Careful, Ohio. Mark Price is lurking in the shadows, ready to make the quietest of awesome splashes for your Cleveland Cavaliers.
In their continued quest to find a new head coach, the Cavs are turning to a familiar face, according to The Plain Dealer's Mary Schmitt Boyer:
Although Price's player credentials are undeniable—man, could he shoot—he doesn't elicit the delighted frenzy that Lionel Hollins, George Karl or some other established coaching stud would.
Want to know a secret?
That's totally OK. If the Cavaliers decide to head in this direction, it's perfectly fine.
Good basketball decisions don't need to be overtly snazzy, teeming with attention-grabbing motives. Sometimes, they can be disguised as bland transactions that, in reality, are sneaky-good.
When's the last time Cleveland employed a universally liked or beloved coach?
Mike Brown didn't generate that kind of respect. Nor did Byron Scott. Paul Silas wasn't receiving hugs on the regular, either.
Cleveland's coaching seat has recently been occupied by underachievers and those with an apparent disconnect between themselves and the fanbase. Only one has lasted more than three seasons since 2000, and that was Brown, who was shown the door one year into his second Cleveland stint.
Hiring Price revives an existing relationship. He spent nine of his 12 NBA seasons in Cleveland and remains a symbol of happier days. The Cavaliers made the playoffs seven times during his stay, including one trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Using him as an emblem of hope holds family-type clout. This isn't some stranger who's in it for the paycheck or out of sheer convenience. Price is someone with ties to the organization who, presumably, is emotionally invested in its survival.
"It's always a good idea to keep legends like Price in the family," Fear The Sword's Sam Vecenie wrote, "so granting him an interview for the position is a smart decision."
Actually offering him the job wouldn't be so bad either.
Bringing back Brown last summer was about improving the Cavaliers' defense.
Talking to Price is about fostering a more potent offensive attack and culture.
The Cavs ranked 23rd in offensive efficiency last season. They finished 23rd in 2012-13. Offensive failure is a recurring theme. They haven't ranked outside the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency since LeBron James left.
Price is primarily known for his offensive acumen. He was a sweet-shooting, high-scoring point guard who could effortlessly rip through the bottom of the net again and again. The Cavs—who also ranked 18th in three-point percentage through 2013-14—need someone to make sense of their offense and all its moving parts.
Like Scott, he can bond with Kyrie Irving as a former floor general. Unlike Scott, he has more of the game's fundamentals down.
As Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer points out, Price was brought aboard Steve Clifford's coaching staff with the then-Charlotte Bobcats to "work on shooting technique" along with "pick-and-roll decision-making."
Now, the 'Cats didn't set the world ablaze on offense last season. They ranked 24th in offensive efficiency and relied heavily on their defensive fortitude to win games. Decision-making within pick-and-rolls was frequently an issue too. According to Synergy Sports (subscription required), Charlotte's pick-and-roll ball-handlers ranked 24th in points scored per possession while its roll men checked in at 18th.
But that's hardly indicative of Price's failure. Charlotte wasn't armed with an outpouring of offensive talent. Too much responsibility was placed on the shoulders of Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. The team lacked flexibility and creativity as a whole.
Leaving an imprint after only one year as an assistant isn't easy, either. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's "shooting technique" won't be fixed overnight, and scorers like Gerald Henderson, Gary Neal and Walker won't suddenly develop conscientious shot-selection.
Other teams with which Price has been involved—the 2007-08 Denver Nuggets, for instance—have showed more offensive progress. And in Cleveland he would be gifted a roster of his very own, along with control he's never had before.
Working with talent like Irving and Dion Waiters—to whom he can relate—and having the freedom to implement his own, likely floor-spacing offense makes Price one of the few candidates qualified to redefine Cleveland's largely broken and ineffective system.
Right Man for the Job?
Lack of head coaching experience stands out here.
Price has never helmed an NBA team on his own before. And while he's been around the assistant coaching block a time or six, his positions haven't been of utmost prominence, as NBCSports.com's Dan Feldman reminds us:
By comparison to those three, though, Price is a seasoned pro. Before joining Charlotte, he served as a player-development coach for the Magic and shooting coach for the Grizzlies, Hawks and Warriors.
But a few suspect hires elsewhere don’t mean the Cavaliers should rush to hire Price. He wasn’t even an on-the-bench assistant in Charlotte this season. Though with assistant Bob Beyer joining Stan Van Gundy’s staff in Detroit, Price is slated to move up from behind the bench if he remains in Charlotte.
Premiums aren't being placed on experience of late, as most of us should know. Mark Jackson and Jason Kidd, and now Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher, have all received initial gigs without any prior training. Their playing careers spoke for themselves.
The question, then, isn't about Price's coaching background. It's about whether he's ready to make this jump.
Ringing endorsements from current employers don't make Price the Cavs' perfect option. For all he brings to the table, he doesn't emit that big-name, savior-brand flair.
And maybe that's a good thing.
Cleveland has been linked to a number of different coaching prospects in recent weeks. Among them was Kentucky's John Calipari, for whom the Cavs were apparently prepared to move—then buy—heaven and earth.
Adrian Wojnarowski and Brett Dawson of Yahoo Sports originally reported that Cleveland offered Coach Cal a seven-year, $60-plus million contract to become the team's new president and head coach. Sources later told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that the Cavs upped their ante to 10 years and $80 million before Calipari made his return to Kentucky official.
Those are the types of names fans love to read—the type of chatter that piques interest, incites hope and spawns sublime expectations. More importantly, Coach Cal is the kind of name that takes attention away from what the Cavs are trying to build.
Had Cal accepted owner Dan Gilbert's offer, attention immediately would have shifted to James. Coach Cal told Boyer less than one month ago that he would love to coach the four-time MVP. Suddenly syncing up with the team Kings James previously headlined wouldn't have been seen as coincidence...because it wasn't a coincidence.
Four years removed from their last playoff berth, the Cavs cannot afford such distractions. This a young team assembled around a young star that is only going to get younger with the addition of this year's No. 1 pick. The last thing players need is to be placed in a situation where they're unable to develop and grow, and forced to endure rumors of future plans that don't include them.
Employing Price doesn't render the Cavs contenders. But it does expedite their rebuilding process in the sense that it actually allows them to rebuild.
Unnecessary pressure won't be placed on him to recruit James or work Lexington-based magic on a roster that needs time more than anything. That's what the Cavs need.
“I love my staff," Clifford said, per Bonnell. "(Price) is ready to be a head coach..."
Various other first-time candidates could be even more ready. Hiring Price merely represents a step in the right direction for a team that needs to sell its process over instant and impractical progress.
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