Why Mike Brown Is to Blame for the Cleveland Cavaliers' Struggles

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Why Mike Brown Is to Blame for the Cleveland Cavaliers' Struggles
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

Not surprisingly, Mike Brown's return to Cleveland hasn't been nearly as successful as his first go-round.

The Cavs, off to a 16-28 start in the 2013-14 season, left many scratching their heads this summer when they brought back Brown just three years after firing him.

What's even more surprising is the fact they failed to interview a single other candidate. The Cleveland Browns would certainly argue with this strategy.

The Cavaliers' locker room has been a mess this year under Brown. The team had a players-only meeting just 11 games into the season. Dion Waiters was rumored to want to leave Cleveland. Kyrie Irving has been criticized for "pouting." The whole Andrew Bynum thing didn't really work out, either.

Brown was supposed to bring a suffocating defense to the Cavs, but they rank just 19th in points allowed per game.

As the Cavaliers' most recent loss demonstrates, the team still isn't buying in to whatever Brown is trying to preach.

Cleveland made a huge mistake bringing him back, and here are some more reasons why.

 

The Handling of Anthony Bennett

At first it was kind of an embarrassing question to ask.

Should Anthony Bennett, the first overall pick in the 2013 draft, really be sent down to the D-League?

Now the question stands, why the heck isn't Anthony Bennett in the D-League?

Since trading for Luol Deng, Bennett has completely fallen out of the rotation. He's appeared in just one of the team's last seven games, a blowout win against the Milwaukee Bucks in which he registered five minutes.

Let's take a step back for a second.

Brown said before the season started that Bennett would strictly play power forward. While still trying to learn the position, Brown apparently decided to change his mind and moved Bennett to small forward. Shockingly, Bennett's 14.3 percent shooting from deep wasn't suited to a perimeter game, so Brown then moved him back to power forward.

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Brown's use of Bennett in the rotation has been horrendous. Back in November, Bennett registered minute totals of nine, zero, 20, eight and zero in five consecutive games. Inconsistent playing time like this only hurts Bennett's development and comfort level on the court.

Fast-forward to the present, where Bennett now spends his time watching from the sidelines instead of getting any meaningful minutes.

Bennett has said himself that he's open to playing in the D-League, in a move that would help revive his comatose rookie season.

Still, Brown and the Cavaliers have been unwilling to budge. Brown's explanation for not sending Bennett down was possibly worse than his actual coaching this season.

Brown told the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "He's our top pick. He's the No. 1 pick in the draft, so he's going to get plenty of opportunity. I'm going to give him plenty of opportunity."

Umm, when would that be coach?

"Plenty of opportunity" shouldn't mean another DNP-CD next to his name, as Bennett was tabbed with once again Sunday night.

The mishandling of Bennett has gotten so bad, even opposing teams are beginning to question what Brown is doing.

Bennett isn't a good NBA player right now—we know that.

Send him to the Canton Charge to develop, or give him meaningful minutes off the bench.

Just stop lying to the public about your plans for Bennett. False hope can't be doing him any good.

 

Effort and Focus Are Consistently Missing

A team is a reflection of their head coach.

The San Antonio Spurs are 33-11 and coming off an NBA Finals appearance, years after many thought their title window had closed.

The Chicago Bulls, despite losing Derrick Rose to injury and trading Luol Deng, are 7-3 in their last 10 games.

Both are led by excellent head coaches who preach effort, defense and a team-first attitude. Gregg Popovich and Tom Thibodeau are two of the best in the business at what they do.

Mike Brown could learn a lot from both.

D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images
Brown is a former assistant to Popovich who could have benefitted with more time under him.

Brown just isn't getting the effort, focus, determination or defense out of his team like other coaches do from theirs. This is especially alarming, considering that the Cavs are a young team that need to be learning from and responding to everything a head coach tells them.

This season we've seen players pout, give up 20-plus point leads, lose by 44 to the Sacramento Kings, fail to inbound the ball on a final possession and step out of bounds with the game on the line.

To be kind, focus has been lacking.

 

Player Productivity is Down

Say what you want about Byron Scott's record as a head coach, but the man was good at developing young talent.

Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson are all seeing a drop in scoring, shooting percentage and efficiency from last season under Scott. Anderson Varejao isn't scoring or rebounding at the rate he did a year ago. Even Luol Deng's numbers have dropped since being traded to the Cavaliers.

Shouldn't a good coach be getting the most out of his team? Instead, we've seen a regression from nearly all of the Cavs' best players from a season ago.

 

No Sign of Improvement

Brown has yet to show any real emotion after one of the Cavaliers' many bad losses this season. After a 124-80 loss to the Kings, Brown had this to offer, via the Akron-Beacon Journal.

“I never thought it would be like this again,” said Brown, whose team has also lost games this season by 29 and 30 points. “But knowing my team, it could happen again to us. You hope it doesn’t. You hope tonight is a lesson learned.”

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How's that for encouraging a fan base?

The lack of responsiveness and improvement from the team this far into the season should be sending a clear message to the front office.

After so much promise coming into the year, it's safe to say the Cavaliers are one of the most disappointing teams in the entire NBA.

Blame can be passed to general manager Chris Grant. Fingers could also be pointed at Dan Gilbert. An argument could be made that they players have underperformed.

Despite all of this, the Cavs dreadful 16-28 start should fall directly on Brown's shoulders.

Cleveland needs to start looking for a new head coach, as early as this offseason.

 

-GS

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