Are the Cavaliers heading in the right direction?
Amidst the spectacle that will be Johnny Football in Cleveland, the Cavs have rightfully taken a backseat to the Browns. And considering how last season ended, that’s probably a good thing.
A lot has happened in the last few weeks alone, and while there’s been no shortage of Cavalier news, it hasn’t necessarily been positive. The organization’s struggles have been well-chronicled.
For starters, I needn’t remind you (but will) that Mike Brown has been officially removed of his duties. While that’s not entirely surprising considering the tumultuous failure that was last season, it does raise an eyebrow or two when you look at the details.
Mike Brown signed a 5 year contract valued at $20 million, and made it just one year before being unceremoniously fired yet again, the second time by the Cavaliers in 4 years. The contract was guaranteed through 4 years, meaning he’s likely still going to collect at least $12 million from his most recent contract.
It’s commonplace in sports nowadays, but really think about that. Dan Gilbert is paying Mike Brown $12 million to not be the coach of this team. In terms of a severance package, that certainly can’t be too hard for Brown to swallow. Literally, figuratively and metaphorically, he’s getting paid to do nothing. Add on the roughly $7 million he’s still owed by the Lakers, and consider that he’s likely going to reel in probably $15+ million to be a former head coach. The job has its perks, I guess.
So why on Earth did the Cavs make such a financial commitment to Brown after they had just fired him in 2010? They then watched as he was fired by the Lakers 5 games into his second season with them, yet that was their guy? Why? BECAUSE, (as they loudly announced) they had made a mistake firing him in 2010. So how does the owner and front office explain firing him again, just another mistake? The problem has been that there doesn’t seem to be accountability from the top; firing GM’s and coaches as frequently as they’ve done lately does not breed consistency and success. (Or a single playoff appearance).
There have been several “proclamations” that have ultimately proven rather large embarrassments for Dan Gilbert.
1) “The Cavs will win a title become the former self-proclaimed “King” does. (Also known as “The Letter” following “The Decision”).. how did that one work out?
2) “The Cavs will not be returning to the draft lottery.” (Following consecutive #1 picks). Wrong. To be fair, Gilbert has declared he will personally not be attending the lottery, which is shockingly three days away. I’m assuming it’s not because he has other plans.
3) “Firing Mike Brown in 2010 was a mistake.” Yeahhh, probably not actually, seeing as he’s been fired again?
Fans can forgive these PR blunders.. but ultimately there has to be accountability from the top.
Gilbert signed off on his GM’s moves. You have to question whether Chris Grant’s tenure as a GM could even be considered anything other than a failure at this point. Sure, we landed Kyrie Irving in a shot of good fortune. Then you start looking at some of the other decisions; Tristan Thompson, overpaying Jarrett Jack, Luol Deng not working out, rehiring Mike Brown.
Enter David Griffin.
Of course the new GM would boldly state that Brown’s firing had nothing to do with Irving. For those of us who live in reality, it’s hard to believe that’s actually an accurate statement. The franchise is at a crossroads, and as De la Soul would say, “Stakes is high”.
The first order of business will be to hire a new coach, and they better get this one right. It’s clear Irving and Brown were not the portrait of a happy marriage. And there’s plenty of talented coaches out there – Mark Jackson, Alvin Gentry, Jeff Van Gundy among others.
Whether the Cavs can land a coach that will better mesh with Irving and Waiters will impact whether this franchise becomes a success, or loses Irving to free agency and falls further into the depths of NBA irrelevancy. Cleveland is not Miami, and doesn’t have warm weather or recent playoff success to lure free agents. That’s why bringing a proven coach in to set a positive direction is of the utmost importance. It’s all about keeping Kyrie happy.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Cavs though, as there’s certainly room for some guarded optimism:
- The Cavaliers are not without talent. Not saying there’s an abundance, but there’s some.
- Kyrie Irving, a top 5 PG in the league is still on the roster.
- Andrew Bynum is not.
- Dion Waiters showed a lot of improvement last year.
- Mike Brown is not the coach.
- Anderson Varejao will be back next season.
- The Cavs will pick no higher than 14th overall in one of the most touted draft classes in recent memory.
- Chris Grant is not drafting that player.
- The Cavs play in the Eastern Conference, where even the sub .500 Atlanta Hawks can make the playoffs.
- Dan Gilbert has proven he can and will spend money in attempts to make this team better, through free agency and paying coaches not to coach.
- LeBron is a free agent next season, and could even opt out this offseason? (Yeah, I said it).
The glaring weakness (aside from a vacant head coach) that painfully remains is a quality, starting small forward. If the Cavs can fill said void, that would take some much-needed pressure off of Irving and Waiters. While I highly doubt Carmelo Anthony is walking through the door, the Cavs must do something to address that position. There were too times last year where the Cavs couldn’t score, especially if our guards weren’t playing particularly well.
If the Cavs can land the right coach and upgrade the small forward position, they can be the playoff team that they talked about being last season. They weren’t far off making them last season, and that’s saying something considering the 33-49 record. The clock is ticking, and Kyrie Irving needs to see progress if he is to remain with the franchise. Your move, Griffin.