover story sheds light not only on Knievel’s various stunts and the risks inherent in them but also the kind of person he was. The portrait of Knievel that emerges from the article is not a flattering one, like in this scene where Jones accompanied Knievel for a round of golf:

​​Today [Twin Falls businessman Chuck] Cosgriff is competing in a Byzantine labyrinth of hole-by-hole and shot-by-shot bets against not only Evel, but the Knievel fils: Kelly, 13, and Robbie. Evel’s pretty wife Linda, 31, and his nine-year-old daughter Tracy are along to run messages, fetch lost balls and clubs and zoom back to the club-house at the master’s whim for more gin and tonics.

“We’ve been married 15 years,” Evel confides as Linda trots off on one of a few hundred harshly ordered errands, “and you know something? Her face is always the same: a smile. Oh, I yell at her and boss her around, but she says she has only one job in life. To serve me. I made a deal with my kids, though. I promised them that if I ever yell at Linda or at them unnecessarily or too harshly, they can punch me in the nose. If they can hit me, they get $100. If they can knock me down, they get $200.”

As for the jump, it ended anticlimactically when the rocket’s emergency parachute opened immediately upon takeoff. The rocket floated down to the riverbed below, where Knievel was safely extricated, leading many to question whether he had triggered the chute himself and conned the paying audiences along the canyon rim and watching on closed-circuit television all around the country.

—Dan Gartland

Check out more of SI’s archives and historic images at vault.si.com.

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