Cavaliers News: Bickerstaff staying, player accountability

Donovan Mitchell and J.B. Bickerstaff, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images
Donovan Mitchell and J.B. Bickerstaff, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images /

The Cleveland Cavaliers are processing the end of their season earlier than they expected, joining the Milwaukee Bucks as top East teams sent packing by their lower-seeded opponents. In both cities, speculation raged that the teams could make a coaching change.

The reasoning behind firing J.B. Bickerstaff is plain. The offense was unimaginative against the New York Knicks, their blitzing defensive scheme left them vulnerable on the glass, and Bickerstaff seemed to be continually grasping at straws to find the bench players to fill out the rotation.

Bickerstaff had an excellent season, but you can have a good season and still be fired. Mike Budenholzer’s job is in jeopardy and he led the Bucks to the league’s best record. The Cavaliers could also be looking at Bickerstaff and wondering whether he is the right coach to take a young team and turn them into a contender.

Would the Cavaliers fire Bickerstaff and hire a different coach?

J.B. Bickerstaff is returning as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers

The speculation about Bickerstaff’s future ended on Friday, when the Cavs’ President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman told’s Christ Fedor and one other outlet that Bickerstaff would be back. Altman said it was “not even a question” and that Bickerstaff would “absolutely, absolutely” be back.

Altman pointed to what Bickerstaff has accomplished, and he certainly has a point. After a vicious cycle of losing without LeBron James and winning with him, this year’s Cavaliers team won 51 games just two years removed from a 22-win season.

Bickerstaff’s player development has also been on full display. Darius Garland has blossomed into an All-Star guard, while Jarrett Allen and Donovan Mitchell have had career years since joining the Cavs. Evan Mobley was a Defensive Player of the Year finalist. Even players like Lauri Markkanen and Isaiah Hartenstein took steps forward in Cleveland before making a leap elsewhere.

For good or for ill, Bickerstaff will be back next season. If they aren’t changing the coach that likely means there will be some personnel movement this summer.

The Cavaliers’ players are taking responsibility for the playoff loss

A coworker of mine recently made a mistake, and when it was discovered had a chance to take responsibility and own up. Instead, he blamed someone else for putting him in the position to begin with. Whether or not he was right, that desire to pass the buck is concerning from a workplace culture standpoint; who else is he going to throw under the bus? And how does he get better if he won’t admit he falls short?

That same principle applies to a basketball team. In the wake of a tough playoff loss, it’s easier to point the finger elsewhere. Blaming an injury, the circumstances, the referees, your teammates – those are all ways to avoid pointing the finger at yourself.

The Cavaliers, to their credit, are doing exactly that. Per Chris Fedor, Jarrett Allen pointed directly to himself when discussing the team’s rebounding woes. “That’s my job to get rebounds…I let my team down in that sense.” Caris LeVert jumped in to support his teammate and share the accountability. “It’s a team sport. It’s not only J.A., we all got to help.”

Donovan Mitchell shouldered the blame on offense. “I don’t feel like the player I needed to be for this group. That’s what will keep me up at night.” That’s the self-accountability that drives players to get better. Darius Garland phrased it “come back hungry.”

It’s the playoff crucible that refines and strengthens a team, even as it batters and bruises them. Michael Jordan had to fight through the Detroit Pistons. LeBron James had to overcome the Spurs and the Warriors. Those dynastic Warriors lost to the Clippers, made changes, and came back and won their first title.

That hunger, that drive to be better, it starts with accountability and taking responsibility for one’s own actions. That’s a lesson we can all learn, and it seems like the players might be learning it as well.

Players who won’t be back next year

On the website, we discussed three Cavaliers players who should not be back next season. We also highlighted how the Knicks have become the Cavs’ kryptonite, and how Sam Merrill might make an impact next season.

Next. 3 mistakes Altman, Cavaliers made that are hurting them now. dark

Up Next: This is where we would normally highlight the next game, but there aren’t any left this season. The team will pivot to scouting for the draft and preparing for trade offers and player signings.