One disappointing playoff series is all it can take for an NBA head coach to lose their job. For J.B. Bickerstaff and the Cleveland Cavaliers, disappointment is an understatement. Though his seat appears to be heating up, Koby Altman remains committed to J.B. as Cleveland’s coach moving forward.
“End that speculation,” Altman told reporters when asked about replacing Bickerstaff. “You can’t fluke your way into 51 wins. You can’t fluke your way into the number one defensive rating in the NBA.”
Bickerstaff took over as head coach midway through the 2019-20 NBA season before earning an extension in December 2021. He was integral to building Cleveland’s identity as they transformed from lottery-dweller to a 51-win team in just three full seasons under J.B.’s helm.
But the Cavaliers’ collapse in round one of the NBA Playoffs has left a bitter taste in the mouth of everyone. Losing swiftly in five games to a team Cleveland was favored to beat is not a great mark on Bickerstaff’s resume. His adjustments, or lack thereof, did not instill much confidence in the Cavalers’ fanbase.
The beating Cleveland took in round one did not stop Altman from backing J.B. in his end-of-season press conference. Altman insisted that there would be no sweeping changes for this team after what felt like a successful season that unfortunately ended in pain. The Cavs' frustrating loss is one Altman believes the team will grow from during the summer.
“Both things can remain true in terms of the disappointment of the last 10 days and the excitement of what we got going forward,” Altman said. “For us, it’s always about the summer and how we can grow together in the summer.”
Bickerstaff is the NBA’s sixth youngest coach and this was just his second time leading a team in the playoffs. With his players seemingly still behind him, it makes sense for the Cavaliers to avoid making any rash decisions.
There is certainly room to grow for each member of this team. Their loss to the New York Knicks is the type of collapse that would spark urgency from anyone. But the front office continues to practice patience with one of the league’s brightest young cores. Bickerstaff’s job appears safe, for now, but he may have lost the benefit of the doubt moving forward.