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John Beilein says he misspoke when saying Cavs players were playing like ‘thugs’ during film session

Normal things.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

John Beilein’s transition from college to the NBA hasn’t been perfect. The Cavs are struggling on the court and he’s had some issues connecting with players off of it.

Many of the reports have been off the record. But in a new report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Beilein had to address an incident that occurred Wednesday. In a film session, Beilein said that the Cavs were no longer playing “like a bunch of thugs.” After the session, Beilein said his staff alerted him to what he said and he began reaching out to players one-by-one to clarify that he meant to saying the players were no longer playing like “slugs.”

“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 ESPN. “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.”

The majority of Cavs players, as well as two assistant coaches, are African-American. In modern contexts, the word “thug” is considered “a polite way to use the N-word.”

Per ESPN, Cavs GM Koby Altman is working on getting details on context on the session and that “Cavaliers players left the room initially stunned and were increasingly disturbed as they dispersed out of the meeting.” According to, Altman is cutting a scouting trip short to address the situation. also reports that “players understand Beilein’s explanation” and “they can move forward with him as head coach”. Some, per, weren’t aware of what he said.

Beilein is expected to speak with the media at the Cavs’ shootaround in Detroit on Thursday.