NBA Rumor: Cleveland Cavaliers Turmoil?

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Love publicly apologized for his outburst, saying it was out of character. And while fans may have had a harder time accepting Love’s remorse – and stomaching his $30 million per season contract – Altman insists it hasn’t caused a rift inside the Cavaliers. “What people don’t see is his vulnerability with the players and his teammates. I don’t think people see his generosity,” said Altman, who last spoke to reporters in January. “If he was an all-out bad guy and those plays that you talk about represented him, his teammates wouldn’t love him, his teammates wouldn’t want to be around him.”

At this point a trade seems far-fetched. Love’s trade value is nil. He can talk all he wants about playing for the Portland Trail Blazers — a terrible thing to say publicly. The Blazers have been an ideal fit for years. But what’s the workable deal that makes it reality? The Cavs told Love on a few occasions the best route out of Cleveland was to play better, that he was responsible for resuscitating that dying value. Instead, he’s looked miserable, moped from time to time, created headaches and hasn’t been able to stay healthy.

When Love, 32, signed that extension, he was told by the Cavs’ front office that tanking was not the plan; competing for the playoffs was. I don’t believe he would have turned down $120 million, even if the Cavs were honest with him, but he has the right to feel frustrated and as though he’s left behind, as his teammates from those championship days have all been able to move on. Throw in Love’s frustrations over being injured so much, not to mention statistically this is the worst season of his career (10.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game), and yeah, it’s clear he is not all in on the Cleveland rebuild.

Ultimately, both sides might agree to a buyout. Love has about $60 million remaining on his contract over the next two years. Blake Griffin, another Jeff Schwartz client, gave back $13 million of the $75 million owed to him to get out of Detroit. If Love wants to give back $10 million or $15 million, the Cavs might accommodate him and send him on his way. They can stretch the money owed to him, and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time Dan Gilbert has paid people not to work for him.

After a converted layup by the Raptors, the five-time All-Star was shoved in the back and ran into the stanchion. Official Brandon Schwab tossed the ball to Love so he could inbound it in and an irritated Love spiked the ball with his left hand. Schwab is a G-League official and players expressed irritation with the consistency in calls, sources said. Players from around the league have shared their concerns privately and publicly with the influx of new officials this season.

With 33.3 seconds remaining in the third quarter of a two-possession game, following Malachi Flynn’s driving layup, Kevin Love got bumped into the stanchion and glared at referee Courtney Kirkland. Then Love … well … only he knows exactly what he did — and why. Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who has known Love since their early days together in Minnesota, slowly lowered his mask, shouted something in Love’s general direction and looked on in disbelief. Assistant coach Antonio Lang was flabbergasted, raising both palms and peering toward other coaches, wanting to make sure they saw the same. Brodric Thomas, an undrafted rookie free agent and one of two players waiting to receive the inbounds pass, couldn’t believe it either.

This wasn’t a brain cramp from a young player who got confused or doesn’t know any better. This wasn’t the kind of careless mistake that keeps plaguing an inexperienced team late in games. This was a temper tantrum. Another one in the growing the lowlight reel of the Cavaliers’ supposed leader. It was childish. Disrespectful. Selfish. Unprofessional. Uncouth. An awful example for his young, impressionable teammates. And it erased a gutsy effort from an undermanned roster playing on the second game of a back-to-back. “That was unacceptable,” a source texted

“I didn’t see it,” said Darius Garland, the closest player to the pass. “I was trying to get my defender off me. It’s probably on social media, so when I get on the bus I’m probably (going to) look. Something like that happens, we just have to get on to the next play. That was just a little breakdown that he had, it was nothing serious. He got whacked on one end and he got whacked on the defensive end and they didn’t call it. He just got frustrated, that was it.”

Love said that any progress the Cavs make the rest of this season will begin with him and his teammates taking accountability. “We gotta do a little check on ourselves too,” the 5-time All-Star said. “We gotta look at ourselves in the mirror too. I was talking about passing that mirror test. Definitely myself — I’ve been a s–thead at some points this season. I let losing get the best of me and nobody likes to do that…. it’s really just looking at ourselves and finding out how we can get better. And from there, trying to put it all together.”

Now just 54 games into his tenure, Beilein has his answer. He and the Cavaliers are parting ways and he is walking away from the franchise nine months after taking the job. The entire experience has been such a disaster that league sources told The Athletic that Beilein is walking away from the more than $12 million guaranteed on his four-year contract just to get out. J.B. Bickerstaff gets the task of replacing him and trying to put this back together for the final 28 games — and beyond. The relationship with Beilein, meanwhile, deteriorated faster than anyone could’ve expected. “I don’t even know how things got to this point,” one Cavs player told The Athletic.

Beilein’s tone toward the players became an issue, sources have told The Athletic, with him allegedly overly harping his voice in film sessions, nitpicking fundamentals and showing an inability to adapt to the NBA’s offensive and defensive structures. As a 67-year-old coach of a blend of veterans and young players, Beilein is said to have shown no consistency in relating to players or in building lasting relationships with them. “He was a dictator — not a coach suited for today’s NBA,” one source said.

Instead, multiple players began playing songs that included the word “thug” whenever Beilein was within earshot, sources said: Bone Thugz-n-Harmony’s “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and Tupac’s “Thugz Mansion” among them. As the team boarded the bus a few days after the incident, one player was intentionally playing Trick Daddy’s “I’m a Thug” with Beilein a few feet away. Other players blasted songs with the word “thug” loudly during workouts in the facility. Players did this to make light of a very tough situation, according to one team source. “The worst part to me was not owning that he said it,” one player told The Athletic.

A dejected John Beilein made the lonely stroll from the home locker room to the podium for his postgame press conference. But only because the NBA requires it. If he had his wish, Beilein would’ve immediately bolted for his downtown residence, seeking refuge with a stiff drink. Who knows if that even would’ve helped after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ latest trainwreck. “I asked (Cavaliers director of communications) B.J. (Evans) if I had to come in here and he said, yeah, I do,” Beilein said. “I asked him if I could plead the fifth, no witnesses could be called to this game. That tells you a little bit how I feel.”

For lottery-bound groups, this time of year is brutally tough because the primary decision-makers have to do what’s best long term. More than a few guys in that locker room sense the organization wanting to make a big shakeup, that the front office is “trying to trade Kevin and Tristan.” While it’s their job to block out any noise and focus solely on basketball, they are also human. On top of that, losing is really hard, especially home blowouts against lousy teams. There is such a thing as an acceptable loss in a rebuilding season. Saturday night, however, was not one.

John Beilein will remain as the Cavaliers’ head coach after he apologized to the team prior to shootaround on Thursday for a remark he made during Wednesday’s film session. “Met about it today, I apologized about it today as well,” Beilein said before taking questions Thursday. “I never intended, and I think the players understand that now. But it’s something I have to learn from and just enunciate better and be clearer with what my intentions were. So, they all know it, they understand it. But it’s something, it’s unfortunate, we’ll get behind us without question.”

“Whatever happened, happened yesterday,” Thompson said. “We dealt with it in house, and at the end of the day, like I told you guys before, I don’t really do that Chatty Patty stuff. So, you guys have your reports, you guys do what you guys have to do for your job to get the information. At the end of the day, it was about Detroit tonight and guys stayed focused. You’re going to have bumps in the road, at the end of the day we kept our composure and focus, so we were able to get a win tonight. I don’t want this interview or nothing like that to take away from how hard the guys played tonight. I’m proud of my teammates.”

John Beilein gets in trouble

After stunning his players in a film session Wednesday with a verbal suggestion that they were no longer playing “like a bunch of thugs,” Cleveland Cavaliers coach John Beilein later reached out to players individually to insist he instead meant to use the word “slugs.” Delivering the term thugs to a group of largely young African American men carries obvious racial connotations, and Beilein acknowledged to ESPN in a telephone conversation Wednesday night that he understood that.

“No matter how good or bad things are, balance is the hardest thing to get in life,” Love told in a private moment following shootaround Tuesday afternoon. “I know that is philosophical, but it’s true. It’s like Koby said to me the other night, ‘You’re the best player on an NBA team and don’t ever forget that.’ And he’s right. Sometimes you have to get checked and put it into perspective. I think now opposed to when I was 24 or 25 I’m able to either take that on the chin or absorb that. I had to look myself in the mirror and say, ‘Hey, listen that’s unacceptable, you need to be better and we move on.’”

According to those there, Love was upset by the timing of the punishment — after shootaround while he was in the training room and a few days after the Toronto incident — and the abrupt nature. Because of that, Love wanted a deeper explanation. He then came back onto the court and approached Altman, who was huddled in his usual spot off to the side, flanked by executives Jason Hillman, Andrae Patterson and assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff. Everyone decided to move the discussion into the film room.

“There was no altercation, there was no screaming match,” Love said. “I was actually shocked when guys were telling me about the article and what had come out. I’d heard about everything about 10 minutes before. I didn’t know who it came from, it didn’t come from me. Like I said, there wasn’t anything that happened at shootaround that warranted something like that. “It was a conversation we had, but there was no blowup, there was no me talking about how much money I have. I’m an a–h—. But I’m not that big of an a–h—. … That was like a 2 out of 10. It was really nothing.”

Kevin Love: A lot of non truths being shared…but I’ve learned that we live in a world where people remember accusations and not rebuttals. Let them paint whatever picture they want. Fact is — I love my teammates.

This is now the second time this season Love and Altman have had a talk about attitude, engagement and body language, sources tell The first time, sources say, was in early December following a string of awful, disengaged single-digit performances by the five-time All-Star. After that first chat with Altman, ahead of Cleveland’s Dec. 11 home game against Houston, Love went on an impressive run, scoring double figures in eight of the next nine games. His attitude shifted as well.

Love was fined $1,000 by the Cavs for an outburst on the bench on Dec. 31 in Toronto, sources said, and disagreed with the fine. He was spotted by cameras slapping chairs on the Cavaliers bench away from the team huddle in the third quarter of the blowout. He asked a Cavs coach to take him out of the game so he could cool down. During the next timeout, when a coach asked what was wrong, Love said he didn’t like how selfish the first unit was playing, sources said.

As Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein was about to give his view of a heated exchange with Tristan Thompson during the team’s overtime win in San Antonio, Thompson wrapped up his post-shootaround on-court workout session, walked toward the other end of the floor and overheard the line of questioning. Thompson stopped. And then gave his coach a big hug. “You know I love this guy,” Thompson said Saturday morning at Fiserv Forum, his first comments since getting benched in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The incident between Beilein and Thompson took place late in the third quarter Thursday night. Following Matthew Dellavedova’s steal, Thompson received a pass and threw down a two-handed breakaway dunk that put the Cavs ahead by nine. But as the Spurs called timeout and players sauntered toward the bench, Thompson was still fuming. Dellavedova, one of Thompson’s longest-tenured teammates, tried to restrain the veteran. But it didn’t work. Thompson was seen on camera shouting something at Beilein.

Love acknowledged the difficulty in Beilein’s adjustment to the NBA from college but said Beilein’s style is what the Cavs need at this point, especially with so many young players who spent only a year in college. “It’s a throwback because he does a lot of skill work and fundamental work,” Love told The Detroit News on Tuesday. “It reminds me of when I was back in college and we definitely did a lot of film there, so player development-wise, that’s really key — especially when you’re young — is to adopt that as a strategy to better your game. “When you look at film, it doesn’t lie. You can’t make excuses on the film and say, ‘I was here,’ when you weren’t. It always shows you where your game is.”

The former Michigan coach said he believes he has his players’ attention, and they have been receptive. “We’ve met … and it’s like, ‘Coach, keep doing what you’re doing because we really need this. We need accountability, we need to play harder, stronger, tougher. Don’t stop what you’re doing,'” Beilein said. “We were the worst defensive team in the NBA last year. What do we do, practice less? “I have a lot of confidence the guys in the locker room are on board, and they’ve told me that.”

“I don’t really see the comparison of college,” John Henson said before praising Beilein for reminding him of his old Hall-of-Fame coach at North Carolina Roy Williams. “This is an NBA team, it’s run like an NBA team. What he’s doing, I don’t think anybody’s complaining. I think it’s kind of overshot, you know what I mean. They just kind of ran with it media wise. I think he’s doing fine, got a great staff. You saw tonight, we played hard, played well within our schemes, just didn’t come (out) on top.”

Slowly getting dressed, tossing a stocking cap on his head, with an inhaler by his locker to help battle a cold, Thompson was next ready to fight a few of his own teammates when he was informed that three were quoted in an article that dropped hours before the Cavs’ fifth straight loss. “Y’all better find them names ‘cause I’ll pull up on ‘em right now,” Thompson said. “You can’t do that s—. “At the end of the day if you’re going to build a culture and a family, you can’t have that Chatty Patty s— going on. That s— is whack to me. Everyone’s got to look in the mirror, there’s only so much coach can do and there’s only so much we can do. Do we have the best roster in the NBA? No. But we’re going to go out there and compete every night. Guys got to look in the mirror. So I hope whoever reported that was just bulls——g and blamed it on a player.”

One player skimmed through The Athletic article prior to the game. In it, players complained about long film sessions, Beilein’s repeated nitpicking over basic fundamentals, not enough versatility on offense and a lack of understanding of the NBA game and opposing players. When that player, sitting at his locker, saw some of the quotes, he couldn’t help but chuckle. “What are we even mad about,” he asked. “It’s a story about nothing. I’ve enjoyed my time with coach thus far.”

Cavaliers coach John Beilein defended his methods and said he’s drastically changed his style from college, responding to a critical story posted by The Athletic Friday afternoon. “I have made huge changes in everything,” Beilein said before the Cavs faced the Orlando Magic at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. “I would say 85 percent of our language is NBA language. Our typical practice (at Michigan) the day before a game would be two hours and 10 minutes, now it might be 60 or 70 minutes.”

Veterans and younger players, from all corners of the roster, are frustrated with what they see as the pitfalls of a college environment Beilein brought with him. When the Cavs were 4-5, players viewed some of these things as quirks of a coach with a different approach. Now, they consider them grating. Grievances include his nitpicking over basic fundamentals, too much harping in lengthy film sessions, not enough versatility on offense, and a broader lack of understanding of the NBA game and opposing players. Some of that comes with this being his first year in the league.

On Friday night, Harden added 12 assists and 10 rebounds, another triple-double. Forget those stats. The most irritating number to Thompson was six — as in the amount of players who scored double figures for Houston. If the Cavs entered the night determined to take Harden’s teammates out of the game then how did that many get going? “How many games has it been? At this point, we’ve taught everything we can teach,” Thompson said. “Now it’s up to the players to come out there and just do their job. Do your job. Simple. Our players didn’t do their job.”

On Friday night, every member of the Rockets — all 11 that played — scored at least four points. The non-Hardens erupted for 98 points, as Houston scored a season-high 141 points. “He’s a dynamic scorer, one of the best scorers in our league,” Thompson said of Harden. “But what makes him more dangerous is when he’s finding guys and getting other guys going. Rather have him score all the points and have the other guys be cold and not engaged in the game. That’s what we did last time. That’s what teams do. That’s what Milwaukee was doing. Had some success. Guys just didn’t follow along the game plan.”

A few hours later, the Cavs and Smith agreed to his excommunication. In the same Athletic piece, veteran point guard George Hill said he believed the focus shifted away from winning before the start of this season — Cleveland’s first without LeBron. Hill said “in the summer, it felt like politically you have to say we can still do these things because you want everyone to buy in to being here. Once everybody is here, I don’t know. The directions change.” It does not appear that Hill, who is injured, will be disciplined for his comments, as the organization views them differently from what Smith said.
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