Beilein, Cavs Big on Setting Small Goals to Measure Progress

Sam Amico

Where do the Cavaliers go from here?

Well, probably not the NBA Finals.

The NBA draft lottery is probably more like it. That's OK. It will merely mean the Cavs (5-14) met preseason expectations.

They have lost nine of 10 heading into Tuesday's game vs. Detroit (7 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio).

With a forecast like that, it might be tough to keep guys motivated. There are still 63 games to go. But first-time NBA coach John Beilein is giving it a shot.

"We just try to find little wars within the war to try to get them to focus on certain things," Beilein said. "We just finished a 10-game package where we were trying to do some things better."

Such as?

"We were trying to deflect the ball better, we were trying to get more defensive rebounds, we were trying to increase our tempo," Beilein said. "Those were three of the eight areas we were trying to improve. We saw growth in all of those areas."

If that sounds like boring old coach-speak, just know that this is an 82-game season aimed at little more than developing young players and building a culture. 

In order to do that, Beilein and his staff have to create a winning environment -- without a whole lot of winning. So the Cavs are getting creative in setting goals. Beilein has caught on quickly because it's the NBA way in times like these.

"Coaches would always like their teams to be better," Beilein said. "At the same time, when you put a team together like this -- new coaching staff, the whole thing -- there are a lot of things we still have to do. 

Beilein added that good habits are growing daily. 

"Gradually it will be no-brainers in terms of how people play, and doing the things we want off and on the court," he said.


In many ways, all Beilein wants the Cavs do is be consistent in their effort. That's about all that can be expected with a starting lineup that features a rookie point guard in Darius Garland, a second-year combo guard in Collin Sexton and a third-year small forward in Cedi Osman.

Meanwhile, big men Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson own championship rings and remain patient with a process that can test any veteran's will to carry on.

"Obviously, we need to win some basketball games, but it's about continuing to have a growth mindset," Love said. "We need to keep working, keep grinding. That's the only way you can go about it."

Beilein often talks about the Cavaliers being smaller than the other teams, and he's not lying. General manager Koby Altman intends to somehow rectify that, either this season or in the draft. It is not the Cavs' long-term goal to be the shortest team on the floor.

The backcourt accounts for a lot of that -- as Sexton is listed at 6-foot-2 and Garland 6-1. Thompson is 6-9 and playing a position that is often still reserved for 7-footers, or at least something close.

No matter, Beilein appears to believe the Cavaliers are progressing just fine in plenty of areas.

“It’s where we expected to be," Beilein said. "You start at a baseline and you try to get better. We’re making significant gains there. 

"But if you would’ve asked me how many wins we would have, I never really think about that.”