The Cleveland Cavaliers locker room appears to be kind of a mess. Shortly after trying to figure out if Kyrie does or does not want out of Cleveland, and how he could go about do it, we were gifted a few more gems earlier today:
First, Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News hit us with this piece, outlining Luol Deng's frustration with the Cavs locker room culture.
The Caveat to this is that it's single sourced. Does that mean it is not true? Of course not, the details are easily believable, but they're coming from one person, and have not been corroborated (that we know of). For his part, Deng's response to the column (via Jason Lloyd, Akron Beacon Journal):
"I’m disappointed that there’s an article like that. It doesn’t make sense to me saying, ‘close friends.’ Just name whoever told you that if you do have somebody, but I feel like people are always looking for something to write about. I’m new here, so obviously writing an article like that fits right in saying that’s how I feel. I’ve said it many times. I’m excited for the opportunity. I’m happy to be here. This is a young group of guys, but it’s guys I like and I get along well. I’ve been in that situation where I’m a young player and I had vets talk to me. You’re going to make mistakes, but the way it was written is just to put down everything that’s going on here. We know we’re struggling, we know we’ve got to get better as a team. But writing an article like that is just giving a writer who wants everyone to read whatever he’s writing. I’m really disappointed and it hurt me a little bit because I do care about the guys in the locker room and I’ve never in my career had something like that written about me. I’m disappointed."
Then he was asked by Lloyd if he's frustrated with his current situation:
"Obviously we’re losing, I’m not happy. But to go as far as to say I’m frustrated with the guys, that to me doesn’t make sense. I do have the jersey on and I play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. I’m coming from a different organization so people want to compare. That’s behind me. I said I’m looking forward to the position I’m in now. I’ve never backed down from anything and there’s going to be ups and downs. I’m looking forward to taking the challenge and doing whatever I can whether it’s being a good leader or just being out there playing as hard as I can. I’ve never been in a situation where I start talking and turn my back on what’s in front of me. It’s not me, it’s not who I am. I’m really upset that’s written about me and I just hope guys within the team understand that. It’s something we don’t need right now."
From the NYDN Piece: Dion Waiters was kicked out of practice, for some reason, it does not say why.
From Lloyd's Notes on the Rockets loss:
3. The Dion Waiters/practice incident thing got by me. I missed it. It happens. The details surrounding it remain sketchy. It’s not entirely accurate to say he was kicked out of practice, I’ve been told, but something involving Waiters definitely occurred. The details will probably eventually spill out. They usually do.
Other tidbits from the NYDN story:
- Players taking off their jerseys at halftime and threatening not to go back out for the second half. Which sounds a little far fetched.
- Kyrie Irving allegedly wants to fire his agent, because his agent wants him to stay in Cleveland and Kyrie wants to go to New York. This is the paper that published that Kyrie wanted to go to NY earlier in the year, so take from that what you will.
After the game, Jason Lloyd told us about dissension in the Cavs locker room:
The best part of this is probably Kyrie Irving's quote about the locker room:
"The chemistry is great,"
The reason this is good is because EVERYTHING says otherwise, but to each his own.
Other highlights from this one:
- Most problems center around Kyrie and Dion Waiters, and both have attitudes that rub the team the wrong way.
- One teammate said that Irving "acts like he doesn't care"
- Waiters is apparently still bad at taking accountability for things, but has improved, from not at all to a little is improvement, I suppose.
- Brown has a large coaching staff, and apparently communication is not too hot. Some coaches are telling players to do things one way, and Browns wants things done a different way. Lead assistants Bernie Bickerstaff and Jim Boylan are both former head coaches, it doesn't expound on who, and what, so I have no idea if there is a split with them and Brown, or Jamahl Mosely, Igor Kokoksov, and Vitaly Potapenko.
- Irving strongly denied wanting to fire his agent. Very strongly.
So how do the Cavs fix this mess?
There are no easy answers here. Most of the team is playing poorly, and the team is a complete mess. Challenging for a playoff spot in their current state, even in the East, seems far fetched. A single trade won't fix it, a coaching change isn't going to fix it. This team is seriously broken, and a lot of it traces to two of their best players. It's time to swallow the ol' pride, and let whatever happens happen.
Kyrie Irving or Dion Waiters?
The answer seems fairly obvious, and it pretty much is. One of them has to go, and it's probably Waiters. Kyrie is younger, and more talented, he is 21 and already a two time All Star. Accountability for these two has been a major issue, and trading one of them will show the team that you take accountability seriously.
Here's the rub. What does trading Dion do for Kyrie's accountability? I like Dion a whole lot more than most people, and I am not ignorant to that fact. I don't think keeping him is the smarter move, and am not saying that is what the Cavs should do, but I did pose the question above to see if I was alone:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/Ryan_Mourton">@Ryan_Mourton</a> No, and that's an issue. I've actually thought "maybe they should keep dion" today, which is INSANE.</p>— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) <a href="https://twitter.com/HPbasketball/statuses/429831756083380224">February 2, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Trading Dion doesn't do anything for Kyrie, except make him happier. It doesn't make him accountable in any way, which according to everything we hear, is an issue. We have very recently had his character slammed, and reports that he might try to force his way out of town this summer.
So, what would a good deal for Kyrie be? I honestly don't know. All I'm saying is don't just hang up the phone. If someone comes calling with picks in the top 3 or 5 of this draft and other young players and picks, you at least need to listen. Think VERY hard on what this team has accomplished and what Kyrie might do in the future.
What of Luol Deng and Anderson Varejao?
In it's current state of disarray, it doesn't make sense to hold on to high value assets. I don't think the Cavs will trade these players, because the Cavs are not willing to tank, but they probably should. Deng is expiring at the end of the year, and if you can fetch a nice haul for him, then maybe you pull the trigger. If you can't, then keep him here, because these kids need someone to mentor them. Varejao has again been injured, but his offense and rebounding have been stellar. On a team like the Rockets or Pelicans, that has a strong shot blocker, Varejao would fit very nicely. At 31 years old, his contract ($9 million next year, only $4 million guaranteed) both makes him a bargain when healthy, and makes it pretty difficult to see him being here next season and beyond.
Is Tristan Thompson still the future at Power Forward?
Maybe? Tristan is a very good rebounder, and has games where he can pour in a good amount of points, but as is, he's a below average offensive player, an average at best defender, and is a poor defender at the rim, a problem compounded by Varejao being bad in that area as well. The Cavaliers will probably struggle to win as long as Thompson and Varejao play big minutes together.
The Cavs have a lot of expiring contracts, what about them?
CJ Miles, Earl Clark, Alonzo Gee, Matthew Dellavedova, and Henry Sims all have contracts that either end, have a team option to end, or are not guaranteed for next season. Luol Deng does as well, but he we've addressed him already. Dellavedova has probably earned more time, and a place on this team. Sims is more likely to be cut than anyone wanting to trade for him, but he is your 13th man, so it's not a huge deal. Miles might have some value, as we recently heard that some teams have had interest in him, and should probably be moved. He has played less and less lately, does not have a place on the team going forward. If you have a deal, go for it. Noone is trading for Clark or Gee most likely, but if someone wants to, they will assuredly be gone. As cap ballast in a larger deal, they have value, but that's about it.
And Chris Grant?
At this rate, Grant is probably going to be gone this season. Generally it's after the season, but if he's not going to shape the roster going forward, then it makes a tiny bit of sense to just sack him now. It's kind of an unheard of practice in the NBA, but does letting a guy you plan on removing further alter the roster make sense?
Thought process behind that is Gilbert doesn't want to let Grant burn all the Cavs assets to try & salvage job.— Probasketballdraft (@Probballdraft) February 2, 2014
Buckle up, it's about to get weird.
Whatever the Cavs decide to do, the next few weeks leading up to the trade deadline are sure to get even more strange, you haven't seen anything yet. If the losing and drama continues, the one thing we know about the Cavs this year is that they will find a way to do something you never saw coming. So stay tuned.