Koby Altman: Cavaliers worried they were ‘marching to a slow death’

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The Cavaliers were 7-13 in their last 20 games heading into the trade deadline. Their defense ranked near last in the NBA. There appeared to be discord at every level of the organization – terrible timing, considering LeBron James‘ impending player option.

It felt like a dark cloud hung over Cleveland.

So, the Cavs conducted a radical overhaul yesterday. They traded six players (Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose) for four (George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson) while adding payroll and surrendering picks.

Cavaliers’ general manager Koby Altman, via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic:

“We were really worried that what was going on on the floor and sort of our culture in the building, we were marching to a slow death,” Altman said Thursday night. “We didn’t want to be a part of that.”

Teams usually deny such grave problems, nobody wanting to admit they let such a toxic environment develop on their watch. Altman is being atypically blunt despite holding some culpability.

He traded Kyrie Irving for Thomas and Crowder (and, of course, the Nets pick), still approving the trade after seeing Thomas’ physical (getting just an extra second-rounder). Thomas spent most of the season sidelined, struggled upon his return while still assuming a huge role and pointed fingers. Crowder underwhelmed all season, though for reasons more difficult to pinpoint, and that only contributed to the feeling of despair in Cleveland.

Maybe Altman just got unlucky with Thomas and Crowder, whose Cavs tenures went about as poorly as could have been imagined when the Irving trade was consummated. But Wade and Rose – whom Altman crowed about – flopped for more predictable reasons. Under Altman, communication between LeBron and the front office reportedly broke down.

That was a stark contrast to Altman’s predecessor and old boss, David Griffin. But Altman’s statement yesterday brought to mind Griffin’s words when firing David Blatt: “Pretty good is not what we’re here for.”

Of course, Griffin and Altman spoke so freely only because they’d already made the bold moves to change course. Griffin’s resulted in Tyronn Lue guiding the Cavs to a championship. We’ll see whether Altman’s prompts a march toward such a fruitful outcome.

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.