Cleveland Rocks?.... Not So Much

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 with No comments
Written By Clevis Murray 

The Cleveland Cavaliers were expected to make the playoffs in 2014 with their team finally being healthy, players maturing and having a former coach return. Cleveland entered the 2013-2014 NBA season with a decent roster to make a playoff push with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters as their best players and having two solid big men in Anderson Varejao and former All-Star Andrew Bynum. The Cavs would also welcome back Mike Brown who coached the team from 2005-2010 and with the help of LeBron James lead the organization to its first NBA Finals appearance in 2007.  Brown also won the NBA's Coach of the Year Award in 2009 and amassed 127 games in his final two seasons. The addition of Brown was expected to help the Cavs since they were the worst Defensive team in the league in the season prior and he is known as a defensive specialist.
The drama in Cleveland began around mid-December when second-year guard Dion Waiters became unsettled with his new role as a sixth man for the team and lack of touches on offense, the guard then reportedly demanded a trade from the team. Waiters would obviously refute his trade request by saying "It doesn't make sense. This is the team that drafted me. People come up with their own things, man. I know what I said and what I didn't say. That's one of the things I absolutely never said."

Reports would later surface that Waiters did in fact demand a trade from the team in a 3-hour meeting with Mike Brown and GM Chris Grant and wanted to be traded to his hometown team the Philadelphia 76ers because he believes "he'd be the best player on the team." Head Coach Mike Brown would also decide to move Waiters to the bench  because he believed it helped the team win stating "But I like his role right now coming off the bench as a spark plug offensively and then even defensively he has the capabilities of being a great defender." But Waiters was against the move from starter to bench players even though he's playing starters minutes.

After the trade and bench drama involving Waiters reports would also come out that he got into a fight with Tristan Thompson and franchise guard Kyrie Irving the Cavs player only meeting. Waiters apparently accused Thompson and Irving of playing "buddy ball" and refusing to pass him the ball, but Waiters would deny the reports saying

"We men, Nobody got into no altercations or anything like that. We got everything off our chests that we needed to. That’s that. All the other rumors, man, are rumors. Don’t believe it. It’s not true. We talked. Everybody talked. Nobody put their hands on nobody." 

Waiters would go on to miss the next two games due to "illness" but some thought it was due to a suspension since he and Irving allegedly got into a fight. Waiters also believes that Kyrie Irving makes the same mistakes he does on the court by taking bad shots and messing up defensively but believes he gets disciplined and Irving doesn't. To add to the mess, Waiters was recently kicked out of practice but played his usual minutes.

Kyrie Irving is the franchise for the Cavaliers and isn't going anywhere anytime soon and Waiters need to realize that because he isn't the franchise player but a complementary player to Irving, the Cavs might have issues trading Waiters with his presence in Cleveland being the equivalent to J.R. Smith with the New York Knicks this season.

A Failed Experiment

On July 19th, 2013 the Cleveland Cavaliers took a high risk by signing Andrew Bynum to a 2-year deal which would pay him up to maximum of $24.79 million. Now the contract the Cavs signed Bynum to was very clever because only $6 million of it was guaranteed and the second year was a team option. The franchise was very smart to sign the former franchise center to that deal because on December 28th Bynum was suspended indefinitely by Cleveland with pay due to conduct detrimental to the team and the team would start to aggressively trade the big man. Cavaliers guard Jarrett Jack believed Bynum was quiet and wasn't a problem in Cleveland saying

"That's just kind of how people are sometimes, People like to march to the beat of their own drum. That's not saying you're a bad guy, that's just how you are. I thought we actually had a good relationship with him. He wasn't somebody that was reluctant to speak to people. I thought we had a decent bit of camaraderie and hopefully this will pass and be over and we'll be back at full strength soon." 

On January 7th, 2014 the problematic Bynum was traded to the Chicago Bulls along with a future first round draft pick, two future second round picks, and the option to swap first round picks in 2015 for Luol Deng. Bynum was subsequently released by the Bulls in a salary cap move which helped them save about $20 million and to help the team avoid paying the luxury tax. Bynum would eventually sign with the Indiana Pacers on February 1st, 2014 but now reports are surfacing saying that he hasn't worked out since being suspended by Cleveland in late December.  Having acquired Deng might've started another issue.  Deng was used to winning in Chicago and having a stringent coach in Tom Thibadeau but now has the complete opposite in Cleveland with Mike Brown.  Deng hasn't publicly complained about his new team but has reportedly told a close friend "the stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It's a mess." Cleveland most likely won't make the playoffs this season meaning Deng will most probably leave the organization for a title contender.

The Franchise, Kyrie Irving, has also been struggling this season.  His efficiency from last season has decreased along with his Field Goal & Three-Point percentage.  The young guard is growing through growing pains with the organization being labeled as the franchise player and being the shadow of LeBron James who he ironically knew as a teenager, also countless losses could be affecting Irving and his demeanor. This was supposed to be the season that Irving carried Cleveland to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 with their revamped roster, coaching staff and a spectacular sophomore season and being part of Team USA during the summer of 2013. Irving was made the franchise player after being drafted and hasn't been held accountable for his mistakes which Dion Waiters alluded to before and Jarrett Jack was suppose to have the affect on Irving like he did Stephen Curry but that obviously hasn't happened. A unidentified teammate of Irving says "He’s acting like he doesn't care" and rumors would late surface about Irving already making a decision to Cleveland but would later decline the rumors by saying "I’m pretty sure I’m going to be here for a long time. I’m not saying anything to tell the future, but I’m pretty sure the relationship I have with Dan Gilbert and management extends off the court. I enjoy being here." He also isn't a fan of the criticism his team has gained "Everybody is trying to antagonize this team and put it on me. I’m here for my teammates, I’m here for Coach Brown and the coaching staff and I’m going to play my heart out every single night for the Cleveland Cavaliers."

The Cleveland Cavaliers have also done things that have led to them having a horrible season which included a few players partying the night before their game against the New York Knicks with J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kapernick and other NFL players into the early morning. Cleveland would go on to get a 31-point beating from the Knicks 117-86. Their GM at the time Chris Grant would go on to call the teams effort "not acceptable". Players on the roster aren't enjoying the season as much compared to last season with one player acknowledging the difference by saying "This isn’t very much fun. We were losing last year with Byron, but at least we were having fun." On February 5th, 2014 the Cavaliers were part of one of the most interesting games of the season which came against the 8-man Los Angeles Lakers. Due to injuries the Lakers would finish the game five players due to injuries and Robert Sacre re-entering the game after fouling out. Cleveland trailed by 29 points at one point and would lose 119-108. One day later on February 6th, Chris Grant was relieved of his duties as the General Manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers and was replaced by David Griffin who would become the interim GM. Chris most notably signed Andrew Bynum and drafted Kyrie Irving, Trisitan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett, the last three are still head scratchers especially Bennett who could've been drafted outside of the Top-10. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert thought the firing who light a fire under his team saying "They’re going to look at each other, look in the mirror, and they’re going to rally."

The blame should go towards everyone but mainly the players because they ultimately have to score and play defense to help the team win games but aren't motivated enough to do so with all the issues going on around the organization. Cleveland could've been a great team if they drafted correctly but there is no time machine where their past mistakes can be rectified and they have to move forward. The team will most likely be in the lottery again and this draft is crucial since it's loaded with top prospects that could become franchise pieces and could also persuade Kyrie Irving to remain a Cavalier. Owner Dan Gilbert has done everything he can to build a winning product on the court but his formula hasn't worked and the franchise needs to go back to the drawing board and put together something that will reward their very loyal fan base.