Koby Altman

Cavaliers Notes: Sexton, Drew, Smith, Korver

The Cavaliers are in a state of chaos that stretches from the front office to their first-round draft pick, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The four-time defending Eastern Conference champs dropped to 1-8 last night after their latest lopsided loss, a 32-point blowout in Charlotte, and there seems little chance of righting the ship without a major roster upheaval.

There’s a significant divide in the locker room between players who are holdovers from the LeBron James era and the younger talent that management sees as the team’s future, Vardon adds. The focal point is 19-year-old Collin Sexton, who was taken with the eighth pick in this year’s draft. Any time a veteran talks about someone not knowing their role or where to be on the court, it’s usually a reference to Sexton, Vardon states.

Sexton is shooting 41.3% from the field through his first nine games and has about an equal number of assists and turnovers. However, he still has the backing of owner Dan Gilbert, who wants Sexton to keep playing, according to Vardon. Also, Sexton knows he has a future with the organization, unlike many of his veteran critics.

There’s more out of Cleveland, all courtesy of Vardon:

  • A week after firing Tyronn Lue, the Cavs still doesn’t have an official interim head coach. Larry Drew is running the team, but retains his title of associate head coach while trying to negotiate an increase in his salary. The front office offered a modest raise after Lue was dismissed, but Drew is holding out for a contract extension for himself and his assistants. When management refused, Drew went public with his demands. The players support Drew, but they don’t view him as an official head coach because of the contract standoff.
  • Through nine games, J.R. Smith has been told twice that he was being taken out of the rotation, then was quickly reinstalled by both Lue and Drew. Earlier this week, GM Koby Altman offered Smith the chance to go on paid leave because he wouldn’t be playing, but he got 24 minutes last night and led the team with 14 points. “As far as I’m concerned, given what our circumstances are, J.R., he’s a member of our team, and if I need him I’m going to call on him,” Drew said.
  • When Altman re-signed Kyle Korver to a three-year deal last summer, it came with an understanding that Korver would be traded or bought out if James left in free agency. Korver asked to be dealt after James joined the Lakers, but the front office refused, saying it wanted to keep the veteran core together to compete for a playoff spot. The Cavs would want maximum value if they do move Korver, likely a first-round pick.

Eastern Notes: Boylan, Hornets, Saric, Yabusele

Former Cavaliers assistant coach Jim Boylan has filed an age-discrimination lawsuit against the franchise, which the team has labelled “frivolous” and a “shameless cash grab,” according to an Associated Press report. Boylan, 63, worked five seasons under former coaches David Blatt and Tyronn Lue but did not have his option picked up this summer. Boylan contends GM Koby Altman told him owner Dan Gilbert wanted a younger coach.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Hornets have used a committee approach at the center spot and that position is likely to remain in flux, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports. Starter Cody Zeller, Willy Hernangomez, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum, Frank Kaminsky and Bismack Biyombo have all taken turns in the middle but first-year coach James Borrego isn’t worried. “We’re still searching (but) I like the dilemma I have,” he told Bonnell.
  • Sixers coach Brett Brown is allowing forward Dario Saric to work through his shooting slump, Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Saric has scored in single digits in each of the last three games while shooting 2-for-13 from long range. Brown has no plans to reduce Saric’s workload. “If he came to me and said, ‘I need some time,’ I would listen,” Brown said. “But I don’t feel like I’m force-feeding anything, I do not feel like I’m hurting him. In fact, I feel like I’m helping him.”
  • Guerschon Yabusele’s option was picked up for next season because his game fits the modern NBA, according to coach Brad Stevens, and the Celtics believe the 22-year-old has high upside, the team’s PR department tweets. Boston’s brass decided to retain Yabusele despite a cap hit of $3,117,240, a figure that could grow if Boston pays the luxury tax. The 6’8” Yabusele has played just 18 minutes this season after seeing action in 33 games in his rookie campaign. But with several players hitting the free agent market next summer, the Celtics felt Yabusele was too valuable to give up, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald notes. “Having Guerschon gives us continuity. He knows our system,” GM Danny Ainge said. “He’s loved by everybody. It’s just not easy to find that type of player.”

Central Notes: Cavs, Boylan, Bulls, Bucks

As if there wasn’t enough drama in Cleveland already this season, the Cavaliers are now the subject of another unusual story. As Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays, former Cavs assistant Jim Boylan has sued the team, along with owner Dan Gilbert and Koby Altman, for age discrimination.

Boylan’s lawsuit claims that Tyronn Lue left Boylan a voicemail informing him that Altman and the Cavaliers wouldn’t be picking up his option for 2018/19 since they wanted to “go younger.” Boylan subsequently had a conversation with Altman during which the GM confirmed that the Cavs wanted a younger coach, suggesting that the decision to move on from Boylan had nothing to do with his performance, per the suit.

The Cavaliers responded to the lawsuit today, calling it “frivolous” and referring to it as a “shameless cash grab.” Pointing out that Boylan simply had an option declined and wasn’t fired, the Cavs’ statement accused the assistant coach’s lawyers of attempting to shame the franchise into a settlement by releasing Lue’s voicemail.

As we wait to see what tomorrow brings in Cleveland, let’s round up a few more Central notes…

Central Rumors: Redick, Irving, Brown, Cavs

Sixers guard J.J. Redick nearly signed with the Pacers in free agency, he revealed during a podcast with ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Redick’s comment was tweeted by Scott Agness of The Athletic. Redick stayed with Philadelphia after the Sixers improved their one-year offer to $12.25MM but that was still less than the Pacers were willing to pay. “I wouldn’t have started but I felt like I fit what they needed,” Redick said. “I just envisioned playing two-man (game) with (Domantas) Sabonis.”

In other news around the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks’ desire to sign Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving could have a negative impact on the Bulls’ free agency plans next summer, according to an NBC Sports Chicago post. The Knicks have reportedly made Irving their No. 1 target in free agency and it’s been previously rumored that Irving and Jimmy Butler might join forces. If the Bulls wanted to bring back Butler after trading him away last summer, Irving’s potential interest in the Knicks could sidetrack that plan, the report adds.
  • One of the officers involved in the Sterling Brown arrest last January has been fired, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story passed along by NBC Sports. The Bucks swingman filed a civil lawsuit against the Milwaukee police department after he was arrested and tasered for a parking violation. The officer was fired for violating social media policy and not for his conduct the night of Brown’s arrest, the city’s police chief told the Journal Sentinel.
  • The Cavaliers could be more interesting and successful without LeBron James than many people expect, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer opines. The development of first-round pick Collin SextonAnte Zizic and Cedi Osman will be intriguing to watch and GM Koby Altman will likely make more moves during the season to reshape the team’s future, Pluto continues. Trading J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson, who have seemed disinterested during the regular season during the James era, would move the process along, Pluto adds.

Central Rumors: Ayton, Lue, Young, Jackson

DeAndre Ayton should be the Bulls’ selection if they win the lottery, Mark Strotman of NBC Sports argues. The Arizona big man is unquestionably the best prospect in the draft and the top center available since Karl-Anthony Towns, Strotman continues. His offensive game is more developed than any big man over the last decade outside of Anthony Davis, Strotman adds.

Also around the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue showed a lack of trust in the newcomers acquired by GM Koby Altman at the trade deadline during Game 4 against the Pacers, Ken Berger of Bleacher Report points out.  During the final six minutes, Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr. were mostly spectators as Lue went with holdovers from previous playoff runs. “It was a close game down the stretch,” he told the media afterward. “So I wanted my veterans, the guys that I know.”
  • Pacers power forward Thaddeus Young has been quietly efficient in the series against the Cavs, as Mark Monteith of Pacers.com notes. He’s shooting 56% from the field and leads them in rebounding, blocked shots, steals and deflections through the first four games. Young has a $13.76MM option on the final year of his contract next season.
  • It’s crucial that point guard Reggie Jackson stay healthy next season for the Pistons to get into the playoffs, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News. Jackson battled a knee injury throughout the 2016/17 season after missing the first month, then suffered a severe ankle sprain this season that kept him out for nearly three months. “It’s about getting healthy once again in the offseason and getting back to training,” Jackson told Beard. “I just want to be healthy again.”

Cavs Notes: Altman, Wade, Rose, James, Thomas

The Cavaliers had the busiest and most impactful trade deadline of any team, swinging three major trades and restructuring a faltering roster by the end of lunchtime on February 8. The behind-the-scenes and on-court struggles preceding the moves were a major talking point across the league, as Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon breaks down.

For starters, Cleveland’s rookie general manager, Koby Altman, deserves a lot of the credit for seemingly righting a ship that was on the verge of sinking. LeBron James addressed the changes and praised the general manager.

“It just wasn’t working out for us, and he felt like, obviously you guys saw his quotes, he made the changes that he felt best fits our team,” James said.

Yet, Altman had to correct an issue that brought upon by decisions made by him, owner Dan Gilbert, head coach Tyronn Lue, and James himself, Vardon writes. James never wanted the team to trade Kyrie Irving; when he was dealt, the Cavaliers tried to assemble the best roster possible and attempted to accommodate James despite him not committing long-term.

  • In the story, Vardon writes that the Cavaliers did not feel Dwyane Wade fit on the roster. However, once his buyout from the Bulls was complete, and at James’ urging, the team signed him anyway. While he adjusted well to the bench, Wade initially taking J.R. Smiths starter role had an adverse impact on Smith, who never got on track in the first half of the season. Also, Vardon notes that Wade — not Isaiah Thomas — was the first to question Kevin Loves illness that forced him to leave a game.
  • Derrick Rose was recruited to Cleveland by Lue and – despite his injuries – was expected to a valuable piece on a team-friendly deal. However, just a few games into the season, Rose suffered a sprained ankle that diminished his performance and he eventually left the team to evaluate his future. Upon his return, his teammates accepted him publicly but privately felt it was a matter of time before he was dealt.
  • A lot of was made of Isaiah Thomas‘ criticisms, which came while he was struggling himself. He admitted that he was not at full health as he recovered from the hip injury that kept him out to start the season. Lue felt he had to play Thomas as he was essentially Irving’s replacement but his performance never matched his output last season in Boston.
  • Without a commitment from LeBron, the Cavs were reluctant to surrender draft picks or take on significant salary beyond the current season. However, Gilbert took on future salary in multiple instances, adding Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, and George Hill, who are all under contract beyond 2017/18. It’s an insurance net for Cleveland in case James does leave in free agency. For now, James is prepared to take on the leadership role that he seemed to vacate while the team struggled. “So it’s my job as the leader of this team to make sure that I acclimate the new four guys to be around a culture that’s built on winning and practicing championship habits,” he said.

Woj’s Latest: Cavaliers, Clippers, Kings, Jazz

In his latest piece for ESPN.com, Adrian Wojnarowski goes into extensive detail on the deadline deals completed last week by the Cavaliers, and offers some fascinating tidbits on how those trades got done, and one potential blockbuster that didn’t get done. Let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • Before making his series of trades, Cavaliers GM Koby Altman got an elusive face-to-face sitdown with LeBron James to let his star player know what he was working on. Altman later met with LeBron again to tell him that the trades for Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance, George Hill, and Rodney Hood were complete, and to ask for his blessing on the deal that sent Dwyane Wade to Miami, says Wojnarowski.
  • Altman had received ownership approval to trade Jae Crowder, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, and the Cavs’ own 2018 first-round pick to the Clippers for DeAndre Jordan, according to Wojnarowski. Los Angeles was on board with the deal, but wanted to find a third team to take Shumpert and to give the Clips a center, since they didn’t want another shooting guard. Altman and Clippers GM Michael Winger weren’t able to find that third team, and since L.A. was unwilling to take on Shumpert (or Tristan Thompson or J.R. Smith) and the Cavs had some reservations about extending Jordan’s contract in the offseason, the deal ultimately fell through.
  • The three-way trade between the Cavaliers, Kings, and Jazz nearly fell apart on deadline day when Sacramento insisted that Georgios Papagiannis be included in the deal. According to Woj, Cleveland and Utah were “adamant” that Papagiannis had never been discussed, but Kings assistant GM Brandon Williams insists that his notes confirm that either Papagiannis or Malachi Richardson would be included.
  • As an aside, Wojnarowski writes that Williams was handling negotiations because GM Vlade Divac “seldom gets on the phone for the trade-building parts,” even though any Kings trade requires his approval, along with the approval of owner Vivek Ranadive.
  • The Cavaliers were very much against Papagiannis’ inclusion in the trade, since taking on his $2.3MM cap hit would have cost the club significantly more than that in tax payments. Utah also had no interest in acquiring the former lottery pick, with Wojnarowski suggesting that Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey was “livid” about the insertion of Papagiannis and was ready to call off the trade. As for the Kings, they were hoping to move 2016’s 13th overall pick to avoid the embarrassment of waiving him themselves, says Woj.
  • Eventually, Altman was able to work out a solution and talked Lindsey into it, per Wojnarowski. Papagiannis’ rest-of-season salary for this year and his guaranteed salary for 2018/19 totaled $3.2MM, and the Cavaliers were willing to pay that amount to Sacramento, but Cleveland was limited to sending out $2.1MM for the rest of this league year. Altman convinced the Jazz to send the Kings the remaining $1.1MM, with Lindsey getting a little something out of the deal: the ability to swap 2024 second-round picks with the Cavs. The Kings, having been compensated for Papagiannis’ remaining salary, simply waived him rather than insisting he be a part of the trade.

Cavaliers Notes: James, Altman, Gilbert, Irving

The Cavaliers have struggled for the better part of 2017/18 and while they do, tensions continue to mount between LeBron James and the franchise’s management, Jason Lloyd of The Athletic writes.

Even before the club’s moribund loss to the Magic on Tuesday, Lloyd pulled the curtain back on the NBA’s most dysfunctional family in the days leading up to the trade deadline.

Here are some highlights lowlights from the worthwhile read:

  • The root of the Cavs’ problems, Lloyd says, can be traced back to two key issues that unfolded during the offseason. First and foremost, the club’s decision to part ways with woefully underpaid general manager David Griffin, and secondly, the Kyrie Irving trade that shook the foundation of the roster.
  • While James was vocal about his support for Griffin, team owner Dan Gilbert ultimately gave the job to young, in-house executive Koby Altman. Altman, Lloyd claims, is widely regarded as not ready for the task ahead of him.
  • The Griffin decision wasn’t the only time the Cavs went against James’ wishes during the offseason. They opted to sign draft-and-stash prospect Cedi Osman rather than pursue James’ preferred target, veteran Jamal Crawford.
  • One of the most substantial moves the Cavs made was to deal Irving after his trade request, fearing that his value would decrease if they waited closer to when he hit free agency (in the summer of 2019). James was convinced that he could mend his relationship with the young point guard if only the club held on to him long enough to go through training camp with the team.
  • According to Lloyd, James essentially has no relationship with either Gilbert or Altman. Griffin would often consult with LeBron and keep him apprised of major roster decisions, but that’s no longer happening — James was informed of the Irving trade about 20 minutes before word of the agreement leaked.
  • Multiple sources confirmed to Lloyd that James “cursed toward at least two team executives” during the now-infamous team meeting that began with players questioning Kevin Love‘s absence from a practice.

Cavs Rumors: Lineup, Love, Altman, Trades

Less than 24 hours after Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com once again made the case that Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue needs to change up his lineup, the club suffered its sixth loss in seven contests. After the game, Lue admitted that he had come around on the idea of a lineup shake-up, telling reporters, including Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com, that he intends to make a change.

Lue didn’t reveal on Tuesday night which positions or players he’ll target when he adjusts the Cavaliers’ lineup, but as McMenamin observes, LeBron James and Kevin Love are probably the only locks to remain starters. J.R. Smith told ESPN that he would accept a bench job if he’s demoted, but McMenamin notes that Jae Crowder and even Isaiah Thomas are also candidates to change roles.

In Pluto’s view, it would make sense for the Cavs to go back to starting Jose Calderon at point guard and Dwyane Wade at shooting guard, sending both Thomas and Smith to the bench. As Pluto argues, the Calderon/Wade combo would likely be more solid defensively, and would allow the Cavs to go to Thomas and Smith for instant offense off the bench.

Here’s more out of Cleveland, as the Cavs attempt to get their season back on track:

  • Monday’s team meeting highlighted a division in the Cavs’ locker room that has become apparent over the course of the season, McMenamin writes in his piece linked above. McMenamin suggests that the players who were with the Cavs prior to this year aren’t always on the same page with the team’s newcomers.
  • In a more detailed look at that Monday meeting, which was described as fiery and emotional, McMenamin passes along quotes from Lue and from Love, who suggests he wasn’t the only “target.” Jason Lloyd of The Athletic corroborates that account, indicating that the meeting “escalated into something more” after initially focusing on Love’s weekend sickness. Wade and Thomas were the instigators, Lloyd hears.
  • Recognizing that Cleveland is still one of the few spots in the NBA where he has a shot at a title, Love hasn’t asked to be traded and has no plans to do so, he tells Lloyd. “The NBA is so fragile,” Love said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get this chance again in my career to win.”
  • Multiple Cavs sources told McMenamin that they hope communication will improve throughout the organization. Communication has reportedly been an issue both on the court – with players not talking enough on defense – and off the court, where first-year GM Koby Altman has yet to establish “protocol for open discourse.”
  • Speaking of Altman, he continues to work on potential trades for the Cavs, but Monday’s meeting didn’t affect his urgency on that front, sources tell McMenamin. We heard on Tuesday that Cleveland has made progress in trade talks involving Kings point guard George Hill.

Cavs Notes: Thomas, Altman, Lue, Irving

After missing nearly half of the 2017/18 season while he recovered from a hip injury, Isaiah Thomas is poised to make his debut for the Cavaliers tonight. The Cavs and their fans probably shouldn’t expect much right away from Thomas, who will be on minutes restriction and has already been ruled out for the second half of the club’s back-to-back on Wednesday. Teammate LeBron James acknowledged that the Cavs don’t yet know what to expect from Thomas, but they’re glad to have him back.

“We really don’t know. We know he’s excited to once again grace an NBA floor and actually play. We’re excited for him as teammates as well,” James said, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “We expect him to be gassed. We expect him to just be very emotional about the whole, just his journey, just getting back. As far as his performance, that’s the last thing that we’re thinking about.”

Here’s more on Thomas’ Cavs debut, along with some more notes out of Cleveland:

  • Benjamin Hoffman of The New York Times explores the potential impact of Thomas’ return on the Cavaliers.
  • According to Thomas, the long process of rehabbing his hip injury has made him a better basketball player and a better person, “mentally and physically.” The former Celtic believes that 2018 holds “something special” for him and the Cavs, as Fedor writes at Cleveland.com.
  • In an in-depth feature, Dave McMenamin of ESPN takes a closer look at Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman, who ascended to his new role in the summer of 2017. Altman called that offseason “chaotic and difficult, and at times agonizing,” with Kyrie Irving‘s trade request representing the most noteworthy issue the new GM had to address. According to McMenamin, head coach Tyronn Lue initially advocated for keeping Irving despite the trade request, but the team decided it’d be impossible to move forward with the point guard still on the roster.
  • Altman on Lue, from McMenamin’s story: “He’s a big part of our free agent acquisitions. If I have a player that we think is good, we put him on the phone with T-Lue, and there’s an automatic respect level.”