The Cavaliers were disappointed by their first-round playoff exit, but they never considered making a coaching change, Kelsey Russo of The Athletic writes in a mailbag column. President of basketball operations Koby Altman said in a post-playoff news conference that the organization remains committed to J.B. Bickerstaff, and Russo doesn’t believe next season should be considered “make or break” for him.
The Cavs continue to show progress under Bickerstaff, reaching the 51-win mark this season for the first time in six years. They also claimed the fourth seed and gained some valuable playoff experience for a roster that largely lacked it. In addition, Bickerstaff has strong support from his players, Russo adds.
“Since Day 1, I fell in love with the culture that they built here,” Ricky Rubio said. “I fell in love with how J.B. treats everybody, and it’s something that, that’s why I came back. And, of course, when you see results, you can look back and say, ‘Oh, I wish he could do this or that better.’ But at the end of the day, in the heat at the moment, it’s super hard to really see sometimes. And I think what he built here is something special. He’s a great locker room guy.”
There’s more from Cleveland:
- Lauri Markkanen had a breakout season in Utah, but Russo doesn’t think the Cavaliers would have been better off by holding onto him, Ochai Agbaji, and the collection of draft picks they gave the Jazz in the Donovan Mitchell trade. She points out that Markkanen benefited from returning to his natural position of power forward in Utah, which wouldn’t have happened in Cleveland with Evan Mobley on the roster. She adds that having a superstar in Mitchell is more valuable than the various pieces that were surrendered to acquire him.
- The Cavs’ buyout decision with Kevin Love looks worse than it actually was because of Miami’s run to the Finals and Cleveland’s playoff failure, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com states in a mailbag column. He notes that Bickerstaff removed Love from the rotation because he wasn’t producing and the team had other players who were more effective. Back and thumb injuries contributed to Love’s down season in Cleveland, but he only shot 30% from the field in his final 15 games with the Cavs and was frequently targeted on defense.
- Holding just the 49th pick in this year’s draft, the Cavaliers had to be disappointed by seeing so many prospects decide to return to school, Fedor adds. Sources tell Fedor that Kentucky’s Chris Livingston will work out for the team next week, and a session has been scheduled with Eastern Michigan’s Emoni Bates. Fedor also hears that Cleveland invited Kansas State’s Keyontae Johnson to work out, but he’ll probably turn it down because he believes he’ll be off the board by No. 49.