New Orleans — It was only a matter of time before the losing started to fester in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers have lost 12 of their last 13 games, with embarrassing losing margins of 47, 33, 42 and 24 points. That’s somewhat expected when that team is in a cycle of losing — tanking or otherwise — and the salve is John Beilein, a heralded college coach best known for his love of the fundamentals.
Make no mistake, the Cavaliers (5-17) are a rancid mess right now. A report by The Athletic this week indicated that there’s unrest in the locker room, with several players disenchanted by Beilein’s focus on fundamentals and fixation with full film sessions.
“Guys drowned out his voice, and when guys start searching for (assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff) for help, I believe you’ve lost them,” an unnamed player said for the story by The Athletic’s Joe Vardon and Shams Charania.
Two other players were quoted in the story, primarily griping about how Beilein isn’t prepared for the NBA and runs tedious film reviews.
And it’s not working — for the players, at least.
Beilein, 66, who left Michigan after a successful 12-year run, has a five-year deal with the Cavaliers. What’s clear is that he’s not going anywhere. Cavaliers governor Dan Gilbert is significantly less likely to write a check to make Beilein go away than to have general manager Koby Altman shuffle the deck and deal the disgruntled players.
Or maybe the Cavs can just have veteran center Tristan Thompson handle the situation. He was outspoken when he heard about the anonymous comments about Beilein and what the ensuing fallout could be.
“Y’all better find them names because I’ll pull up on ‘em right now,” Thompson told Cleveland.com. “You can’t do that (stuff).
“At the end of the day, if you’re going to build a culture and a family, you can’t have that Chatty Patty (stuff) going on. That (stuff) is whack to me. Everyone’s got to look in the mirror, there’s only so much coach can do and there’s only so much we can do. Do we have the best roster in the NBA? No. But we’re going to go out there and compete every night. Guys got to look in the mirror.”
The Cavs’ roster is a hodgepodge of veterans such as Thompson, Kevin Love and John Henson, along with young building blocks Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Cedi Osman and Kevin Porter Jr.
Love acknowledged the difficulty in Beilein’s adjustment to the NBA from college but said Beilein’s style is what the Cavs need at this point, especially with so many young players who spent only a year in college.
“It’s a throwback because he does a lot of skill work and fundamental work,” Love told The Detroit News on Tuesday. “It reminds me of when I was back in college and we definitely did a lot of film there, so player development-wise, that’s really key — especially when you’re young — is to adopt that as a strategy to better your game.
“When you look at film, it doesn’t lie. You can’t make excuses on the film and say, ‘I was here,’ when you weren’t. It always shows you where your game is.”
The losing isn’t a surprise to Beilein. He knew that leaving his comfort zone at Michigan to achieve his dream of coaching in the NBA was going to be wrought with many more losses than wins, especially in the first year. He’s turned things around wherever he’s gone, but Cleveland is a bigger challenge.
“I’ve said that to myself but it’s not like this is the end of the world here,” Beilein said. “I really knew what I was getting into and it’s just like when we came to Michigan, West Virginia, went to Canisius, Richmond and all those places.”
His first task is to shape the culture, to figure out which players fit the system and to chart a course for their overall direction. That takes time, which he’ll get from the Gilbert and the Cavaliers’ front office.
The players, though, might not have as much.
Pistons at Pelicans
Tip-off: 8 p.m. Monday, Smoothie King Center, New Orleans
Outlook: The Pistons (9-14) are rallying, having won three of their last four. The Pelicans (6-17) are reeling, after losing eight straight, including a 46-point dud to the Dallas Mavericks.