RAISING THE CADAVALIER - many, many thoughts on the Cleveland Cavaliers by ROBERT ATTENWEILER

Posts Tagged ‘nba basketball’

NBA Basketball

2013/04/28

This is Cleveland. This is Brown’s Town.

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I’ll admit, my first reaction to learning that Mike Brown was returning to the Cavaliers in the very rarely attempted repeater role as head coach was … (how do I put this politely?) … not overly enthusiastic. It’s still too soon for me not to remember his atrociously uninventive offense or the way in which his quest for height on the wings kept Sasha Pavlovic as a regular rotation player far longer than was necessary. I remember how his teams almost never stepped up, as good teams almost always do sometimes, when fielding a LeBron-less lineup (no matter the joyful infrequency with which that happened). I remember him getting categorically outcoached: by Stan Van Gundy in 2009 and Doc Rivers in 2010 (we’ll give him a pass for the 2007 Finals and the 2008 Celtics series that were really more about the better team winning than they were about any of the coaches involved). And I remember LeBron quitnessing him out the door.

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Whew. That is a lot of professional sports viewing baggage to get past. Thanks, Mssrs. Gilbert and Grant for giving me that to chew on for the next several months/years. No, seriously, thanks. Thanks. I mean it. Thanks.

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The more I thought about the hiring, though, the less entirely abominable it seemed (ah, there’s the politeness again!). For starters, I have to give Mike Brown a little bit of slack. For, as nearly all of his successes are viewed through glasses with LeBron-colored lenses, so too should his weaknesses.

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A lot has been made about Brown’s prior-run comment about LeBron “letting me coach him,” but much surrounding that statement is understandable. Mike Brown, by all accounts, is a passionate, if mild-mannered, man (though I will admit that the first moment I started to thaw on his re-hiring was when I saw a clip of him getting tossed from a game for arguing a call … how deliciously un-Byron of you, Mike) who entered an entire organization built almost exclusively around keeping LeBron James happy. His authority was already suspect, so there are ways in which Brown’s teammate-enforced accountability – or “buddy-buddy” management – approach with the players was legitimately effective if, in the end, possessing some fatal flaws that would lead to the collapse of Brown’s initial run with the team. In his 2009 Coach of the Year Season, Brown was often praised for the mature way he handled his players. It was the mirror image of that maturity, though, the meat of the perception that this was the players’ team (or, more accurately, a player’s team) that seemed to stop Brown just short, not rushing off a cliff because he was never exactly sure which of his players would follow.

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But he was also a young coach and younger people in positions of authority often have to grow into a complete understanding of how authority works – how to get it, how to best use it, etc.

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Mike Brown will always (or, if not always, then still for some time now) be battling the perception that LeBron was 100% of what made Brown a successful coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Changing that perception for this current roster (if not, immediately, for us) must be his first priority. Mike Brown is an experienced NBA head coach who has gone through two stops (in Cleveland with LeBron and then a strike-shortened season, playoffs and 5 games with the Lakers) that would have effected exponential change on even the most resistant coach, and Brown has never seemed resistant. He can coach a good defense (which, clearly, we need and which is singularly important to success in today’s NBA) and he’s shown flashes of being a good manager of players, treating his players like the grown men they are. If he has learned his weaknesses and has both improved on them and made relationships with the right coaches who can handle what he cannot, then it doesn’t seem like Mike Brown will be the cause should this team continue to fail.

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The biggest thing will be gaining this young team’s respect (which is not an unrealistic thing to ask … I mean, he’s gotta earn mine again and I’m far from the most important cog in his coaching success wheel). Once he’s done that (and I suspect Brown’s oft-reported work ethic will appeal to several of the team’s new core players … Tristan Thompson, I’m looking at you) Brown will walk into every practice, meeting, game and post-game as the member of the Cleveland Cavaliers with the most proven track record of NBA success – and it won’t even be close. It’s just important that Brown know that and convince Kyrie, Dion, et al that they can all have it to if they just commit to rushing off a cliff… just so long as Coach Mike Brown does too.

NBA Basketball

2013/01/30

It’s Oscar Season: a kinda, sorta, almost defense of Byron Scott

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I started my defense of Byron Scott a couple weeks ago. It was not a defense, really, as much as it was me typing “you try to coach this roster” over and over again. Of course, now times have changed now with Speights and Ellington turning the Cavs back into the (cough…cough) fringe playoff team we all believed they’d be at the start of the season. But Bryon Scott’s (in)ability continues to be the post-Varejao-injury hot topic, so I’ll throw in, hat to ring:

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My argument for Coach Oscar (named for the awards statue that seems just as animated during a Cavaliers game as our coach – though I should point out that I do differentiate between “talking Byron Scott” who is generally funny and intelligent in interviews and post-games with Coach Oscar who, perhaps unfortunately, is the one who actually gets to coach our professional basketball games) mostly rides on the idea that there are different kinds of coaches, as well as different kinds of good coaching. While I think it’s safe to say that we’d all feel a little bit better if Coach Oscar kicked and screamed and yanked Dion Waiters after yet another continental drift away from his man on defense, I think it’s also safe to say that Coach Oscar doesn’t particularly care about what would make fans feel better (at least not per se), just as I think it’s safe to make the statement that Phil Jackson’s impact as a head coach has always been less attributed to Xs and Os strategy and more about figuring out how to make his pieces mesh, improve and (cough…cough) ride the coat tails of whatever Hall of Fame player(s) he’s coaching at the time.

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Am I saying that Coach Oscar is a great coach. Ummm… I am saying that he has had some success as an NBA head coach (which is usually not a complete coincidence) and that he has either had or developed two of the best leaders in the NBA in Jason Kidd and Chris Paul (both of who may also have been great at leading to Oscar’s ouster, but then who’s counting…). I am saying that his coaching philosophy seems to be more in the “build players up” mode (unless you’re Omri Casspi) and that he is the steady hand – and has to be – of a roster that would be a train wreck (okay … let’s just say train wreckier) if, say, a young PJ Carlesimo tried to steer us toward defensive respectability and a couple extra wins. The players all seem to respect Coach Oscar (unless you’re Omri Casspi) and his NBA/championship pedigree and, based largely on Tristan Thompson Year 2 and the snail’s-pace-though-noticeable improvement in Kyrie’s defense (he’s trying, people … sometimes), this seems like a young team that is given plenty of room by their coach to mess up and grow and learn which is what, by in large, the players seem to be doing (unless, of course, you’re Omri Casspi).

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If what I’m suggesting is true and Coach Oscar is, in fact, the steady, fatherly hand guiding a very young team (3rd youngest in the NBA in 2012-13) toward steady growth and eventual maturity (even if much of that growth is only noticed between seasons, not within them), then some of the credit has to be given to Chris Grant. What did Chris Grant do? He gave Coach Oscar a roster too lousy for him to have any other choice but to play the young guys. Are you really going to bench Kryie Irving for some porous defense? And replace him with who? Shaun Livingston?? (note: we all love Shaun Livingston, just as we’re starting to love Luke Walton and Marresse Speights … because these are veterans who are better able to win some games, but are not the solution to when, if ever, the Cavs become consistent winners. They will do that if/when the young players learn the game the way that Livingston, Walton and Speights have learned it and become more talented versions of our new bench mob). That’s not a solution. Are you really benching Dion Waiters for Wayne Ellington? What happens when Ellington gets lit up?

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No one knows if this rebuild will be as much of a success as we dream it might be. But, for better or worse, Coach Oscar’s alter ego, talking Byron Scott, keeps reminding the players what they’ve done to get here: mainly shoot 42.3% from the floor while giving up 47.3%. And little by little they, at least, seem to be listening (I’m looking at you, Dion) if not always successful (I’m … cough, cough… looking at you, Dion).

I don’t know if Coach Oscar or talking Byron Scott will be with us at the completion of this journey, but if he’s really as terrible as some have suggested … well … you try to coach this roster.

Misc,NBA Basketball

2012/04/15

When Larry Bird Was Handsome (or, “The Way It Wasn’t”)

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I had the opportunity to see Magic/Bird on Broadway last week and I’m still shaking my head a little.

I’m not even shaking my head at the show so much which I like just a tiny bit more than I thought I would or knew I should (though I will be the first to admit that I am a sucker for much of what was enjoyable about the show, even as I recognize that “liking” something means very little to any project’s artistic aspirations, had artistic aspirations rated highly enough to have even been given a schwag bag at this particular party).

I’m not against popular entertainments. I’m a sports fan, for god’s sake. And I’m not entirely against empty popular entertainments. I’m a Cleveland sports fan, for god’s sake. But there does seem to be some back-patting on the part of the show’s producers about how they are attracting “non-traditional” fans to the theater.

Now, I will admit that the crowd at the show I saw was hands-down the most diverse crowd I’ve ever seen at a play. But, those people who will go see Magic/Bird will very likely not rush out to see Venus In Fur the following weekend because – you know, that theater thing’s got something interesting going on.

These “new theater goers” then are little more than dollar signs invented by the producers. They have figured out a way to get people to the theater who wouldn’t normally go – but they are not people who will likely go back – and the people who would normally go don’t really see the point in this project so they won’t go … and it’s a whole cycle that they hope can be sustained just long enough to justify itself.

So, good for the producers of Magic/Bird for figuring out a way to (possibly) make money. Good work. But let’s call it that. Let’s not call it theater.

Theater as we know, is about figuring out a way to (probably) lose money.

But my review of the actual play goes something like this…

If you are a fan—whether a fan of good theater or a sports fan—it’s probably not a stretch to assume that you already have some opinion of the new Broadway play Magic/Bird. If you’re a theater fan, you might be scratching your head over how the story of two basketball players who played for different teams during the 1980s—two players who, in fact, only played each other twice a year, save for the three times their teams met in the NBA Finals—and produced, in part, by the very same professional sports league that once employed them, could ever make for satisfying theater. If you’re a sports fan—or, perhaps, a theater fan who loves one—you might see it differently: a light but predictably satisfying entertainment centered around the two players most often credited with saving professional basketball in the 1980s, whose rivalry became the storyline for a decade’s worth of NBA seasons, and who took on the type of mythic stature you’d expect from guys with nicknames like “Magic” and “Legend,” even as their story’s most lasting legacy is the effect on the American public when faced with the very real mortality of one of their most recognizable icons. Luckily, both of these opinions of Magic/Bird turn out to be correct.

Read the rest of my review of Magic/Bird on nytheatre.com.