John Beilein

Central Notes: Sampson, Turner, Giannis, Beilein

The Pacers have been able to weather a series of injuries because of surprising contributions from players such as JaKarr Sampson, writes J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. Now with his fifth NBA team, Sampson didn’t create much fanfare when he signed with Indiana in August. He’s averaging just 4.9 points per game, but his other contributions have helped make up for the loss of Thaddeus Young in free agency.

“You can’t look at a stat sheet for guys like him,” teammate Myles Turner said of Sampson. “He brings so much more to the game. Intensity. We feed off his energy.”

Sampson is suddenly getting an opportunity after missing 22 games with a back injury. He played 20 minutes Friday night after finding out 10 minutes before the game that he was starting because Domantas Sabonis had to sit out with a sore knee.

“I know I’m able to play this game at the highest level,” Sampson said. “I knew what I was walking into when I came to this team. They have two great players at the 4 and 5 (Sabonis and Turner).”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers are turning down trade requests for Turner, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Indiana has a lot of money invested in Turner and Sabonis, but wants to see how the team responds once Victor Oladipo returns from injury before considering a move.
  • The Bucks don’t seemed bothered by continued speculation about Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s future, tweets Eric Woodyard of ESPN. “I think the team’s been incredibly focused, he’s been incredibly focused just on each day, getting better, competing with his group and being respectful of what we’re doing now,” coach Mike Budenholzer said.
  • Cavaliers players are eager to move past the latest John Beilein controversy, relays Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. In comments that he later apologized for, the coach caused a stir this week when he said his team was “no longer playing like a bunch of thugs” when he meant to say “slugs.” “He says it all the time, so it’s all good,” Collin Sexton said. “He calls us slugs, because we slow. But it’s good. We knew what he meant, just blown out of proportion.”

Cavaliers Plan To Retain John Beilein

1:06pm: Cleveland plans to have Beilein coach tonight’s game and stick with him going forward, Wojnarowski tweets. The coach met with Altman and gave an emotional apology to the team before today’s shootaround. Altman got a sense of how accepting the players were of the apology, Woj adds (via Twitter).

9:15am: The Cavaliers‘ season hasn’t exactly gone smoothly so far, and a comment made this week by head coach John Beilein didn’t help matters. Addressing players during a recent film session, Beilein said the team was no longer playing “like a bunch of thugs.” The coach acknowledged the misstep, claiming that he meant to say “slugs,” as in the team was playing too slow.

“I didn’t realize that I had said the word ‘thugs,’ but my staff told me later I did and so I must have said it,” Beilein told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com. “I meant to say slugs, as in slow-moving. We weren’t playing hard before, and now we were playing harder. I meant it as a compliment. That’s what I was trying to say. I’ve already talked to eight of my players tonight, and they are telling me that they understand.”

Multiple players declined to comment when Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com reached out for comment, though he hears that feedback this morning was that the team is “OK.” Players understand the coach’s explanation and feel comfortable moving forward. Some players weren’t even aware that Beilein made the comments initially.

In addition to players, Beilein has also spoken to GM Koby Altman on the matter. Beilein, who spent over 40 years coaching in the college ranks, signed a five-year contract to be Cleveland’s coach this offseason. A report in December suggested that his coaching style was alienating some of the Cavs’ players.

The Cavs are 10-27 on the season and many of their veterans are available on the trade market, Woj notes.

Cavs Notes: Porter, Nance, Love, Exum

Cavaliers rookie Kevin Porter Jr. has been diagnosed with a left knee sprain and will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks, the team announced today (via Twitter). Porter’s injury occurred during the third quarter of Sunday’s home loss to Minnesota.

While Porter will be sidelined for multiple weeks, the news wasn’t as bad as it could have been for the Cavs. A source told Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com before Porter underwent an MRI that the club was “bracing for some real time off.”

As Fedor notes in a separate article at Cleveland.com, the second half of the season figures to be mostly about player development for the lottery-bound Cavaliers, and Porter had emerged this season as one of the organization’s most promising young prospects. If his knee injury had been more severe, it might have cost him most or all of the rest of his rookie season. While it appears that won’t be the case, teammates like John Henson were worried when they saw Porter go down.

“It kind of hurt my heart a little bit,” Henson said. “Young guys, this is the year for them. Especially them just learning the game and he was progressing. At this stage of the season he was looking like the steal of the draft.”

Here’s more out of Cleveland:

  • The Cavaliers are also without big man Larry Nance Jr., having announced on Friday in a press release that he’d be on the shelf for about one or two weeks with left knee soreness.
  • Kevin Love won’t be disciplined by the Cavaliers for his outburst during Saturday’s game vs. Oklahoma City, tweets Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. We described that on-court incident in a Sunday story.
  • As a result of last month’s trade with Utah, John Beilein has the opportunity to coach Dante Exum six years after he tried to recruit the Australian guard to come to Michigan, notes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. “It was only a couple of phone calls,” Beilein said of his recruitment efforts. “I never could get the time right, you know, calling Australia. So we kept playing voicemail tag… I don’t think he was ever thinking, ‘NBA or Michigan?’ But we were one of the people that called him. I’m sure North Carolina was recruiting him, as well.” Exum ultimately opted not to play college ball, entering the 2014 NBA draft and going fifth overall.

Kevin Love: “I Love My Teammates”

After a day that started with a tirade against general manager Koby Altman and culminated with in-game show of disgust that quickly went viral (video link), Kevin Love offered his side of the story last night on Instagram, relays Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

“A lot of non truths being shared,” he wrote. “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.”

Those feelings weren’t on display shortly before the end of the first half of the Cavaliers‘ loss to the Thunder Saturday night. Guarded by Chris Paul in the post, Love raised both arms and called for the ball. However, coach John Beilein had instructed Collin Sexton to dribble some time off the clock before running a play. Love stomped toward Sexton and put his hands out until he got the ball, then fired a bullet pass at Cedi Osman.

It was an obvious show of frustration that might have been directed at Sexton, Beilein, Altman or the team’s losing ways in general.

“I think you’re talking about the play with Chris Paul on me,” Love told reporters after the game. “Yeah, I felt we were making a play call and at the end of the second half we were in the bonus and I had Chris Paul on me. Felt swing it to me and try to throw it in the post, see if they double-team me and get a shot out of that, but that’s not what we did. Yeah, I was frustrated.”

After Saturday morning’s shootaround, Love directed his anger at Altman in an animated discussion that began on the court and ended in the GM’s office. Love has had heated exchanges with Altman and the coaching staff before and was fined $1K for a display of emotion during a December 31 loss at Toronto.

Beilein tried to calm tensions last night, accepting responsibility for the play that ended the first half.

“That was my mistake,” he said. “I was trying to get us to slow down and try to get, not the last shot, but close to the last shot. He had Chris Paul posted up and I didn’t see it. It was on me. I called something else.”

Beilein values Love’s passion for the game and his desire to see his young teammates learn to play the right way. Sexton can be frustrating to play with because of his tendency to seek his own shot, Fedor adds, recalling that several veteran Cavaliers spoke out about him early last season.

Love’s future in Cleveland remains uncertain. His championship experience makes him valuable as a mentor, but at age 31 he doesn’t fit in with the rebuilding process. After Saturday’s incidents, everything he does will be closely watched until at least next month’s trade deadline.

Central Notes: Pistons, Young, Thompson, Garland

Now that 119 of this summer’s free agents have become trade-eligible, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), several playoff-bubble teams have some tough choices to make. Should they shore up their present with moves that may compromise their future (i.e. trading draft picks or still-developing younger players to improve veteran depth), or should they pivot to selling off their more attractive trade options in the hopes of accruing more forward-looking assets?

Rod Beard of The Detroit News cautions Pistons fans about hoping their squad will opt for a complete teardown with trade season in full swing. Beard asserts that owner Tom Gores wants to his team to contend for playoff appearances. The Pistons have a middling 11-15 record, good for just the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference.

In further Pistons roster talk, The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III examines Detroit’s best and worst trade options throughout their roster. He considers bench guards Derrick Rose and Langston Galloway, plus the expiring $18.1MM contract of starter Reggie Jackson, the team’s most realistic trade chips.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • After reports indicated Bulls forward Thaddeus Young was unhappy with his playing time in Chicago, he logged more minutes on Wednesday against the Hawks and on Friday against the Hornets. K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago notes that Young’s increased playing time has cut into starting power forward Lauri Markkanen‘s minutes. Young played more minutes than Markkanen during Chicago’s 83-73 loss to Charlotte. Young signed a three-year, $41MM contract with the Bulls this summer to be a veteran mentor to the young team.
  • Cavaliers starting center Tristan Thompson downplayed a heated exchange with coach John Beilein during a 117-109 overtime win against the Spurs on Thursday. Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com documents Thompson’s thoughts on the incident. “[Beilein] understands my passion for the game,” Thompson said. “I understand his passion for the game. It’s just family members getting into a quick discussion… We’ve moved on.” 
  • The Cavaliers have found a new role for rookie guard Darius Garland in their revamped rotation: second unit leader. Though Garland still starts, he has been spending more time with the Cavs bench lately, as Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com details“The coaches say I’m more aggressive with the second group,” Garland said.

Central Notes: Thompson, George, Pacers, Valentine

Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson wasn’t happy about the fact that a report surfaced last week anonymously quoting three of his teammates who were critical of John Beilein‘s head coaching style. Thompson came to Beilein’s defense over the weekend and fired back at the teammates quoted in that report, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

“Y’all better find them names ’cause I’ll pull up on ’em right now,” Thompson said. “You can’t do that s–t. 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–t going on. That s–t 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,” Thompson continued. “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.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • After getting a rough reception from Pacers fans on Sunday, Paul George said he’s not the one those fans should be booing. What exactly did he mean? “The belief in Indiana is that he’s referring to Larry Bird,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said this week on an episode of The Jump (video link). Bird, now an advisor in Indiana, was formerly the team’s president of basketball operations and pushed George to move from small forward to power forward, something PG13 didn’t want to do, as Windhorst details.
  • Speaking of the Pacers, they look like they could become a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference once they get Victor Oladipo back in their lineup, writes Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer.
  • It has been up-and-down season so far for Denzel Valentine, who was out of the Bulls‘ rotation until late November. As Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago notes, Valentine has been playing his best ball of the year recently, making at least three 3-pointers and scoring in double-digits in each of his last three games. The 26-year-old shooting guard will be a restricted free agent at season’s end.

Cavaliers Notes: Love, Beilein, Altman

The frustrations in Cleveland are becoming too much for Kevin Love to hide, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. The Cavaliers lost by 47 points last night in Philadelphia, a day after a report that players are unhappy with first-year coach John Beilein. Fedor notes that at one point in the game Love wandered off by himself for a while during a timeout after rookie Darius Garland opted to shoot a fadeaway rather than pass the ball to him in the post.

“Just complete and utter frustration,” Love admitted after the game. “I think that’s natural. I really want to compete. I think most guys want to compete. Just really, really frustrated. I don’t know. Getting myself going is just … I don’t know what else I can do.”

Saturday marked the 12th loss in 13 games for the Cavs and the second straight in which a member of the organization commented on Love’s body language. He committed to the team last year by agreeing to a four-year extension after LeBron James left, but finds himself in an unfamiliar role as part of a rebuilding project after making four straight trips to the NBA Finals. A report surfaced Friday that Cleveland is ready to listen to trade offers involving Love.

“I’m really trying to be engaged,” he said. “I’m trying to be a good teammate. I don’t think any of these guys would say that I’m not a good teammate. It’s tough.”

 There’s more Cavaliers news to pass along:
  • Beilein received some encouragement last night from Sixers coach Brett Brown, who understands rebuilding as well as anyone, Fedor adds. Overseeing “the Process,” Brown won a combined 47 games during his first three seasons in Philadelphia, but now has his team in title contention. He promised to text Beilein advice on how to handle the constant losing
  • The Cavaliers can make Beilein’s job a lot easier by getting rid of the veterans who refuse to give him a chance, contends Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. Beilein claims he has changed his college style to adapt to the NBA, but Lloyd notes that he’s really coaching two teams at once — a young core set for the future and seven veterans who are in the final year of their contracts. Lloyd believes general manager Koby Altman already knows which players need to be traded.
  • Frank Urbina of HoopsHype lists the Jazz, Nets, Suns and Celtics as four possible landing spots for Love.

Report: John Beilein’s Coaching Style Is Alienating Players

Cavaliers players are rebelling against new coach John Beilein and believe he’s running the team like he’s still in college, according to Joe Vardon and Shams Charania of The Athletic. Some players have already tuned out Beilein and are seeking guidance from lead assistant J.B. Bickerstaff, the authors add.

“Guys drowned out his voice, and when guys start searching for the next in line for help, I believe you’ve lost them,” one player said anonymously.

“Our assistants are definitely more prepared for the NBA,” another claimed.

The 66-year-old Beilein is floundering in his first professional season after more than a quarter century as a successful college coach. The Cavs have dropped four straight games and 10 of their last 11, falling to 5-15 overall. They are coming off a 33-point loss to Pistons on Tuesday, which was followed by a Wednesday film session where both sides expressed their frustrations over what has gone wrong, according to sources.

Player grievances include “nitpicking” over fundamentals, “harping” during long film studies and Beilein’s alleged failure to understand the NBA game. Sources tell Vardon and Charania that the complaints run through the entire team and aren’t limited to any demographic.

The Cavaliers hired Beilein in May after interviewing nearly a dozen other candidates. He was given a five-year contract and was surrounded by a few experienced assistants. In addition to Bickerstaff, who has prior head coaching experience with the Rockets and Grizzlies, Cleveland brought in Andrew Lang and Dan Geriot, along with Lindsay Gottlieb, who is also in her first NBA season after serving as head coach at California-Berkley.

Beilein was chosen after a face-to-face meeting with team chairman Dan Gilbert because of his history of developing young players, who make up the core of the roster in the second year of a rebuilding project. With seven veterans on the final year of their contracts, there may be a lot of turnover by February’s trade deadline, which could give Beilein a fresh chance to gain the confidence of his team.

Cavaliers Notes: Henson, Love, Windler, Beilein

John Henson hasn’t gotten discouraged by the Cavaliers‘ 5-15 start because he’s been through rebuilding before on a team that is now among the NBA’s best, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Henson was with the Bucks when they won 15 games with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton on the roster, and he is confident the young talent in Cleveland will eventually make a similar turnaround.

“You got to keep pushing forward,” Henson said. “Stay positive, hold onto the rope and don’t flinch as Coach says. “We are going to keep trekking this path. We’re not where we want to be, but the way the East is setting up, especially with sixth, seventh, eighth-seed, playoff wise, three or four-game win streak can put you right back in the mix. So, we can’t stop fighting and give up. It’s too early.”

Henson was back on the court last night after missing 17 games with a hamstring injury. He has been serving as a role model to his young teammates and reminding them that players often don’t get the opportunity they have in their first and second seasons in the league.

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • The Cavs have been slumping because they’ve stopped using Kevin Love as the focal point of their offense, Fedor observes in a separate story. Love reached double figures in scoring in his first 13 games and posted eight double-doubles, but hasn’t seen the ball nearly as much recently. “We really tried to punch it to Kevin and I think he got doubled up a couple times,” coach John Beilein said Tuesday. “People are trying to make other people beat us. They will double him a lot.”
  • Rookie Dylan Windler is taking significant steps toward making his NBA debut, according to Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. Sidelined since the start of training camp by a stress reaction in his left leg, Windler has practiced the past two days and took part in a shootaround. Team doctors are monitoring Windler to see how he responds to each workout. “Today, I was in a coaches’ meeting, I heard the ball bouncing,” Beilein said. “When I heard the ball bouncing, I shot right out there right away because I knew Dylan was in the first group that was shooting just to see how he felt. He had no complications or no future soreness from yesterday’s workout.”
  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News examines how Beilein is adjusting to losing in the NBA after years of success as a college coach.

Cavaliers Notes: Beilein, Altman, Porter Jr.

In the wake of general manager Koby Altman‘s new long-term contract extension, head coach John Beilein said that Altman’s presence on the Cavaliers was one of the reasons he took the job, as Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com relays.

“That was one of the attractive things about taking the job,” Beilein said of Altman. “I knew [Cavs assistant GM] Mike Gansey really well but he had such great things to say about Koby and then during the whole process I could see a guy I would love to work for. Just love the direction of everything. Have great faith in each other. He’s letting me coach and at the same time he understands what we need in a roster and I think he’s going to build that.”

Here’s more from Cleveland:

  • Hiring Beilein was a risky move for Altman, Fedor contends in the same piece. There haven’t been many college coaches who have found success in the NBA, though Altman’s willingness to think outside the box is part of the reason that he landed an extension with the Cavaliers. “Koby has been a culture-driver and an innovator who has built a fresh, new foundation and environment for our front office and team that inspires everyone involved,” team owner Dan Gilbert said. “…I look forward to seeing his hard work and creativity continue to make us better and help guide the team towards reaching our goals for years to come.”
  • Altman believes the security the Cavaliers gave him in his long-term extension will allow him to carry out his plan for the team, Fedor relays in separate piece“Started as a scout, working my way up all the way to assistant general manager and now this,” Altman. “It’s been a lot of growth and development from my standpoint. Really appreciative of that. It’s a great sign for the franchise that we have stability and continuity moving forward. It gives us unlimited potential.” We passed along more of Altman’s comments on Monday.
  • Kevin Porter Jr. has been suspended for one game by the league. The rookie made contact with a referee during the Cavaliers‘ loss to the Mavericks on Sunday.