I posted a quick link to the Earl Clark signing earlier, and somewhat to my surprise, most readers were pleased with the signing. Having watched a handful of Clark’s games last year and being aware of his production, the move seemed inconsequential to me. It is certainly low risk though, with only one year guaranteed. But is it a move forward for the team? A few facts:
Archive for the ‘Off-Season Moves’ Category
This post will be a dumping ground of thoughts on: the Cavs draft; other team’s selections; and free agency, which starts Monday. By the end, you may confuse me with Tom or Nate, as this post approaches 4000 words. But hey, I need to summarize my thoughts about a few critical formative weeks in franchise history.
Also in the next 24 hours, Robert will provide some pictures and final thoughts from his visit to the Barclays Center last Thursday, and Mallory has another podcast en route. So come back often; maybe take the day off work. Eh, Thursday’s a holiday…better call-in sick for the week.
Time to get started, with one man’s thoughts on the Cavs’ draft…
So, hey, look: I’m not excited about this. After a season during which one of the running subplots was where the Cavs would end up in the draft and how the class itself was shaping up, after the lottery victory, after two solid weeks of speculation and rumors and smokescreens and interviews and profiles: I feel like Gene Hackman’s character at the end of The Conversation, just wailing away on a sax in a torn-asunder apartment, either mad or tranquil, not really able to distinguish between the two anymore. My draft board is actually just stick figure drawings and Young Jeezy lyrics. I’ll be watching the draft feeling burnt out, ready for anything at all but mostly just ready for it to be over. I’ve got two forties of Olde English and a cat asleep by my foot. I may occasionally bury my face in his belly to quell my feelings of aggravation.
But anyway, wherever you are and however shellshocked or excited or nervous you are: refresh your laptop with us while we watch the draft. I’ll be updating this post with the latest news and perhaps even some useless, knee-jerk reactions as the night progresses. Feel free to squabble and vex and kvetch and cheer in the comments. Let’s check in with some of the C:TB team:
Okay, part two. Let’s drop any pretense that I’m (this is Colin) going to say anything useful in this opening paragraph. Let us mock, however poorly:
16.) Boston Celtics (Mallory Factor): Sergey Karasev, 6’7″, Triumph Lyubertsy, SF - The Celtics are in a tough place. Given the whole, “Doc Rivers has made it clear he doesn’t want to be part of the future” situation, it’s assumed KG and/or Pierce are likely on the way out too. If all of that is true, then the Celtics are left with a bevy of needs. They’ll be in full-on rebuild. What better way to start the process than a young Euro project? Karasev appears to be one of the most polished shooters in this year’s draft, hitting the three at a high percentage in Europe. Imagine the damage he could do in the catch-and-shoot game with Rondo dishing to him! He’s decent at attacking the rim and is a good decision maker as well. While his defense is questionable, but his youth makes him a great prospect for a team with so much missing.
17.) Atlanta Hawks (Colin McGowan): Giannis Adetokunbo, 6’9″, Basket Zaragoza (Spain), SF - So, The Greek Freak finally goes here. I wouldn’t be shocked if he climbs higher than this Hawks’ 17th/18th duo once the actual draft rolls around. Given a selection of prospects amongst which it’s hard to identify a superstar, why not take a kid who needs some work but might become quite special in a few years? The Hawks could go any number of directions this offseason, depending on what they want to do with Al Horford and where Dwight Howard ends up, but it would be hard to fault them for letting Giannis play at Zaragoza for a year or two, then seeing what they have when he enters his twenties. Even if the pick goes bust, it’s a nice pickup in the late teens.
Ohjeezohjeezohjeezohjeezohjeezohjeez. I’ll update this thing when we know what the pick is. In the meantime, freak out in the comments section.
UPDATE: Enjoy the Nerlens Noel Era, everybody. (Starting sometime in 2014.)
The Golden State free agent situation is as important to the Cavs as any team in the league’s. The Warriors cap situation next year is brutal. They have $24 million committed to Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, and Brandon Rush who have ETOs they won’t exercise. Carl Landry will probably opt out of his $4 million dollar option. This leaves $69 million in salary commitments next year for the Warriors with the current luxury tax at $70 million. There is a lot of speculation as to what the tax threshold will be next year. There are estimates that NBA revenue will be up 20% this year. The big question is, how much of this will be “basketball related income,” which is the number upon which the luxury tax is based? A huge BRI increase would actually be devastating for the Cavs’ free agent hopes, and small market teams everywhere. One of the theories behind the 2011 collective bargaining agreement was that the deal would help small market teams compete in luring and keeping free agents, because it would punish big market teams that overspend on player salaries. But if the NBA revenue pool increases faster than salaries, those teams won’t hit that limit. If this happens, teams like the Thunder will definitely kick themselves, as they would have easily been able to keep Harden.
With the luxury tax threshold higher, teams will be able to throw around some crazy money at NBA free agents, and the theory that the Cavs could pay more because teams would be reticent to wander into luxury tax territory will be blown out of the water if teams suddenly have $14 million more to spend to be under the tax. Suddenly Miami will have an easier time keeping the axis of ego together… *(correction: the Warriors wasted their Amnesty on Charlie Bell. If the tax threshold goes up, $14 million should still be enough to sign Jack, Landry and a rookie). Someone smarter than me needs to investigate this.
Now that that pessimism over optimism is over, let’s get to the talent. Yesterday, we covered the pending free agents and trade targets in the first round of the eastern conference playoffs. The available talent in the western conference is clearly superior.
Okay, over the last three seasons, we’ve learned a thing or two. For instance, we’ve learned that a team with a starting five of Ramon Sessions, Anthony Parker, Alonzo Gee, Antawn Jamison and whoever is getting Anderson Varejao’s post-injury minutes is, especially with cap-stretching salaries and a dearth of draft picks, a bummer to watch. On the flip, we’ve also learned that a team with a starting five of (the NBA’s youngest All-Star) Kyrie Irving, (he of a very promising February) Dion Waiters, (sigh) Alonzo Gee, (an absolute god-send of player development) Tristan Thompson and whoever is getting Anderson Varejao’s post-injury minutes is, even given relatively favorable salaries and an excess of future draft picks, still often a bummer to watch.
The lumps that we, the people following the Cleveland Cavaliers, took were lumps we knew we would take, and gladly take, favoring player development and a general bottoming out over a Milwaukee Bucks-ish eternal eight or nine seed. But, now, Mike Brown stands before us and says things about defense and about competing and we viewers, along with the Cavs organization, have to hope that the biggest lumps have ended. In order for that to be true, though, in order for the type of play that marred most of this season to be, by and large, in the rearview, we’ll need to be very selective (and lucky) in choosing the complementary pieces to this young and developing roster.
By all accounts, the Cavs want to keep Wayne Ellington, a restricted free agent. Marreese Speights is likely gone (and probably isn’t as good of a fit with this team as we thought during our brief Marreese Speight love-in when he first arrived). Livingston could stay or go and Miles could stay or be dropped. So, who else is out there? It won’t be Josh Smith or Dwight Howard, but I fully expect the Cavs to be aggressive in getting value players that will help them win (more) next season. So who?
First, stop yelling at and snarking on each other. It baffles me how supercilious some of us are acting about a decision of which we don’t yet know the impact. Clog your miserable hate-spittle hole for a second and let other people have their opinions. They’re every bit as valid as yours, given that Mike Brown hasn’t even been properly introduced to his players yet. Shouting down everyone who disagrees with you doesn’t make you right, just unpleasant to be around.
With that out of the way, here’s a short history of Mike Brown’s head coaching career, though you probably don’t need one: during Brown’s first stint in Cleveland, he was a great defensive coach whose teams were markedly uncreative on the offensive side of the ball, especially in late-game scenarios. (Here’s where Tom goes “Except for the ’08-’09 season,” and I’m all “Be quiet, Tom; you’re disrupting the narrative.”) It’s overstating the problem to say Brown didn’t run plays, but he and his assistants failed to create a recognizable and recognizably effective system—say, like the Spurs have used for the past few years—and it seemed that during fourth quarter timeouts, Brown just drew pictures of LeBron James equipping a jetpack and rocketing over the defense for a dunk while Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison were left wondering if they could possibly do anything to help. Brown helped the Cavs become a perennial title contender as LeBron entered his prime in the late 00s, then he got canned by the Cavs after the team’s bizarre implosion in the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals. After that, Brown—actually, why don’t we just slap a big ol’ C-minus on his brief Lakers tenure? Now he’s back in Cleveland to coach a team that barely resembles the one he left behind a few years ago.
The fact that, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably didn’t need the above primer on Brown is sort of the problem. He’s not an alluring coaching prospect precisely because we’re already acquainted with his stagnant offenses and habit of squinting into middle distance. (Puzzlement is never a good look for a supposed leader of men.) Whenever Mike Brown makes a Mike Brown face, we’ll remember the Cavs’ various LeBron Era playoff flameouts and feel a bit sick. We’ll do the same thing if Kyrie Irving is running Bron-esque isolations at the end of tight games. Nevermind if some relatively unknown assistant the Cavs could have hired—let’s call him Matt Green—were to make these same sorts of mistakes and heartburn-afflicted facial expressions. If and when Mike Brown screws up, our reaction is going to be the kind of angry you get at a friend who, no matter how many times you talk to him about it, can’t help but arrive to any meetup an hour late. We’re biased against familiar incompetence; Matt Green’s deficiencies would be more excusable because they would at least be a surprise. It would be harder to blame management for not anticipating Matt Green’s ineptitude in performing any number of tasks head coaches are responsible for, than if Mike Brown’s second Cavs’ tenure falls flat in a typically Mike Brown way.
This set of biases leads some of us to make our very own Mike Brown faces at the Mike Brown hire, but I also don’t think we’re being overemotional and that these biases don’t matter. More to the point: the organization is willfully hiring someone they know is a sub-par offensive coach and hoping that he’s either become more inventive—Brown’s Lakers tenure would seem to undermine that assumption—or can pair himself with a great assistant who will figure out how to use the Cavs’ uniquely talented backcourt and jumpshot-averse frontcourt. The Cavs’ front office must also know that Brown was routinely outflanked during his first run with the Cavs by smart opposing coaches who seemed much better than he was at making in-game adjustments, and that Brown didn’t exactly command the respect of the last two superstars he coached. These are whatever you want to call them: red flags, areas of concern, out-and-out weaknesses.
(I don’t want to get into Mike Brown’s hiring and its impact on LeBron’s possible return. I don’t think it’s an irrelevant question to ask—we’re talking about the best player since Jordan—but those of us outside of LeBron’s inner circle and the Cavs’ front office can’t speak with even a modicum of certainty on the matter. This won’t stop certain media types whose entire business is speculation-as-content, but it will at least stop me.)
Mike Brown’s a fine coach, and anyone bemoaning this hire as a disaster is ignoring the work Brown did in hammering the late-00s Cavs into one of the league’s best defensive teams. What irks me most about this whole ordeal isn’t the end result, but the process and its rapidity. Whether my perception mirrors reality or otherwise, it appears Dan Gilbert threw a tantrum, sacked Byron Scott, and felt like he needed to lock down Mike Brown immediately, without considering anyone else save Phil Jackson, who was always going to be a long shot. What Gilbert and the rest of the organization have lost in deciding not to interview anyone else for the job is the opportunity to inject new ideas and perspectives into the organization. The interviewing process isn’t just for finding the right coaching candidate, but for picking various basketball minds. Did the Cavs need to be dead certain they got Mike Brown at the expense of sitting down with someone like David Fizdale or Mo Cheeks? It strikes me as small-minded to not even consider other candidates. Brown isn’t such an impressive coach that the team needed to buck protocol and make a quick hire.
We’re all having strong reactions to this decision because we know this hire has to work out if the team doesn’t want to take out a timeshare in the lottery or be forced to bottom out all over again in a few years. The next couple of seasons will be determinative in terms of the direction this rebuild is going to take, and the head coach is going to have a significant effect on the team’s improvement or arrested development. Mike Brown’s the man who’ll get the blame or the plaudits, and we can argue about whether that’s a good thing, but I wonder most of all if this needed to happen as swiftly as it did.
This happened more swiftly than I thought it would. The morning after the Cavs finished their season with a loss to the also-lowly Bobcats, Byron Scott is jobless. You know the story: three straight years deep in the lottery, rumors of locker room dissent, lots of looks similar to the one pictured above, where Scott just sort of peered out over the court as if it were an ocean, with a look of peevishness or bemusement.
There’s a sad impotency to ineffectual coaching that’s unique to the profession. The guy in a suit on the sidelines seems as if he might as well be a hundred miles away from the court. Players screw up. Not that they mean to screw up and not that the coach wants them to screw up, but they make mistakes. Over and over again. Maybe they stop listening to the guy in a suit on the sidelines because they’re frustrated or feel he’s not helping. A fissure widens. The coach’s control is revealed to be highly contingent.
There has been a lot of talk over the past few weeks that the Cavs need a firebrand who can whip the team into shape—barge through the locker room door imperiously and tell Kyrie Irving that, son, on this team we play with maximum effort. This is a gross, paternalistic strain of fandom—informed by the notion that these players in some way belong to us; they should be ideal actors because, dammit, we pay for their salaries. I think we should all do our best to avoid being that type of fan, especially in terms of this now-active coaching search. Irving will improve or stagnate according to his will; all a coach can do is advise him. You can tell all-stars what to do, but it’s up to them to listen. The Cavs should find someone who can speak to Irving, help him grow into the leadership role he needs to occupy, and not someone who will try to break him, because he probably won’t break.
I don’t know why Scott was fired, specifically, though I have a hard time believing all the losing was the primary reason. This team started the season with no bench and sub-par starters at three positions. Then Andy Varejao went down. Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters improved markedly. Chris Grant poached a respectable bench unit from salary-dumping Memphis and Washington’s scrap heap. Then more injuries. I find it hard to believe Scott was expected to do significantly better than he did, record-wise, though the record is abysmal. Coincidentally, it could land the Cavs at the very top of this upcoming draft. From what I know of Grant, he’s a pragmatist who looks long-term while keeping himself firmly rooted in the present, so even if the Cavs lost, say, ten or fifteen more games than he thought they would this season, he’ll take the high draft pick and move forward.
What I’m more inclined to believe is Scott was fired for reasons less apparent in the standings and more apparent on the court: the puzzling substitutions patterns, the lack of ingenuity on offense (especially down the stretch), the damn high-pressure defensive system that was at least partially to blame for the Cavs’ historically bad opponent shooting percentages over the past three seasons. Perhaps this group of players was too young, too disparate to achieve respectability, but Scott could never assemble them in a way where it became easy to see where the future might lead. If the rumors are true, the players might have been divided as to whether he knew what he was doing. As of this morning, I’m certain the Cavs have talent, but I’m uncertain how that talent fits together and how each players’ individual skills can best serve the team’s success. A great coach is a great sense-maker, and this team is still gibberish in motion.
I’m sure the Cavs have a list, but I wonder who will want this job and the sort of work it’s going to entail. Surely, there are more than a few out-of-work head coaches and ambitious assistants who see a young team with promise, but it’s going to take a lot of effort—and some very specific expertise—to turn this team into a winner over the next few years. C:TB’s Nate Smith has been compiling a list over the past few weeks, and he’ll be hitting you with the a batch of possible candidates tomorrow morning.
At any rate, farewell Byron Scott. Whether you did the job well and got unlucky or did the job poorly and rightfully got the boot, enduring three seasons of rough basketball isn’t good for the psyche—I know this because I endured it, too, but I’m, at the very least, a wholly inculpable fan. I’m sure you’ll catch on somewhere else. Here’s to better days for both of us.