“It’s pretty much a mess.”
That’s what one source close to the Cleveland Cavaliers told the Akron Beacon Journal’s Jason Lloyd regarding the team's current situation, so how much longer can head coach Mike Brown feasibly keep his job on the sidelines?
Brown coached the Cavaliers from 2005-2010 and won the NBA’s Coach of the Year Award in 2008-09, when LeBron James led the Cavs to a 66-16 record. Needless to say, this roster is on the opposite end of that spectrum.
Brown’s 2008-09 Cavs team led the NBA by surrendering just 91.4 points per game. This year’s team ranks 21st in the league by allowing 101.7 points per contest.
Of course, that’s to be expected considering the 2013-14 Cavs don’t have LBJ, but Brown’s defensive message isn’t getting through to young players, and the offense ranks 25th by scoring 95.8 points on average.
Cleveland’s head coach ripped into his team following a 124-80 beat down courtesy of the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 12 by saying, “We didn’t fight. That’s disappointing. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen again, but I don’t know. I’m not sure with this team,” per Jason Lloyd.
He lashed out again following a 99-90 loss against the Phoenix Suns on Jan. 26—a game Cleveland led by as many as 20 points.
“It was hard to watch,” Brown said, per Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer. “Very disappointing. Our guys should be embarrassed of the way we played in the second half.”
The Cavs wound up scoring just 29 points combined in the third and fourth quarter.
Brown's evident frustrations have began trickling down to the players, which includes new addition Luol Deng.
The veteran forward told a close friend, “The stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess,” per Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News.
Lawrence also reported that sophomore guard Dion Waiters stayed out “partying into the wee hours” prior to Cleveland’s 117-86 blowout loss against the New York Knicks.
Waiters was reportedly removed from a recent team practice as well, but that didn’t carry any negative ramifications in terms of lost playing time for the youngster.
The biggest concern at this point, however, is All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving.
The 21-year-old phenom has experienced nothing but a losing culture since entering the pros, and it appears that those circumstances are beginning to weigh heavily on him.
Despite continued negative reports, however, Irving simply swept any concerns under the rug by saying, “The chemistry is great. There’s nothing going on within the locker room that needs to be shared with the media.”
That’s essentially the opposite stance many Cavs players have been taking, and it all leads back to Coach Brown.
“We’re getting too many mixed messages,” one player said anonymously, per Lloyd. “This isn’t very much fun. We were losing last year with Byron (Scott), but at least we were having fun.”
Deng echoed that sentiment by saying, “I just think we’re not playing as a unit.”
Dating back to the 44-point loss against the Kings, the Cavs have lost eight games by an average of more than 17 points.
Should the Cleveland Cavaliers fire Mike Brown?
If Brown hasn’t lost the locker room already, it’s fair to say he’s coming darn close to losing it soon.
The veteran coach’s seat is about as hot as a ghost chili midway through the 2013-14 season. Many players—including a respected veteran in Luol Deng—continue to point out what’s going wrong with a team poised to wind up in the draft lottery once again.
I believe it’s past time for the Cavaliers to hit the reset button and try to instill a disciplined locker room culture. If half of the reports surrounding this team are true, the front office should be genuinely concerned.
I can’t imagine Deng wanting to re-sign past this season based on what he’s been saying since coming over from the Chicago Bulls, and the same may be said of Irving a couple of years down the road.