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Cavaliers coach John Beilein says he learned lesson in slugs-thugs mix-up: ‘Enunciate better’

John Beilein

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 16: Head Coach John Beilein of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during an NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on December 16, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

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DETROIT – Words like “posse,” “urban” and “thug” provide learning opportunities about how racially coded language works. Cavaliers coach John Beilein – who called his players “thugs” then said he misspoke when trying to use the word “slugs” – said he learned his lesson. It just has nothing to do with race.

“I have to be very good at choosing words very carefully and not slipping,” Beilein said. “When you talk a lot and you talk fast sometimes, that happens.

“It’s something I have to learn from and just enunciate better and just be clearer with…"

Ironically, Beilein trailed off a little. I think he might have finished with “what my intents were.” I’m not sure:

Beilein said he apologize individually to players last night then collectively this morning. He said the common response were: “I’m good” and “You’re good.”

Cleveland forward Larry Nance Jr. spoke for the team.

“I don’t think there’s any player on the team that believes there was malintent behind it,” Nance said.

“He made a mistake. We all make them. But he apologized, owned up to it. And at this point, that’s all we can ask him to do, and he’s done that.”

Nance said the word didn’t immediately trigger him. Kevin Love said the incident came at the end of the film session, and players left quickly, anyway. Beilein said he was told of his word usage a couple hours later and slowly pieced together how it happened.

Then, he went about apologizing.

It’s one thing for Beilein to know what word he meant to use. How does he convince others of his intent?

“I told them,” Beilein said.

He hopes that will suffice. In a long college-coaching career, Beilein built a reputation for his integrity.

“At the end of the day as a person, he’s a good man,” said Love, who has clashed with Beilein. “He misspoke.”

Love said Beilein called him last night. But out to dinner, Love and his coach didn’t talk.

Even if his players accept Beilein’s explanation about this specific situation, a larger disconnect remains.