Cleveland Cavaliers blocking out negative noise, preaching positivity: ‘There are seven 30-win teams and we’re one’

Cleveland Cavaliers blocking out negative noise, preaching positivity: ‘There are seven 30-win teams and we’re one’

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff was ready. He had been thinking about it in the hours following Tuesday night’s blowout loss to the Miami Heat and had something he wanted to get off his chest. It didn’t even matter which question came first. His response would be the same regardless: a message of positivity and a brief reflection, the same one he delivered to the team for the first time in Wednesday’s practice.

A four-minute rebuttal to the harsh criticism leveled at him and his players after an uneven month.

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“We had a conversation with the guys about the reality of where we’re at,” Bickerstaff said. “I think in all the noise and talk, people forget how much this group has accomplished. There are seven teams that have 30+ wins in the NBA and we’re one of those teams. None of those teams of the Eastern Conference starts a 21-year-old, a 22-year-old, a 23-year-old, a 24-year-old and a 26-year-old. The teams ahead of us are teams that have been weathered and gone through things that have built them .Sometimes I think people want to skip steps to get to where we all want to go. We’re not putting a ceiling on our guys, but what they’ve accomplished at this age is beyond what’s standard.

“Building a team is not easy. It takes some hits, it takes some bruises, it takes some failures. Learn from your biggest mistakes. Did we leave food on our plate? I think for sure. But I think that’s part of growing up and that’s the NBA. I just don’t like the negativity surrounding the group as if something bad is going to happen. There are too many positive things that this team has accomplished to allow any negativity around our group.”

The Cavs are 31-22. They have the fifth-best record in the conference and the seventh-best mark overall. Despite a relentless January, they finished 8-8 in those 16 games, 13 against playoff/play-in teams, and have yet to compile a sub-.500 record in any month this season. They are a dominant 21-6 at home and a baffling 10-16 on the road. In each of seven multi-game road trips, Cleveland has failed to leave with a winning record.

Bickerstaff also informed the players of his other numbers: offensive rating (No. 11), defensive rating (No. 1), net rating (No. 2) and point differential (No. 2), among others, that they go much further. the traditional classification.

And the Cavs are in this current position even though they’ve used 19 different starting lineups, had a fully healthy team (counting expected rotation pieces) just three times all season and have a still flawed roster with a lack of ‘outdoor. shot and two-way wings.

“I think people get lost in reality,” Bickerstaff said. “We have not finished improving, and we will continue to improve. I will improve, the players will improve, but it is always about (promotion). No one has started here and then jumped here. Teams take losses in the first round of the playoffs. They come back next year, they’re better. That’s how this thing works. That’s not to dampen the expectations and the growth of our guys, but I want them to understand all the things they’ve done, how positive this place is and how we’re moving and trending in the right direction.”

Cleveland has its flaws. Just like any other contender. They have been shown throughout the season and often extend to the road, where it is sometimes completely unrecognizable.

After Tuesday’s setback, the negativity began to seep out of the locker room. Dejected players expressed frustration with the incessant “learning process” and pointed to late-game execution as an Achilles’ heel. Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Donovan Mitchell specifically talked about taking steps back.

While there’s nothing the Cavs can do to speed up that process, the problematic night-to-night inconsistencybad habits and end game mistakes are under your control.

These are the areas that need to be fixed. Immediately.

This issue came out on Wednesday. The Cavs outpaced the space and addressed the need to be more physical, especially in the final minutes, when the refs tend to be more lenient. He focused on cleaning up the small details that often cause the offense to stagnate at key times and how to put players in the positions most needed to be successful. Bickerstaff even did a brief self-assessment and wanted to make sure he was doing his part to help in these situations.

“As coaches, we understand that and it’s up to everybody,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s not just about them. It’s about me. It’s my responsibility to continue to help those guys and work on that execution and put them in the right spots. I take responsibility for that. The way we play, we’ll be in a lot of tight games, so let’s make sure we understand exactly what we’re trying to get out and how we’re going to get there. I think it’s a great thing for us to have those kinds of experiences now, learn from them and as we go forward the season, to continue to improve.”

Even after acquiring Mitchell and altering their trajectory, the Cavs recognized they weren’t positioned the same as other contenders in the East. They don’t have the same maturity. They have no similar battle wounds. This was never a championship or relegation season. It’s not yet.

His clock isn’t ticking as quickly as the aging, temperamental, aging Brooklyn Nets, whose future is somehow tied to All-Star lightning rod Kyrie Irving, an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. Or like the Milwaukee Bucks, who could see their core shaken up if Khris Middleton leaves. Or like the Philadelphia 76ers who have $160 million committed to next year’s roster and little wiggle room to make up the difference. The Miami Heat are in a somewhat similar position. Even top-seeded Boston has some financial complications on the horizon, creating a greater sense of urgency.

Milwaukee’s core won the NBA championship together in 2021. Miami and Boston have advanced to the NBA Finals in the past three years. Philadelphia not only has a title coach in Doc Rivers, but has been a conference semifinalist two years in a row. Brooklyn has a lot of championship mettle and may be the most imposing team in the East from a pure talent standpoint. Even underachieving Atlanta has made a deep postseason run.

The Cavs, on the other hand, have a five-man starting lineup with an average age of 23.2 and 48 combined playoff appearances.

Given that reality and the current contract situations, with all of his biggest pieces under team control for three more years, there’s a long road of contention ahead. Mitchell’s blockbuster deal wasn’t just made with this season in mind It was about creating something sustainable and lasting, opening a window of containment for years to come.

The organization recently conducted a study on the average age of the two teams in each conference in the NBA Finals since 2011. The results: About 28 years old and eight years of service.

On Cleveland’s current roster, only Caris LeVert, Raul Neto, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Robin Lopez meet the criteria.

It is one of the main reasons why there has been a recently.

“It’s not always pretty, but I think it’s a fun part of learning,” Rubio said Wednesday. “When you have a team like ours with a lot of talent but without experience at some point, I think it’s fun to see the evolution. I think the positive approach is a good way because everyone here is willing to learn, is willing to put in the sacrifice, time, work and good habits to really change or start winning in critical matches.”

That approach, and the message, starts with Bickerstaff, the guy who has played a critical role in laying the groundwork, setting the culture and helping change.

“When you’re in a leadership position, guys follow and respect what you say,” Bickerstaff explained. “This is our responsibility as coaches is to lead the direction we want to go. In a group, you look at them, they are always together, smiling, having a good time, having a good time and supporting each other. But we are the ones who initially set the tone. If we come in here and our heads are down and we’re negative and this is a miserable place, that’s what they’re going to be. It will be a miserable place. It’s our responsibility as coaches to keep the building light, keep us energized and keep us moving forward.

“We’re too close together. We spend too much time together to be in a place where no one wants to come to work.”

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