Kevin Love

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.

Past installments: Chicago Bulls | Golden State Warriors

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.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

How teams and players around NBA are taking care of arena staff during hiatus

How teams and players around NBA are taking care of arena staff during hiatus

In the days since the NBA suspended its season in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, athletes around the league have rallied to financially assist non-salaried arena employees and event staff that looked to be left in the dark by the indefinite postponement of games.

Kevin Love became the first to make a gesture when he pledged $100,000 to Cavaliers arena and support staff during the league’s hiatus:

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Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. And the fear and anxiety resulting from the recent outbreak of COVID-19 can be extremely overwhelming. Through the game of basketball, we've been able to address major issues and stand together as a progressive league that cares about the players, the fans, and the communities where we work. I'm concerned about the level of anxiety that everyone is feeling and that is why I'm committing $100,000 through the @KevinLoveFund in support of the @Cavs arena and support staff that had a sudden life shift due to the suspension of the NBA season. I hope that during this time of crisis, others will join me in supporting our communities. Pandemics are not just a medical phenomenon. They affect individuals and society on so many levels, with stigma and xenophobia being just two aspects of the impact of a pandemic outbreak. It's important to know that those with a mental illness may be vulnerable to the effects of widespread panic and threat. Be kind to one another. Be understanding of their fears, regardless if you don't feel the same. Be safe and make informed decisions during this time. And I encourage everyone to take care of themselves and to reach out to others in need -- whether that means supporting your local charities that are canceling events, or checking in on your colleagues and family.

A post shared by Kevin Love (@kevinlove) on

 

On Friday, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Blake Griffin and Zion Williamson followed in Love’s footsteps:

 

 

 

Rudy Gobert, the first player in the NBA to test positive for COVID-19, chipped in $500,000 for an employee relief fund:


Some teams and ownership groups have done the same.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, for one, has been upfront about Dallas’ intent to put together a compensation package for hourly employees from the get-go. This statement from Cuban was made mere hours after the suspension of the season was first announced:

 

Cuban has since elaborated on those plans, saying that for the Mavericks’ next four scheduled home games, the organization will pay hourly employees “as if they worked.”

And the Cavaliers, by whom Love is employed, announced that they plan to compensate all Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse employees as if previously scheduled events were taking place:

 

The Phoenix Suns guaranteed all part-time and hourly workers at Talking Stick Resort Arena full compensation for their six remaining previously scheduled home games:


The DeVos family, who own the Orlando Magic, announced a $2 million compensation package for hourly workers (Magic players have also contributed):


According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Golden State Warriors will donate $1 million to their disaster relief fund for arena employees:


The Trail Blazers are currently formulating a plan to pay their part-time arena employees, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic:

 

Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Hawks owner Tony Ressler has expressed an intention to “take care of” full- and part-time employees, though no official plans have been rolled out yet.

Dana Gauruder of the Detroit Free Press reported that the Pistons, who employ Griffin, will pay all of their full- and part-time employees during the hiatus, as well as look to provide financial assistance to outside companies who help staff Little Caesars Arena.

According to Farbod Esnaashari of Sports Illustrated, full- and part-time Clippers employees have been assured they’ll be paid in accordance with their regular schedule, though Staples Center personnel are still unsure of how they’ll be compensated.

The Milwaukee Bucks committed to matching Antetokounmpo’s donation, as well as any Bucks player that might donate in the future:

 

The New Orleans Pelicans put out the following statement:

 

And finally: “We are considering ways to help our impacted employees,” said a United Center spokesperson when asked for comment.

Sometimes the darkest times can breed the most heartening gestures. Many across the league are proving that. These are unchartered waters, so the hope is, with time, everyone in need is addressed in an appropriate manner.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

'I feel very empowered': Former Bull Ben Gordon opens up about his struggles with mental health to try to help others

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Associated Press

'I feel very empowered': Former Bull Ben Gordon opens up about his struggles with mental health to try to help others

In some ways, as Ben Gordon splashed a three-pointer inside the Bulls’ practice facility recently, it felt like 2004 again.

At his playing weight of 198 pounds and with his chiseled torso, one could argue Gordon looked the part. The jumper was pure, too.

But the gray in Gordon’s goatee is one hint that his playing days are behind him — if the sight of his 8-year-old son merrily shooting at another basket hadn't already given it away.

And then Gordon speaks, calmly and matter-of-factly, his words jarring anyone strolling down memory lane back to reality.

“I remember being literally, like, suicidal at one point,” Gordon said. “Unless you’ve been through that, it’s a really strange place to be.”

Gordon visited many strange places as his 11-year NBA career came to an unceremonious end in 2015. He was waived by the Magic and Warriors. He was arrested three separate times in 2017. TMZ released a video of Gordon using threatening language to acquaintances he believed were stealing his business ideas. He was hospitalized for a psychiatric evaluation following an incident (in which he was not charged) at a business he owned in New York.

In short, he was a long way from the calm, quiet force who made a career of rising to the occassion during the most chaotic moments. Still the only rookie in NBA history to win Sixth Man of the Year back in 2005, Gordon had descended into darkness.

“I’m not there anymore,” Gordon said. “Going to multiple professional therapists, I’ve resolved that. I’ve left that place.

“I learned to understand who I was as a failure. This was the first time in my life where I ever failed. I won a state championship in high school and college. I always had good fortune. I was skilled.

“Before therapy, I was difficult to be around. Some of my relationships were tarnished. Bridges were not burned, but damaged. I was in an unfamiliar place with myself. I finally said, ‘Don’t fight it. Learn about yourself in this space.’ And I learned a lot. I realized I was bulls****ing a lot about a lot of things. I learned to do the opposite of what I was doing.

“And where do you get the willpower to do that? I started to return to what made me me. Going to the gym every day. Getting shots up every day. Lifting weights every day. Doing things I’ve been doing my whole life. I was like, ‘Let me just start there.’”

So Gordon did. At a very unfamiliar 230 pounds, Gordon returned to the structured and disciplined lifestyle that defined his five years with the Bulls — a tenure that still resonates fondly with many fans.

“The more I did that, the more clarity I got,” he said. “My relationships started to get better. When you get depressed, it’s almost like you catch amnesia and you forget who you are and you become this new unfamiliar person to everybody.

“And I wasn’t depressed because I was an unhappy person. I was depressed because I had these great gifts. I put in all these hours of work. And now I can’t use it anywhere. That made me feel like, ‘Damn, what’s my purpose?’ I’m a very goal-oriented person. I didn’t have any goals. With no structure, I lost my control.”

As he shed pounds, Gordon’s identity started to return. Now 36 and with his legal issues quieted, he has started setting new workout challenges for himself. How much of his former athleticism could he regain? Could he windmill dunk again?

Throughout this process, Gordon visited his therapist weekly. He watched from afar as current NBA stars like Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan publicly revealed their struggles with anxiety and depression. This week, Proviso West product and Timberwolves forward Robert Covington talked to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about the value of therapy.

But even if mental health doesn't become as much a part of the discourse surrounding NBA as three-point shooting, Gordon is comfortable addressing the subject. In fact, he wants to find a documentary filmmaker to help him get his message of healing and recovery out to more people.

“I don’t understand why people feel embarrassed to talk about going through bad stuff. To me, I feel very empowered. I walk around with a sense of renewed personal strength,” Gordon said. “When my issues were in the media, some people would say, ‘Ah, look, Ben Gordon is going crazy. He’s broke. Ha, ha.’ Why is it so amusing when somebody is going through depression when it’s really a serious issue?

“I talk about my depression to people, and not to defend what I went through. I’m doing [it] to share what I’ve learned about the human mind and body when it’s stressed. I’m speaking from a place of experience. I’m very educated on the topic.

“That’s why I want to do a documentary where I’m talking about all my demons. I feel that would be therapeutic to certain people. I want to show people the fruits of the labor of figuring out a very difficult thing you’ve gone through. I didn’t cut corners in the healing aspect of what you have to go through to get back to being your normal self or a better version of yourself.”

Staying in this place is obviously Gordon’s goal. Before his ascent from such depths, Gordon didn’t necessarily view seeking professional help favorably.

“I was like many in the black community who were like, ‘Therapy? No, I’m not talking to anybody about my problems. I’m going to internalize it, be strong and do it myself.’ And I learned that type of attitude is only really good when you’re doing something competitively and trying to push yourself. You’re trying to create an edge so you create this thick skin,” Gordon said. “But when you need help, you need a professional. If you’re in therapy and in denial, you’re never going to get anything out of it because you’re not going to open up.

“I went through all these phases like, ‘I don’t want to go to therapy. OK, I’m in therapy. Oh, it’s not that bad. Oh, you know what? I like therapy now.’ What helped me is I started listening to what I was saying and I could really sort out my thoughts. Once I was able to do that, I was like, ‘Yo, BG, you have to be more accountable.’”

Gordon worked to restore personal relationships. He vowed to repair any damage done to his beloved hometown of Mount Vernon, NY, where he opened a holistic wellness center and sports rehabilitation facility that is now shuttered. Gordon has long given back to his community with free clinics, autograph sessions and barbecues. A playground is named after him there.

Gordon played 25 games with the Texas Legends of the G League in 2016-17. In a conversation with NBC Sports Chicago that lasted over an hour, he alternated between acceptance that his career is over and acknowledgement that the game has shifted to even more fully match his strengths of shotmaking and offensive flow.

“It’s a weird space to be in,” Gordon admitted. “I could be doing this but there’s not really a platform for me to do it. People ask about playing in the Big3. I don’t want to play 3-on-3 basketball. I didn’t work hard to do that. It’s like settling or being desperate. I can play in the Big3 when I’m 50.

“But I’m enjoying helping other players when I can. That’s more fulfilling than being desperate. I don’t miss the game in that way. I work out every day. I get my fix every day. If I make 10 threes in a row, that does something for my self-esteem. I feel good. I got better at something I love to do. That part is fulfilling.”

Even the fact Gordon visited the Advocate Center as a welcomed guest is a sign of progress. For many years, Gordon harbored some resentment towards the Bulls organization over how his contract negotiations led to a messy exit to the Pistons in 2009. With his son living in the area, he splits his time between Chicago, New York and California.

To keep busy outside of parenthood, Gordon works out and trains those who ask him to, and is happy to share his knowledge. He talks about possibly getting into coaching in a player development role or reviving his rehabilitation center in Mount Vernon.

For now, his life has returned to calmness.

“I’ve become more comfortable not being wanted by an NBA team. I’m at peace with my career,” Gordon said. “The reason why I wasn’t around the last two years is I couldn’t be in this environment. That would trigger me. But now I’m at a point where I resolved so many things and changed my perspective on so many things that nothing bothers me anymore. I know what my triggers are now.

“I’m how I always was, peaceful and focused. My son sees it the most. My Mom sees it the most. I’m able to pour into players I work with because I’ve done what I needed to do. I couldn’t help players before because I wasn’t myself. Just being through all that stuff and proving to yourself you can overcome it, it’s empowering. I feel great.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 support for people in distress. If you or anyone you know is ever in need, their number is 1-800-273-8255.

HeadStrong: Mental Health in Sports will premiere right here on NBC Sports Chicago on November 9th, immediately following Blackhawks PostGame Live. It’s all part of a month-long campaign this network is undertaking for the month of November in partnership with the “Movember” foundation to bring attention to men’s health issues.  

Though men are certainly not alone in struggling with mental health, men are three-to-five times more likely to commit suicide than women. Watch for HeadStrong and a compelling series of more than thirty digital shorts in November.

Go to www.nbcsports.com/headstrong for a special extended version of this trailer and more information on times and airdates.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.