The Cleveland Cavaliers are once again in a state of turmoil. The team, which sits at an Eastern Conference-worst 14-40 on the year, parted ways with head coach John Beilein over the All-Star break. It was a stunning move, as Beilein opted to walk away from his first NBA job after a lengthy and successful career as a collegiate head coach.
All of this begs the question: What, exactly, went down that led to a breakup happening after only 54 games? A new piece by Shams Charania and Jason Lloyd of The Athletic digs into this a little, and peels back the layers on a situation that seemed to be untenable from the very start. In fact, things were so bad that it took two whole weeks for the team’s big trade deadline acquisition to sour on the organization.
Andre Drummond came to Cleveland in a last-minute move that saw John Henson and Brandon Knight sent to Detroit. That was on Feb. 6, and in the story, we learned that he quickly came to hate how things were going in Cleveland.
Beilein tried but could never really adapt to the NBA. Even the new arrivals resisted him. Andre Drummond, who just got here two weeks ago, told teammates the situation in Cleveland was worse than Detroit, according to one source with knowledge of the conversation, and that it would factor into his $29 million option decision for next season.
Some of the examples of the subpar culture involved Beilein being “stunned by the culture of the modern NBA player,” which involved missing practices and games when they were sore, their failure to “retain basic, fundamental information,” and their aversion to “lengthy film and practice sessions.” Players, meanwhile, didn’t like how Beilein was a “dictator,” with an example coming in how he ran things during Summer League.
The Cavaliers would, per the report, practice all the time while out in Las Vegas, and while Beilein thought that was a normal thing to do with a new group due to his years in the collegiate ranks, the team would get trounced during games. Then, things were complicated when one player who went through these practices, first-round pick Dylan Windler, suffered a stress fracture.
Warning signs for Beilein could be traced to the Cavs’ Summer League schedule, when the rookie coach ran a collection of (mostly) G Leaguers and non-roster invites through extended practices, multiple times a day. This is precisely what Beilein would have done at Michigan, especially with an entirely new batch of players, this early in a season calendar. But players not only complained about the work, they were drilled in games by opponents who were clearly well rested. And this was in Summer League.
There was at least one player, though, involved in those early summer workouts under Beilein who was expecting to make a major contribution to the Cavs this season. Rookie Dylan Windler, a late first rounder, was supposed to compete with Cedi Osman for minutes on the wing. But he never played a game this season because of a stress injury in his left leg — which could be traced back at least in part to being overworked during the summer.
There’s a whole lot more in the piece about the team’s front office and how there are issues that go so far beyond Beilein’s control that there’s nothing he could ever do about them. Still, the things that he could control appeared to have clashed with the players, and as such, his time with the Cavs is over.