With the turn of our calendars quickly approaching, now is as good a time as ever to review what was the Cleveland Cavaliers 2013 year before 2014 brings a fresh new start for everyone. Starting on December 27th, Right Down Euclid will be counting down some of the biggest moments that occurred both on and off the court in 2013 overall. That means we’ll be looking at the latter half of the 2012-13 campaign, this past offseason and what has happened thus far in the 2013-14 season. After every post, you, the fans, will be able to vote on which moment you deem as the most impactful in 2013 (or decide if we missed one of your favorite 2013 memories). Enjoy the final days of the year, and make sure to let us know what you think of our choices by voting at the end of every post.
Mike Brown was hired as the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the first time in June of 2005 after spending time as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs and the Indiana Pacers. His teams experienced great success with him on the coaching staff, and as a result of it, he was a sought-after coaching candidate.
He spent five decorated seasons with the team as head honcho. When the Wine & Gold were led by Brown during this regime (and LeBron), they made their first trip to the NBA Finals and won an average of 54 games a season. They had back-to-back 60-plus win seasons during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 campaigns. As for his personal accolades in that time, he was coach of the Eastern Conference All-Star Team in 2009, only the second coach in Cavalier history to do so. Brown later won Coach of the Year in 2009 after the Cavs went 66-16. So why was he ever let go in the first place?
There was speculation as to the exact reason, but this much was clear: even though they accomplished all this stuff in the regular season, they never got it done in the postseason. Besides one trip to The Finals in 2007, in which the Spurs swept the Cavs aside figuratively and literally, they never got close to reaching their full potential. You could call him the Marty Schottenheimer of the NBA: he just never could win the big games.
The other thing that was speculated after his dismissal was that he and then Cavalier LeBron James did not get along very well. Some believed that the organization fired Brown because they thought their chances of retaining the league’s best player would be higher if they had a coach who better suited LeBron’s interests. Again, this was just speculation, but nevertheless, Brown was relieved of his duties.
After being the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers for the lockout-shortened season and then five dreadful games the following season, Brown was fired. His winning percentage in 71 games as the Laker’s head coach was 59 percent. Even with their relative success, Brown still got the boot.
When the Browns announced the (re-)signing of Brown, I was puzzled. I couldn’t understand why they would sign a guy that they had just fired three seasons ago. And better yet, they hired him without interviewing any other candidates. I guess the organization knew what they were going to get with Brown, a guy who preaches defense first and struggles with consistent rotations. When you looked at the Cavs roster when they signed Brown, though, it did make some sense. The Cavs were terrible on defense last season. They ranked dead last in opponent field goal percentage and 25th in points allowed. During Brown’s last season with the Wine & Gold, they were fourth in opponent field goal percentage and sixth in points allowed. If they Cavs were determined to improve defensively, Brown was a good fit.
It showed the direction that the front office was determined to head in. They wanted to restore their defensive identity. But to me, it was just another bizarre move made by the Cavs front office. Snowball this onto their surprise draft picks and it seems like Chris Grant and Co. are all about doing things against the grain. And sometimes that is okay, but they need to be cautious to not out-think themselves. Now, 30 games into the Mike Brown Experiment Round Two, the team is underperforming, and more importantly, under-defending.
When considering their defense this year, I take into consideration two things: the Eye Test and the actual statistics. And in both of them, they have been bad. They are allowing teams to shoot 45 percent from the field, which puts them at 16th in the league, but when it comes to points allowed per game, the Cavs are 27th. So, a team with a defensive-minded coach is struggling to defend. In this case though, I am giving Brown a pass. I do not think the team’s defensive woes are directly his fault. The Cavalier teams during the LeBron era had more defensive-minded players, whereas this year’s team has a nucleus of players who aren’t known for their defense. And the nucleus of this team just got done spending two seasons with a coach (Byron Scott) who did not press defense as much as Brown.
In the press conferences I have been to and in other interviews I have heard with Brown, he continues to stress defense. In the presser following the double-overtime loss against Atlanta, he expressed his displeasure with their defense and said he wished the team knew they could “win games by getting stops” and not just by outscoring everybody. I think Brown needs to continue stressing defense and hope that the players respond. And actually, I am optimistic about what could happen in 2014. I think the more time this team spends around Brown and his defensive philosophies, the better the results we will see.
Defense is a matter of effort most of the time. If Brown and his staff keep placing focus on defense, I think this young team will begin showing effort. I think this is a case where Mike Brown is not at fault. And after all, he is not the one wearing the jersey. I think, so far, round two of Mike Brown has not been as bad as the record shows. Yes, we were expected to compete for a playoff spot, but I think Brown has done a fine job with the team in 2013. I am optimistic for what the New Year will bring.
Cleveland Cavaliers Year in Review Poll: