Of Cavaliers and Quitting

Byron Scott

Byron ScottThe locker room had the aura of a funeral home. Suited men stood at the entry way, greeting—watching. Silence echoed off of the maple, those impacted by the loss slowly shuffled about with their heads hanging and faces oozing disappointment. Some sat, some leaned; others came and went without saying a word. Laid to rest was the last 48 minutes of basketball, the Cleveland Cavaliers being brutally beaten in front of a home crowd by a team missing two of it’s starters in the playoff-bound Brooklyn Nets. As if any loss is well-timed, this one was especially tough due to the nature—an insurmountable 30-point halftime deficit—as well as the timing and fact that the 18-point loss was the 10th straight game which resulted in a similar outcome.

Also not aiding matters from a timing perspective is that this most recent defeat comes on the heels of rumors and speculation—coupled with crowd-sourced ire on social media platforms—surrounding the future of Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott. Following a victory, Scott can be found joking with his players, sharing laughs with his wife and gathering a few bites of sushi for the road. Following the latest loss, the parting words were Scott saying that he was not concerned with his future—”Whatever happens happens,” he said—the overriding narrative being that a rebuilding process has morphed into a toxic culture fueld by countless instances of implosion1. As has happened all too often in the city of Cleveland, with accountability varying in terms of direction and level, questions of quitting and locker rooms lost are being lobbed.

An 18-point loss at any other point in the season is quickly forgotten—is anyone still sweating the December 7 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves2? An 18-point loss during the home stretch is magnified and hyper analyzed, undoubtedly aided by the nine previous defeats that exist before it amidst this season’s record books. But while the media and fans wonder if the team has quit on Byron Scott, folding up shop in anticipation of a summer vacation, several members of the team can be found in the gym late at night. Not 24 hours before the Nets embarrassed the Cavaliers, leaving thousands wondering if they were better off watching the upstart Cleveland Indians on television, CJ Miles, Boobie Gibson, Tyler Zeller, Chris Quinn and Kevin Jones—among others—were spending their Tuesday night in the gym. While many opted to misconstrue a comment from Kyrie Irving that would be initially reported inaccurately3, it’s the 21-year-old point guard who has lobbied to play despite still suffering from a strained shoulder—hopes are that the vest he wears under his jersey will at least protect him through the rest of the regular season. If “quitting” is in fact a part of the current fabric, this team is going about it in very weird ways.

The narrative or belief that several of the Cavaliers have nothing left to play for due to expiring contracts and overwhelming belief that they’ll be playing elsewhere next season is straw man at best given the finite amount of roster spaces available in the NBA coupled with impending contract negotiations. Marreese Speights will be looking at the open market this summer; how could he conceivably benefit from quitting? Shaun Livingston has bounced around the NBA like a pinball and will be a year older in what is increasingly becoming a young man’s game. Luke Walton repeatedly says how embarrassed he is, how sorry he feels for Cavalier fans who have been forced to endure this sub-par product.

It is no secret that the Cavaliers have displayed abysmal effort at times, largely occurring on the defensive end. Not having an answer, Scott has attempted to implement a zone defense that would make men accountable for areas instead of players—”There aren’t that many good shooters in the NBA,” Scott said in defense of his new scheme. The result in Atlanta earlier this month was fruitful as the team kept pace with the playoff-bound Hawks. The result on Wednesday night could not have provided more of a contrast as the considerably less-athletic Nets torched the Cavaliers. A 38-year-old Jerry Stackhouse spilt two defenders for a highlight-ready dunk. Point guard Deron Williams followed up shortly thereafter with a dunk fit for All-Star weekend; it was his first dunk of the season. Walton’s use of “embarrassing” could not be more apropos. But as Scott would say post-game, for certain players, playing hard—48 minutes of high-gear effort—is a skill. For players like Anderson Varejao, it’s a way of life. For others, it’s something that can be turned on or off and has led to considerable angst throughout the 2012-13 season.

Scott is running out of excuses. Yes, he’s been riddled with injuries and the talent level of the players he has been provided over his tenure has not measured up to many of his competitors. His job as an NBA head coach is to put his players in the best position to win basketball games. It can be argued that he is leading his horses to water, but making them drink is proving to be a more difficult task. Cavalier fans have been repeatedly told that this is Year 2 of the rebuild—Scott’s jump is typically made in Year 3. Neither team owner Dan Gilbert or general manager Chris Grant were largely present on Wednesday night—they may have been lurking, but that would be the extent of their interaction with the evening.

Following the game, Scott said he had very little to offer on what just happened. He scribbled “12:00″ on the team’s giant whiteboard and told them he would offer up his thoughts after a video session, one that would undoubtedly replicate a horror film on the hardwood. Miles described the night as if it were a boxing match—”Not only did we not swing back, we didn’t even get up,” he stated. As a result of the prize fight, the swingman sat in front of his locker with cooler-ready ice bags strapped to his knees and both feet submerged in a tub of ice, saying very little, attempting to piece together what the hell had just happened to the group of guys who were practicing in their free time one night earlier.

With eight games left, the white light at the end is quickly approaching. Hopes are that none of the men who share the locker room with Miles have already started to walk toward it.

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Footnotes:

  1. Say what you want, asking a high-ranking individual if he’s afraid of being fired is a pretty tough inquiry within a live environment. Answering it candidly is that much harder. []
  2. Aside from Anita Scott, of course []
  3. Backstory: Medina CG’s Rick Noland tweeted that Irving answered a question about quitting on Byron Scott with “you’ll have to ask him,” which was incorrect but widely disseminated, damning both the coach and the player. Irving, however, was referencing whether or not members of the Cavaliers have quit with “you’ll have to ask them.” Chaos, naturally, ensued. []
  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Kinda reminds me of the Indians last season when things finally turned rancid and there was just pity and indifference left in the air. Much like what the baseball team did this past winter I still firmly believe Chris Grant needs to step up and do something other then draft another youngster who will need his entire first contract before becoming a true building block. Plus something better then a free agent signing like CJ Miles. Not a knock on Miles I actually like him for the bench bunch but I’m hoping for a little more given the tremendous financial flexibility the Cavaliers posses. Time will tell. Tick tock tick tock Mr. Grant and Gilbert.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Very good point. Just like last seasons tribe collapse was the impetus for massive changes, this could be similar for the guys in Independence.

  • Jaker

    It’s impossible to want to talk Cavs after talking about the 2-0 Tribe with the two nice wins and the positive energy they have.

  • mgbode

    #TribeTown

  • boomhauertjs

    Gilbert’s got to be getting impatient, especially when season ticket renewals drop again.

  • mgbode

    we cannot risk winning these games with PHX tanking just as hard as we are. we have a comfortable 2 game cushion on Detroit now and are not catching NO or Orlando for the top2 lottery odds.

    also, the Lakers putting the final nail in the Mavericks coffin was nice. 1/2 game lead on the Jazz to give the Cavs the #15 pick, which means PHX would not get the #14 pick.

    so, it’s PHX vs. CLE for the 3rd most lottery balls and both watching the Lakers for a mid-1st round pick.

  • RGB

    We’re on 3 tanks, errr, losses from the most ping-pong balls. Get the best young player this year, then Operation LeBron-a-thon 2014 is on!
    Grant’s master plan is right on schedule…

  • Jay

    I think I officially gave up on the Cavs on Tuesday night when RA Dickey let loose his first knuckler of the night.

  • Wow

    Yeah I usually tune out the NBA until the Conference Finals.

  • Wow

    I completely agree, they have money, time to spend it.

  • mgbode

    when hasn’t Gilbert spent money?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Lets hope I mean I’m not expecting them to spend every dollar they’ve cautiously stashed away but like the Indians showed there are ways to do things that reenergizes everyone from the fans to the team itself.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    That was a big win for the Flakers I thought for sure Dallas would win the way they had been playing. Here’s hoping LA can cling to that 8th and final playoff spot.

  • Chucky Brown

    best player is Noel, and I dont think we need another offensively challenged big. If we get #1, where do we go? Otto? Shabazz? Griner?

  • Wow

    Seriously? Try the past 2 years.

  • mgbode

    best player might be Smart who is sort of a combo between Irving and Waiters.

    or best player might be McLemore who is another SG.

    or best player might be Noel who is a limited offense big man who likely won’t play until at least the allstar break next year

    or best player might be Otto Porter who bloomed late and may largely be the product of the Princeton offense system

    or best player might be Shabazz Muhammed who is a year older than everyone thought, has a shady father, and is not yet good at defense or hustle stats

    or best player might be Victor Oladipo who is terribly fun to watch but may end up initially struggling much like MKG, but at the SG slot where the lack of shooting is more pronounced

    or best player might be Trey Burke or Michael Carter-Williams. Both PGs whom were not considered top10 picks before the tournament started.

    or best player might be Alex Len who didn’t make the tourney but is over 7′ tall

    or best player might be Cody Zeller who is also 7′ tall, but faded a bit down the stretch and can get muscled around inside.

    or best player might be Anthony Bennett though I really don’t think so.

  • mgbode

    11 guys mentioned and they are not separated by all that much.

    purely by “fit” and “need” Noel and Porter make the most sense. my problem is I personally don’t think they are the best players in this draft.

    honestly, at this particular point, I’d probably just take Smart and figure out a way to make Irving+Waiters+Smart work.

  • mgbode

    2 years ago he bankrolled the Baron Davis trade.
    Last year he bankrolled the Luke Walton trade.

    Because of those trades, the Cavaliers spent the 14th most money ($69mil) on payroll this season. Right between the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder.

  • AMC

    Just because people have incentives not to quit or not try doesn’t necessarily mean that they will try. Take for instance many students who know on some level that to get good jobs they need to do well in school and yet still don’t put in the effort.

    Regardless of their incentives, this Cavs team has quit. But this Cavs team was getting clowned well before this latest losing streak. I’m not going to say Byron Scott is the problem or even the main problem, but I’m convinced now that he’s not part of the solution. If these guys aren’t playing for him now, why would they play for him next year just because the record resets to 0-0? It’s time to move on.

  • Lunch

    If there’s a silver lining to all this draft talk, it’s that all of the “Chris Grant should be fired for selecting the wrong player in the draft” nonsense should be kept to a minimum.

  • mgbode

    just wait until we draft Rudy Gobert and everyone is left scratching their heads

  • Lunch

    Hey, he just might be a superstar/all-star hidden gem that only Grant and Scott sees. Who knows.

  • mgbode

    yes, I agree. I really don’t know much about him being an Int’l prospect. Just trying to find a way for Grant to surprise us again :)

  • Lunch

    Indeed.

  • Lunch

    Impatient? Maybe, but likely doubtful. Dan Gilbert knows that it takes time to develop a product. And I would think that he’s wise enough to realise how changing the development system of a product could dramatically change its outcome, for better or worse (mostly worse).

  • woofersus

    Yes, people forget that amnesty-ing Baron Davis didn’t get rid of the salary he was owed.. And this year the Ellington/Speights/whatshisname for leuer trade amounted to buying a draft pick for around 9 million. (because Memphis’ owner didn’t want the hefty luxury tax expense)
    When you draft a bunch of youngsters your payroll will go down. It’s the nature of the NBA. Spending money on mid-tier FA’s would only keep them from getting top picks, not make them good. Dan Gilbert has NEVER shied away from spending money to improve the team.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Agreed… Smart is just an exceptionally-talented player who is only going to get better with age. Pun intended, but he really is an extremely smart player with an NBA-ready body. If I’m Chris Grant and he’s there at my draft pick, I take him and figure out where to put him later. If that means playing 3 guards in crunch time, then fine… I’m willing to bet that Smart will be able to effectively guard small forwards after a year or two in the league.

  • mlawson482

    Phoenix is tanking VERY hard.,,If necessary, Scott should bench anyone doing well if the game is close in the 4th. It’s not worth risking a win.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    On the nose, Jaker. I can’t believe Bull & Fox are talking about Byron Scott for their entire show up to this point… let’s talk TRIBE!

  • Steve

    I’m not sure hoopshype is right. Before the season, the Cavaliers were relying on the amniestied Davis contract just to get over the minimum payroll. The lack of spending was the only way they could pull off the trade with Memphis.

    And weren’t you saying that the Cavaliers were right for not spending much the last two years? So which way is it?

  • Steve

    Even the biggest promoters (e.g. me) of selling off everything but the very young guys and stock up on high draft picks can’t deny what Amico is saying

    “That’s three straight years of no progress. You can spin it however you
    want — but it’s troubling. It needs to end, and it needs to end right
    here, right now.”

    Irving is a special talent, whose inability/unwillingness to play even a lick of defense is more than concerning, and may be a big problem if he’s ever going to lead a playoff team, Thompson and Waiters are rounding into decent, but not special, players, and there’s not much else. This team needs veterans who aren’t likely to be here next year in Walton, Ellington, and Speights, to carry them, and that was before they went sans Irving and Waiters.

    I’m fine with tanking for a draft pick, especially at this point this season. But multiple out and out beatdowns where we didn’t look any better than we did in Scott’s first year? There’s no denying there are deep problems here.

  • mgbode

    the Cavs were correct for not wasting their cap space on mediocre players who would not help the team long term.

    the Cavs still ended up spending the 14th most because of that hefty Baron Davis contract.

    both statements are still true. the amnestied $$$ doesn’t count against the cap, so the Cavs could have spent in the top10 of the NBA and easily been under the luxury line (the real cap), but there would have been no point to it unless they got a long-term guy out of doing it.

    there’s a difference here between spending within the cap and actual spending.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Given Gilbert’s presence during all of those winning seasons and his Tweets especially when LBJ left I don’t buy it for a minute. I think Gilbert is making a concerted effort to stay away from the cameras so as to avoid putting his foot in his mouth again. Either that or maybe he is privately working on “The Redemption 2014″ master plan. Or he’s just busy counting all the $$$ from his businesses other then the Cavaliers.

  • Lunch

    Move on to whom exactly?

  • Wow

    you’re going to have to sign free agents at some point. The draft can’t fix everything.

  • Steve

    I see where the problem is. The Cavaliers have cycled through over 20 players. You only get to 69 million if you include the full season salary of anyone on the Cavs at any point this year less the traded Leuer, which is 23. They haven’t/won’t spent 69 million in salary.

  • Porkchop

    Everybody loves Lottery Sausage, nobody wants to see how it gets made.

  • Porkchop

    I have no idea how you can say either TT or Waiters is ” rounding into a nice but not special player”. It is way way too early to make even an educated guess at where these two will ceiling. And Amico is dead wrong about 3 straight years of no progress. They jave maneuvered to pit themselves in optimal position this offseason and mext to have libert to make moved. On court progress hasnt happened but if it had it would most likely mean we were planning to be the Bucks 7/8th seed for the next 5 years

  • mgbode

    nice catch. yes, they should have Leuer with his hit listed and the pro-rated portion for Speights/Ellington.

    the main corps who is definitely getting their full season salary from the Cavs adds up to $56.96mil. Then, you have to add in the pro-rated Leuer + Ellington + Speights + the littany of roster fodder.

    so, probably somewhere between $62-65mil, not $69mil. would have to do this for all teams to get the new ranking. hmmm….there has got to be a better site that has this already.

  • mgbode

    for smaller markets, trades tend to give better talent at better prices than FA (IMO).

  • Porkchop

    Worst typer ever

  • http://www.facebook.com/lnicholas2 Lee Nicholas

    Its ridiculous to compare the Cavs to the Tribe right now. The way the NBA works and the way the MLB (or NFL for that matter) works is completely different. You can spend a ton of cash overnight as a mid-market team in baseball (if the money is there to spend) and get markedly better. Unfortunately in basketball, unless you’re one of five teams, that’s not possible.

    To get a good grasp on the Cavs current position they should be compared to other teams that similarly lost superstars in the past three years – New Orleans, Orlando, Toronto, Denver, Phoenix. Denver aside, since they managed to actually trade their superstar for real NBA talent, if you had to pick one roster/stockpile of draft-picks to build around, I think most would pick Cleveland. Of course, that doesn’t say much for Byron as that is Chris Grant’s doing. I don’t think there’s anything Chris Grant could have done differently that would give this team a better chance to achieve sustainable success.

    Byron is another question of course and while I watch every game, I don’t consider myself enough of a basketball expert to know the specifics of how good a coach he is. I don’t know that when this team was at its healthiest, it played some pretty good and exciting ball, and that was still without Andy. I know that Jason Kidd and Chris Paul are pretty good PGs and they started on with Mr. Scott. I know that he led multiple teams to the Conference Finals and New Jersey to the Finals twice, so he knows what it takes to get there. Finally, I’ve been a fan of the Browns long enough to know that switching out coaches every three years is NOT the recipe for success.

    If the Cavs have a bottom-3 record next year, then I think Byron may have reached the end of his tenure, especially if it is a relatively healthy year. If we are a .500 team and challenge for the 8th seed in the East while all of our youngsters show tangible improvement, what more do you want? The NBA is the hardest league for a midmarket team to be competitive in and our leadership has done a remarkable job at getting us closer to that.

  • cmm13

    How about a series of fines for good play? Maybe a $30,000 bonus to the guy voted Least Valuable Player.

  • mgbode

    the problem is we are coddling these guys too much

  • Wow

    I like your style.

  • Big Z

    This is the kind of stuff that happens when you send out a nationwide blast stating, “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE.” Such is the way of things.