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Cleveland Cavaliers will look to salvage stilted rebuild when NBA resumes

Cleveland Cavaliers will look to salvage stilted rebuild when NBA resumes

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we'll be examining the impact of the NBA's current on hiatus on each team in the league. Today, the Cleveland Cavaliers — whose rebuild suffered through a stilted season — are up.

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The Cleveland Cavaliers decided on a bold change of direction last spring when they hired highly-successful college coach John Beilein for his first NBA coaching job at the age of 66.

But Beilein almost immediately clashed with many of his veteran players who complained about his “college-style” coaching that included lengthy practice and film sessions. Later, Beilein was alleged to have used the term “thugs” in a speech to the team, which he attempted to explain away as meaning to have said “slugs” in regard to the players' effort and energy level.

From that point on, it was only a matter of time before Beilein would have to be replaced as head coach since most of the players had completely tuned him out. Beilein resigned on Feb. 19, walking away from the four-plus years remaining on his contract. The Cavaliers tapped assistant J.B. Bickerstaff to replace Beilein, eventually signing him to a multi-year extension. The Cavs had a 19-46 record at the time the NBA schedule was suspended, worst in the Eastern Conference.

Player Development

Beilein was hired to develop the talent for one of the league’s youngest teams that included three first round picks from the 2019 draft: Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr. and Dylan Windler.

But from the start of the season, it was clear that pairing Garland with 2018 lottery pick Collin Sexton wasn’t a good idea. Both young point guards needed the ball in their hands to be successful, and Garland struggled as the de facto shooting guard, averaging 12.3 points a game on 40.1% shooting from the field (though he did shoot a respectable 35.5% from 3 point range). Sexton wound up leading the Cavs in scoring at 20.8 points per game while shooting 47.3% from the field and 38% from long distance. But the second year guard never developed as a facilitator in the offense, averaging just three assists over 33 minutes per game. His ball-dominant style appeared to frustrate many of his teammates.

Porter showed potential as a slashing wing, averaging 10 points in 23.2 minutes per game, while Windler missed all of his rookie season because of injury. Cedi Osman, 24 years old, failed to take hold of the starting small forward job, averaging 11 points per game, while the team gave up on combo guard Jordan Clarkson, trading him to Utah just before Christmas for underwhelming former lottery pick Dante Exum. Clarkson immediately thrived as a high-scoring sixth man with the Jazz, while Exum struggled to find a role in Cleveland, averaging 5.6 points and 1.4 assists in 24 games.

Roster Decisions

It seems like the Cavs have been trying to trade Kevin Love ever since he agreed to a multi-year contract after LeBron James left in the summer of 2018. Love was rumored to be available before this year’s trade deadline, but few teams were interested in taking on the three years and $90 million remaining on the contract of a 31-year-old power forward with a lengthy injury history.

The Cavs will also most likely have veteran center Andre Drummond back next season. Drummond holds a $28.7 million player option for 2020-21, and its hard to imagine another team offering a max-level multi year contract for a low post center whose skills don’t really translate to the modern NBA game.

Depending on how the lottery shakes out, the Cavs could have a top three pick in this year’s draft, and they could go in a variety of directions. Dayton star Obi Toppin and Israeli forward Deni Avdija present possibilities to bolster their frontcourt. Cleveland could also go for the top shooting guard available, Georgia’s Anthony Edwards.

Outlook

After the Beilein experiment failed so quickly, general manager Koby Altman will be under enormous pressure to get the rebuild back on track this offseason. It won’t be easy to find a trade partner for either Drummond or Love, and it appears the Cavs won’t be able to move forward starting a pair of undersized point guards in Sexton and Garland. Plus, Exum has one year left on his contract at $9.6 million.

Bickerstaff is anxious to put his stamp on the team after replacing Beilein following the All-Star break. It’s the third time in Bickerstaff’s coaching career he’s taken over an NBA team during the season, and he’s hoping to be given some time to get through the painful early stages of a complete rebuild. Unfortunately for the Cavs, there isn’t a superstar player like Luka Doncic or Zion Williamson in this year’s draft, and LeBron isn’t walking back through that door for a third stint in Northeast Ohio.

Better keep that 2016 NBA championship trophy nice and shiny while asking the fans to be patient once again.

Check back in Monday for a breakdown of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich, Anquan Boldin offer solutions to US racial inequity

Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich, Anquan Boldin offer solutions to US racial inequity

Steve Kerr joined Gregg Popovich, Anquan Boldin, Demario Davis and Andrew McCutchen to co-author an op-ed offering concrete solutions to address some of the problems raised by protesters across the country.

To achieve a more equitable justice system for people of color, the op-ed says police need to be held accountable for their actions.

“When these killings occur, we tweet, we write letters, we make videos demanding accountability,” Kerr et al. said. “We protest and we vow to change hearts and minds so that our young men can run through the streets without fear.

“And soon after, we see another officer kill a black person, usually a man, and usually without consequence. Where, we wonder, is the ‘accountability’ allegedly so important when it comes to arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating young people of color?”

The problem, Kerr et al. say, is that police supervisors simply don’t have the power to take away a bad officer’s badge.

“Among the greatest obstacles to cleaning up our police departments are police union contracts, which hamstring officials’ ability to fire officers who engage in bad and even deadly behavior,” Kerr et al. said. “Those contracts, nearly always negotiated behind closed doors, have clauses that determine how misbehavior may be disciplined. Many contracts prevent departments from investigating reports made by anonymous civilians. They allow officers accused of serious misconduct to review the complaint and the evidence before making statements to investigators, ensuring that they can craft their story to best explain whatever the evidence will show...

“In the rare case that a department pursues disciplinary action, many contracts require arbitration, which almost always results in reduced sanctions. In a survey of data compiled from 37 police departments in 2017, The Washington Post found that of 1,881 officers fired since 2006, 451 appealed and received their jobs back — nearly 25%.”

RELATED: Mitchell Trubisky breaks social media silence to support George Floyd protests

The op-ed says these contracts are renegotiated every few years, so if you’d like them to change it’s not hopeless.

“In Philadelphia, for example, the mayor renegotiates the police union contract next year. In Minneapolis, it is renegotiated every three years and is in negotiations now. We must demand that our elected officials remove terms explicitly designed to protect officers from investigation and discipline if we are going to have accountability and safety.”

The second suggestion the op-ed makes is doing away with “qualified immunity” for cops, which protects them “from legal liability for even the most outrageous conduct,” unless a legal precedent has been set with “basically identical facts.”

They elaborate by saying “qualified immunity” can be used to protect cops from wide-ranging accusations.

“One court, for example, found an officer had qualified immunity after he let his dog maul a homeless man,” Kerr et al. said. “In another case, officers who tried to steal $225,000 while on the job received immunity.”

Again, the heart of the matter for Kerr, Popovich, Boldin, Davis and McCutchen is accountability.

“Citizens face consequences for breaking the law and harming others; our government should make sure officers are no different.”

RELATED: Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts calls black leaders 'you people,' apologizes

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NBCA, Adam Silver speak out following George Floyd’s death and recent protests

NBCA, Adam Silver speak out following George Floyd’s death and recent protests

The National Basketball Coaches Association (NBCA hereafter) and commissioner Adam Silver recently joined the chorus of voices speaking out in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

A statement from the NBCA, signed by 33 coaches and almost 180 assistant coaches, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports:

 

The statement pinpoints “police brutality, racial profiling and the weaponization of racism” as “shameful, inhuman and intolerable.”

And their call for “positive change” will reportedly be followed by some action. The NBCA has also formed a “committee on racial injustice and reform to pursue solutions within NBA cities”  Wojnarowski reports, which will be comprised of at least Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, David Fizdale, Stan Van Gundy, Doc Rivers, JB Bickerstaff and Quin Snyder.

Already, many in the NBA community have acted to protest systemic racism and police brutality in the wake of Floyd’s death. Stephen Jackson, Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie demonstrated with many in Minneapolis. Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours from Boston to lead a peaceful march in Atlanta that also featured Malcolm Brogdon. Lonnie Walker aided in clean-up efforts after a night of protests in San Antonio. The list goes on from there.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver wrote in an internal memo to NBA employees obtained by ESPN that he was “heartened” by those “speaking out to demand justice, urging peaceful protest and working for meaningful change.” Silver also called for introspection and promised the NBA will “continue its efforts to promote inclusion and bridge divides through collective action, civic engagement, candid dialogue and support for organizations working towards justice and equality.” He expressed condolences to the Floyd family, outrage over the wrongful deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and an obligation to not ignore the issues of “racism, police brutality and racial injustice.”

As of this writing, 26 of 30 NBA teams have issued statements on Floyd’s passing, either as entities or through organization spokespeople, ranging from executives to coaches. Hopefully, the words of many lead to action — and that action to appreciable change.

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