Another Cavs blowout brings more ‘fire Byron Scott’ murmurs

Chris Grant, Kyrie Irving, Byron Scott

Chris Grant, Kyrie Irving, Byron ScottAny time your team is having a 22-47 season, it’s certain to elicit negative reactions from fans about the organization’s head coach. But it’s a very nuanced type of negativity when it deals with Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott.

Multiple times this year — notably, after the team started 5-23 — fans have questioned whether he’s the right coach to lead the Cavs into their hopeful playoff seasons down the road. Many have questioned his rotations. Others have questioned his overall toughness. Some have recalled how previous New Jersey and New Orleans teams started to ignore him by the end of his reign.

Whatever your Byron Scott-related point of view du jour, it’s likely that you displayed it on Twitter as the Cavaliers suffered their worst loss of the season, 118-76, on Friday in Houston. This of course followed Cleveland’s loss despite a 27-point lead against Miami on Wednesday. Placed within the context of Scott’s 186 games with the organization, it’s just been another tough week on the job.

Yes, arguably, the Cavs are again without their three best players. Anderson Varejao has now missed 44 games, Kyrie Irving 20 and Dion Waiters 12. Take away the Big Three of the Miami Heat for a combined 76 games and they’d likely struggle too. But is it time things fell on Scott more? Let’s take a look at how Twitter reacted last night.

10:12 p.m. — The Cavs are losing badly in Houston, so the PD’s beat writer cracks a joke about her Friday highlight.

10:15 p.m. — Omri Casspi and Chris Quinn! Feel the excitement of Cavs basketball!

10:15 p.m. — As has occured several times this year, Daryl Ruiter was all over the Byron Scott angle. This was his most poignant of several Scott-related tweets last night.

10:18 p.m. — Tough to have a “winning culture” without a team’s three best players, but I’m certain fans are tired for waiting.

10:25 p.m. — D-Man had a number of Scott tweets, but he deserves the credit to sharing how the FSO crew also was sharing their comments on this beat.

10:31 p.m. — Fair counter-point from Fox 8’s John Telich. He previously had said the Cavs were “undermanned” and the game was “just not close to NBA effort.”

10:34 p.m. — Finally, a tip of the hat to our own Rick. Who would be better than Byron Scott?

For added context, the Cavs organization has repeatedly called this season “Year 2″ of the complete rebuild post-Lebron James. It’s not fair to count the decimated roster of 2010-2011 as that was practically “Year 0″ for both the rebuild and Byron Scott’s tenure. There were no added prospects on that team and to count it ignores the reality of how rebuilds operate in the NBA.

So then, last year’s 21-45 (adjusted to 26.1 wins) lockout-shortened season record was the first official one with judgement toward Scott’s ability as a Cavaliers coach. It was tough at times, again, as the team was incredibly weak, even more so on the bench. Omri Casspi and Anthony Parker each played 1,200+ minutes, while names such as Samardo Samuels, Donald Sloan, Manny Harris, Ryan Hollins, Semih Erden, Lester Hudson and Luke Harangody all received stretches of significant minutes.

Lest it be forgotten, the team actually had an opposite start to the season as this year. Cleveland started 13-17 on the year, with semi-decent wins over the Knicks, Celtics, Mavericks, Clippers and Pacers. Optimism was still relatively high for a possible No. 8 spot in the playoffs. But in those final 36 games, they lost by an average of 10.3 points, suffering an obscene 14 losses by 16+ points (including 11 of their final 21 contests).

Expectations then were mixed heading into 2012-13. Some hoped optimistically that the Cavs — with two more first-round additions, full health and a weak Eastern Conference — might be able to contend for the No. 8 spot again. That was never the case. The highlight of the season roster-wise was the addition of Wayne Ellington and Marreese Speights from Memphis, plus the Shaun Livingston pick-up to give the team a more complete bench, but that hasn’t been sustaining.

Several times this year, Byron Scott hasn’t held back in his assessment of the team’s overall effort. He was similar in his demeanor last night in Houston:

“It was the first game in a long time I saw us being very disconnected on both ends of the floor. Even though the first quarter was close, it started in the first quarter. We just made some shots in the first quarter. But from that point on, I just thought we were disconnected. Guys were trying to get theirs on the offensive end. Defensively we were disconnected. Guys weren’t communicating. We were just individuals out there. We weren’t a team.”

Two months ago exactly, I wrote in The Diff about some relatively recent franchise comparisons for the Cavaliers and their current rebuild. My focus in that article was on success via the NBA Draft, but let’s take another perspective now: Coaching changes.

Oklahoma City — This is the example folks love to discuss. After a 1-12 start in Kevin Durant’s second season, the organization fired coach P.J. Carlesimo and brought in Scott Brooks, a long-time player/assistant. OKC fell all the way to 3-29 in 2008-09, then finished the year on a 20-30 spurt. With the addition of James Harden and a much more efficient Durant, they won 50 games in 2009-10 and the rest is history

Chicago — Since Michael Jordan/Phil Jackson’s final title in ’97-’98, the Bulls actually have had five different coaches coach 145+ games. There was Tim Floyd and Bill Cartwright, then Scott Skiles and Vinny Del Negro, and now in the back-and-forth Derrick Rose years, there has been Tom Thibodeau. Few teams — even the awful ones — have had as much coaching turnover in the last 15 years, while they’ve only advanced past the first round twice.

Grizzlies – In The Diff, I shared two four-year drafting segments of Grizzlies history: From ’94-’98 and from ’05-’09. By far the longest tenured and most successful head coach in franchise history has been Lionel Hollins, who has been there since the end of the 2008-09 season. Before that, six different coaches had between 123-184 games in their tenure, beginning with Brian Winters and ending with Mike Fratello.

Atlanta — Dating back to 1984’s arrival of Mike Fratello (and even before this too), the Hawks have had some of the best head coaching security in the NBA. Yet they still haven’t been to an Eastern Conference Finals in franchise history. Most recently, Mike Woodson was in charge for six seasons while Larry Drew is in his third year.

Minnesota — After Flip Saunders’ departure during the 2004-05 season, the Timberwolves have had six different coaching tenures (which includes Kevin McHale twice). In fact, outside of Saunders’ nine-year reign that coincided with the Kevin Garnett years and some great regular season records, no other coach in franchise history has lasted more than two full 82-game seasons. Despite major injuries, the Wolves are on pace for their best season in the post-Saunders era this year with a 24-43 record.

Sacramento – Similar to Minnesota, the Kings had one coach during their long stretch of successful seasons from 1998-2006. Rick Adelman advanced past the first round four times with Sacramento, but never made it to the NBA Finals. Post-Adelman (who, of course, is the current Minnesota coach), the Kings have had five different coaches. Keith Smart currently is in charge but chaos remains about possible relocation and the polarizing DeMarcus Cousins.

Cleveland — Looking back at Cleveland’s last rebuild, with Lebron James, the team fired Paul Silas mid-way through James’ second season. Brendan Malone filled in the gaps as an interim coach, then Mike Brown was in charge for the next five years. Looking back in time to the decent Cavs teams of the late ’80s and early ’90s, there was the seven-year reign of Lenny Wilkens followed by the six years of Mike Fratello.

So again, there are lots of head coaching changes and interim head coaches spread throughout these franchise comparisons. You obviously see a lot of chaos and confusion, but whether it is correlation or causation, you often see this pattern emerge: A successful team sticks with one head coach throughout the entirety of its successful run. Both things generally come to an end at the same time.

Next season, the Cavaliers will have significantly higher expectations as a franchise and for Byron Scott. It will be the third full year of the rebuild and of true evaluations from the front office. Is a No. 8 seed the minimum accomplishment in order for him to keep his job? Will long-term injury-prone players cost him an opportunity to remain with the team as they re-emerge from these dark seasons?

Both in Cleveland with Lebron James and Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant, the franchises decided to part ways with their existing coach mid-way through the star’s second season. That obviously has not occurred just yet for Kyrie Irving. Will that be a mistake long-term, or will the franchise’s added patience reap additional benefits through organizational consistency?

We obviously shall see shortly, but fans are starting to get unruly and if this is the same situation on March 23, 2014, then it’s certainly well within our rights to expect change to finally occur.

Photo: Jacob Rosen/WFNY at the 2012 Greater Cleveland Sports Awards

  • ThatAlex

    Byron is a great developmental/rebuilding coach. But I haven’t seen anything to think that he can get the job done with the game on the line.

  • boomhauertjs

    I’m done with Byron. I’d like to see either Stan Van Gundy or the next Tibideau/ Mike Brown defensive genius.

  • Lyon25

    I’m not giving up on Scott yet. But he hasn’t exactly earned my praise either. He may not have the best roster to work with, but that said, his rotations are head scratching at times and he seems to lack the understanding what a timeout can do to stem a run.

    Next year is the test. More of the same and he’s gone. I hope not, because I like his old school mentality.

  • thenoclist

    I’ve been on him for his godawful rotations since game 1 this year when they let the Wizards take the lead in the 4th quarter after being blown out all game, simply because he was too stubborn to sub his starters in earlier. That said, I can’t think of a better replacement for him.

  • Lunch

    So what makes Stan Van Gundy the coach that’s needed for this team in order for them to succeed? If Van Gundy was here on year 1 of the Kyrie Irving rebuild, instead of Scott, would Van Gundy do any better than Scott, record wise, with the same injuries that occurred during that season?

  • Steve

    Ah, the classic “rotations” argument. It never gets more specific than bringing the starters back sooner, but that ignores that you can’t run your best players 40 minutes a night.

  • Steve

    What makes Van Gundy the coach that’s needed? The ranking of 27th in defensive efficiency and no improvement from our blossoming young star on that end of the court.

  • http://twitter.com/PEngle39 Phil Smith

    I still don’t see how Byron lets TT take only 6 shots last night. He’s the only future starter on the court, why not get him some game-time practice? Instead we see Boobie Gibson go 0-9. Even Kevin [Edit: C'mon. No foul language, y'all.] Jones took more shots than TT. There’s no excuse…..

  • thenoclist

    Yep, you know that classic argument that states maybe coach Scott should learn how to make in game adjustments and make the decisions that best help his team win. You know, the things that the successful coaches in the NBA do.

  • porkchop

    If we’re playing the credit/blame the HC game, then I see Scott’s 2 years of not getting Kyrie better on defense and raise you 7 years of Van Gundy getting zero improvement out of Dwight Howard on offense.
    I would also claim that if you swap out Zeller for Howard on those Magic teams you would see their efficency plummet. You put way to much emphasis on coaching and not nearly enough on the players on the court, and our players are still not good.

  • Lunch

    oddly, I agree with porkchop, Steve. A quick glimpse on basketball-reference.com shows very little that convinces me that he’s the right man for the job. Before both coaching gigs with the Heat, and the Magic, both teams were already good defensively before Van Gundy coached there. I see nothing that shows how well Gundy would do with the rookies and 2nd year players on the Cavs.

  • Lunch

    So knowing the fact that our 3 best players are out due to injury, are you basically saying that if Scott made those in game adjustments, without stating what adjustments were needed, then we would have won the game?

  • Alan

    What about the other night against WAS when he pulled Dion and the starters barely 3 min into the 1st qtr? that was an in game move that helped win the game. granted it was against the wizards, but you cannot just pick out this game and ignore the rest

  • Alan

    I agree, his job right now is to develop the young talent. So far it has been a balancing act with development and winning. Most nights if the only goal was winning it probably makes sense to play Livingston and the veteran bench more, but that doesn’t help the young guys and the guys on the bench are not in the long term future for the team. Zeller probably gets more playing time than his contributions warrant, but he needs the minutes if he going to improve. I think you have to give him some of the credit for the improvement of Tristan this season. Dion also seems to respond well to Byron. Its tricky to be the coach during this stage. However, going forward with this rebuild development will have to mean the same thing as winning.

    And I also agree that I am not convinced yet that he will the coach when the team is ready for playoff runs. He has not shown any proof of that yet. But those coaching skills have not been required so far.

  • Porkchop

    What should Scott have done instituted a minimum shots forTT rule and benched anyone who didnt pass to him? Should he have forced the other team to stop doing things that lead to TTs foul trouble?

  • Wow

    Guys just accept this team is going to suck next year too. They won’t be good until at least 2014-2015.

  • Kildawg

    I don’t know if even Phil Jackson could win with our current injuries. He probably wouldn’t have done too good with his Lakers teams missing Bryant and O’Neal. How bad the Boston teams of a few years ago to last year would have been missing Rondo, Allen, and Garnett (for position analysis, this year would be Rondo, Pierce, and Garnett). My point is any team would look like crap missing three starters, especially their most productive ones.

  • MrCleaveland

    I can understand getting blown out by teams that are better, which is almost everybody.

    What I cannot accept is blowing huge leads.

    These Cavs could have made themselves Cleveland legends by stopping the Heat’s streak. They would have gone down in local lore for generations just by holding on to win one lousy game. But instead, they just whimpered and folded up again.

    I put a lot of that on Scott. He can’t let that happen, but he does.

    It sure looks like Scott’s just waiting to get fired here so that he can move in when D’Antoni gets fired in L.A.

  • BenRM

    A team loses it’s 3 best players and loses games. We are supposed to be surprised and outraged? Look, like many, I’m not going to sing Byron’s praises. But at the same time, it’s hard to point fingers. Is it Byron’s fault or a depleted roster? Could anyone do better?

    I think even the best replacement now earns only one or two more wins. (WAR for coaches?) One thing is for sure; Byron can develop guards. Seeing as how the Cavs future will rest heavily on Kyrie and Dion’s shoulders, I’m not opposed to keeping Scott on.

  • http://twitter.com/KappNeffect [soulhio sounds]

    Please, don’t get it twisted. Miami didn’t play–we lead by 27, Miami does, we lose. You really thought that rotation could sustain that run? lol… foolish

  • whosevelt

    I don’t get how this discussion follows a game where they were missing three of their limited NBA level players. I would have no problem if at the end of the year they would evaluate the job he has done, but after a worse than awful start (and he is liable for that) they have shown progress, only a couple games below .500 over the last 40, and they’ve been missing some pretty important players. They’ve also found themselves challenging for wins they had no business challenging for, like two games against the Heat, beating OKC, etc.

    I was not optimistic after the Waiters pick that they were going to go anywhere for the next decade, but they’ve shown over the last 40 games that they have something worth observing. I hope they keep the two guys they got from Memphis, as well as Livingston, so that we don’t have to wait another year after we determine that Kyrie and Dion are a good nucleus, to build around them. If they do that, next year is the time to hit .500 and if they can’t, it’s time for Scott to go.

  • BenRM

    to that point, just look at how “well” the Lakers have been doing with their injury riddled roster. Old, ill-conceived, and playing in the West, it still contains multiple-time NBA MVP’s and first-teamers, and they have only recently taken the 8th seed.