Following a total collapse in the 2023 NBA Playoffs, concerns swelled around the Cleveland Cavaliers organization. But for President of Basketball Operations, Koby Altman, and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, faith in the team they’ve built never wavered.
“The outside noise and those who judge and critique, they don’t change how we feel about our guys. It doesn’t make us waver. That outside noise? It doesn’t matter,” Bickerstaff said.
The Cavaliers finished fourth in the Eastern Conference last season, with their first 50+ win season without LeBron James since the 1990s. While the playoffs left everyone with a sour taste in their mouth, the success of the regular season should not be forgotten, according to Altman and Bickerstaff.
“The playoffs left a sour taste in our mouth but we collectively used it as fuel in the offseason to get better and hopefully not end how we ended last year,” Altman said. “But I will say in terms of the regular season and what we are building, I was really happy with what we did.”
“We’re starting to discredit what the NBA season means, to go out and win 51 games is not easy. You don’t do that if you’re not mentally and physically tough,” Bickerstaff said.
None of this optimism detracts from the sting of disappointment Cleveland felt in the playoffs. Bickerstaff says this was a crucial stepping stone for the team.
“We understand there’s a process to this,” Bickerstaff said. “If everything is easy, you never figure it out. We learned a hard lesson but you can’t take away from what our guys have accomplished as we continue to build.”
Part of the process is learning from their mistakes and improving during the summer. While Bickerstaff focused on developing his players, Altman was busy figuring out how to address gaps in the roster through free agency. Altman placed an emphasis on adding shooting with both Max Strus and Georges Niang.
“A lot has been made about the toughness but those (playoff) games were played largely in the 90s, which are winnable games,” Altman said. “We gotta score the ball. So looking at ourselves in the mirror, what do we need to add to this roster?”
Both Strus and Niang provide Cleveland with a boost of three-point shooting. This move hopefully gives Bickerstaff the tools needed to build a more dynamic offense.
“It’s going to be asking everybody to be a little more dynamic, to be a little harder to find. When you’re chasing an elite player like Donovan, he’s got the advantage automatically,” Bickerstaff said.
“We think we’ve invested in the right type of people and they have continued to get better. I expect our team to take a leap because that’s what the character of our guys says they’ll be able to do.”