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.