Dribbles: On Record, Cavaliers Players Offer Beilein Full Support

Sam Amico

CLEVELAND -- Random dribbles from the Cavaliers' 93-87 home loss to the Orlando Magic on Friday night.

1. It was a long day in Cleveland, the type of day where you almost forgot there was even a game.

2. First came a report that some of the Cavs players weren't happy with coach John Beilein. Later came the news that the Cavs are "ready to listen" to trade offers for Kevin Love. In between, the Cavs lost to the Magic. It was their 11th defeat in 12 games.

3. Every Cavs player interviewed before and after the game strongly defended Beilein. Tristan Thompson did so with extra intensity.

4. The report on Beilein, penned by The Athletic, quoted anonymous members of the Cavs -- who suggested the team had "drowned out" Beilein and was instead turning to assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

5. Thompson on the report: "Every coach that I've played for, from Byron Scott to Mike Brown to David Blatt to Tyronn Lue -- Larry Drew is the exception -- to Coach Beilein, players always talk to the assistant. That's because the (head) coach is so busy thinking about stuff within the game. You talk more freely with the assistant coach. They're like a therapist on the team. On every team, everyone talks to the assistant coaches, because the head coaches have so much going on."

6. Thompson wasn't finished: "I think that's full of sh--. I hope none of my teammates said that, because if you're going to build a culture and a family, you can't have that chatty petty sh-- going on. So everyone has to look in the mirror. There's only so much coach can do. There's only so much we can do. Do we have the best roster in the NBA? No. So I hope whoever reported that was just bullsh--ing and blamed it on a player. I hope it was like, you know, someone wearing the suits. And not my guys that I go to war with. I don't think that's right. It's not fair."

7. Thompson's comments came after the game. I somewhat hesitantly asked Cavs power forward Larry Nance Jr. about the report prior to tipoff.

8. Nance's answer: "Ideally, you want to keep that in house, if there were those issues. But at the same time, I guess that's today's NBA. Am I worried about it? No. My job doesn't change. I'm going to play as hard as I can for as long as I can and try to get us a win."

9. I then asked Nance if he has enjoyed playing for Beilein. "I've never had an issue with a coach in my entire career," he said. "This one is no different. I wanted to play for him at Michigan, to be honest with you. So yeah, I'm enjoying it."

10. Big man John Henson also weighed in after the game: "What he's doing, I don't think anyone is really complaining. They just kind of ran with (the story). If you play hard and buy in, you usually win."

11. Also, no one asked Orlando coach Steve Clifford, but he offered his take anyway: "I've known Coach Beilein as long as anyone. He's a wonderful coach. All I know is he'll find a way to win. They're developing. There's very little growth without some conflict. He's an incredibly knowledgeable guy."

12. Now, it should be noted The Athletic report was co-authored by Shams Charania and Joe Vardon. I have never met Charania. But I do know he is one of pro basketball's heavy-hitters when it comes to inside information. If he's not batting a thousand in accuracy, it's at least 999.99 percent.

13. Vardon is from Northeast Ohio. I do know him a little bit, have spoken to him on a few occasions. He is an excellent, credible reporter. I am a big fan of his work. So nobody is making this up. Someone on the Cavs said what was written. 

14. I have also been doing this for 20 years. I've been around the NBA longer than most coaches and general managers. That's not boasting, it's just a fact. And the point is, this is nothing new. As Clifford said, whenever a team is rebuilding, there is likely to be conflict. Why? Because rebuilding means losing. That can get old fast and it can lead to pettiness and finger pointing.

15. I've also been around long enough to know this will all blow over. Beilein will remain the coach and the focus will go back to nothing but basketball, and probably fairly quickly.

16. OK, on to the Love rumor. It was reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. "Cleveland is open to the idea of moving Love before the Feb. 7 trade deadline should the Cavaliers find a requisite package of young assets and/or draft picks," Wojnarowski wrote.

17. Granted, the Cavs are always open to listening to offers for anyone. That's just how you run a team if you're a GM. But the fact Wojnarowski reported it makes the Love talk a lot more authentic. It makes it seem as if the Cavs are making sure the news gets out there. That may not be the case. But it does seem that way.

18. Or let's put it this way -- there are maybe five or six guys in the entire NBA who are considered untouchable. None of them reside in Cleveland.

19. Anyway, Wojnarowski mentioned Denver, Portland and Boston as teams that could have a strong interest in Love.

20. Earlier in the week, I reported Toronto is said to have an interest in Thompson. That has since been shot down by several league sources, vehemently so by a couple. I should add that the source who gave it to me has been right every time in no less than a dozen conversations, and that none of the sources who refuted it are employed by the Raptors. Apparently, there are a lot of people out there who believe they know the inner-workings of the Raptors’ front office.

21. But as of now, I don't believe the Raptors will be looking to shake up what has been a successful season. Then again, as someone who has done this for 20 years, I also know that what I believe doesn't really matter -- and mostly, people are going to get upset if you report what they don't want to hear. But I must not be that bad at this. People keep paying me to do it.

22. As for Thompson, I think the Cavs would be wise to hang onto him and offer him another big contract at the end of the season. That's not what I know; it's just what I think. Every team needs a hustling, energy big man like Thompson. He is a veteran who has won and he is a positive voice in the locker room. There is never any questioning his effort or leadership. That's why it wouldn't be a surprise if other teams coveted him. The Cavs sure do.

23. As for the actual game, the Cavs (5-16) displayed the fight that they showed earlier this season. Beilein was clearly pleased with that part. "I'm not excited about losses, but it's exciting to see how hard this team played tonight," he said. "I really love the way we got after it."

24. Right now, though, the younger Cavs just haven't learned how to finish games or what it takes to win. It didn't help that Love was out sick. Collin Sexton led the Cavs with 19 points but finished with just one assist. (He missed a wide-open Cedi Osman near the end.) He's still growing in that area, and as I've written, the Cavs can live with it. Osman added 14 points and Kevin Porter Jr. had a very nice game, scoring 12 on 5-of-8 shooting.

25. For more on the game, check out the full recap: Slumping Cavs drop tough one to rolling Magic.

26. Next up: The Cavs visit Philadelphia on Saturday. They flew out about an hour after Friday's loss. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. It may have already taken place by the time you've finished reading this.

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