Over the last twelve months the Cleveland Cavaliers have gone through one of the most dramatic turnarounds in NBA history. They went from an underachieving, dysfunctional mess of a roster to a strong title contender in the blink of the eye. While we may never know the full extent of the dysfunction surrounding Chris Grant's Cavaliers, in his weekly chat wrap Sam Amico provided some insight into just how toxic the team was last year:
My biggest problem was the culture... Grant built a LOSING mindset in the locker room. LeBron wouldn't have come back if he was still GM, that much I can promise. Griffin went in said, basically, "You know what. We're not losers. We're not losing on purpose." Kyre, Dion, etc.. hated playing for Mike Brown, and Brown was Grant's guy.
I'm in the locker room. Trust me, please, when I tell you Grant's approach, regardless of the assets they obtained (and he obtained many) was toxic, T-O-X-I-C. If you want to debate that, OK. But I know, I was there.
One example: He would tell players if they didn't get their act together he was gonna trade them. Griffin had to come in and tell them "You're not getting traded. It's all OK> Let's have some fun." Then, despite a coach who was overmatched and the players didn't like playing for, the Cavs finished 17-16 and made a run to the playoffs.
I personally was surprised to hear that the locker room was THIS bad, although I guess it should have been expected.
Amico also provided some insight into the health of Brendan Haywood:
Yes, (he's in) GREAT shape. I think he's gonna be the rim protector the Cavs need, to be Frank.
As well as whether or not the Cavs will land another rim protector this summer:
... 100 percent. They will land a rim protector before the season. Not sure who, and it might not happen until trainging camp. But they're determined to find someone. I keep touting Jan Vesely, but I haven't heard of a Cavs interest in him yet.
While I do not share Sam's desire to look into Vesely, it is good to hear that the Cavs are actively pursuing solutions to what is being perceived as their biggest weakness.
It would be unfair to assign all the blame for the dysfunction of the locker room on Chris Grant. The blame belongs with everybody in management as well as the entire roster. In watching the Cavs perform down the stretch, it really did seem to be the first time in the last four years that the team refused to quit. Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and the rest of the team appeared finally ready to not let a bad situation get the best of them and to continue pushing.
It's nice that we are able to look back at the conflict that plagued the team last season and think of it as interesting insight, rather than a guillotine blade that's due to fall. The future of the Cleveland Cavaliers is bright again and with both accomplished veterans and some of the leagues brightest stars, I hope that the young talent on the team will be able to learn from these experiences and mature into better players and people.