Larry Nance

John Beilein and Tristan Thompson
David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Do you believe John Beilein’s ‘slugs’ explanation? Tristan Thompson sidesteps question

Leave a comment

DETROIT – Six Cavaliers players addressed John Beilein’s thugs-slugs jumble yesterday. Five offered clear support of their coach for this volatile situation.

The exception: Tristan Thompson.

“At the end of the day, he’s our head coach,” Thompson said after Cleveland’s win over the Pistons last night. “We’re the players, and have to go out there and play and do our job at the end of the day. So, that’s all that matters.”

Beilein apologized to the Cavs both individually and collectively after the film session on Wednesday, when he called players “thugs” but later said he misspoke and meant to use the word “slugs.” Did Beilein’s explanation help motivate and focus the team for Detroit? Thompson: “Coach’s job is to give us the scout and the game plan. But we don’t need no coaches at all to motivate us. Us as players, we motivate each other.”

The Cavaliers will keep Beilein as coach. Can Thompson still play for him? Thompson: “Man, I’ll play anywhere. I’ll play all over the world.”

Beilein has reportedly struggled to connect with the Cavs. Does Thompson need anything different from his coach? Thompson: “As long as I’ve got my dogs with me every night in that huddle – what do we got, 13, 14 guys? Brought back Zo. As long I’ve got my dogs with me ready to go to war, that’s all that matters to me.”

Eventually, I flatly asked Thompson whether he believes Beilein’s explanation that he inadvertently said “thugs” while intending to say “slugs.”

“I’m not trying to take away from tonight,” Thompson said. “So, I want to keep it based on how great the guys were tonight. I think Brandon Knight was great. A guy that doesn’t get to play a lot. When his number was called – especially when we have KP down – he stepped up and was great tonight. So, I don’t want to take away from my team’s tremendous win tonight in overtime. So, that’s where my focus is at.”

Missing from that answer? Some variation of “yes.”

This was a strange interview from Thompson, who was recently Beilein’s most vocal supporter.

Maybe we’re supposed to read between the lines and see the lack of stated support for a lack of support. “Thug” is a racially charged word, and I can see how a black player would resent his white coach calling him one.

It’s also quite possible Thompson truly thought sidestepping the issue was the best way to make it go away. If so, he was wrong. A quick declaration of support – like Larry Nance Jr., Kevin Love, Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Brandon Knight gave – would have been far more effective. Instead, Thompson opened the door wide open for speculation into how he truly feels.

The timing doesn’t help discern his meaning. Thompson didn’t speak at shootaround or pregame yesterday. After the emotional victory, it’s easy to see why he’d prefer attention land on the game. Thompson had a career night. He’s also a supportive teammate who wants to shout out Alfonzo McKinnie‘s defensive stops and Knight’s play with Kevin Porter Jr. injured. Thompson could have seen an opportunity to move on and leave the thugs-slugs issue behind.

To be fair, Thompson is not a public-relations expert. He’s a basketball player. Not understanding how to diffuse this controversy would hardly be some major offense. With prior scandal, Thompson served himself well by not talking about it. That kept the noise at bay.

But sports media was already widely discussing Beilein. Like it or not, this issue was in the forefront.

Which raises another question: How did it get there? Most Cleveland players who spoke publicly yesterday said Beilein’s use of the word “thugs” didn’t jar them in the moment. Only Sexton said otherwise, and he added he wasn’t alone.

“Everybody was shocked,” Sexton said.

Yet, Sexton also provided a defense of Beilein against the (absurd) argument that it’s inconceivable he’d use the word “slugs.”

“He says it all the time, so it’s all good,” Sexton said. “…He calls us slugs, because we move slow. But it’s good. We knew what he meant.”

Do all the Cavaliers know what Beilein meant, though? That remains an open question.

Report: Cavaliers keeping John Beilein as coach after slugs-thugs jumble

John Beilein
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Leave a comment

DETROIT – Cavaliers coach John Beilein has been quite busy since calling his players “thugs” yesterday. Beilein – who said he misspoke when trying to use the word “slugs” – contacted his players individually to apologize last night. He apologized to them collectively again at shootaround this morning. He explained himself further publicly after shootaround.

Amidst all that, Beilein said he talked to Cavs general manager Koby Altman “quite a bit.” Beilein said in conversations with Altman, the coach’s future with Cleveland never came up.

But it was obviously discussed, and the Cavaliers have reached a verdict.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Cavs forward Larry Nance Jr. must have been accurate when he said, “I don’t think there’s any player on the team that believes there was malintent behind it.” Because if players objected, Beilein would likely be gone.

The NBA is rarely proactive about these things. It usually depends on the response.

The response here was trusting Beilein.

I don’t envy anyone from the organization trying to determine what word Beilein intended to use. “Slugs” is plausible. “Thugs” is plausible. Absent other information, what choice is there but to take him at his word? That might be unsatisfying, but it’s better than destroying his reputation over a potential misunderstanding.

Beilein still has numerous problems in Cleveland, though. The Cavaliers are just 10-27. His players have rebelled against him. Highly paid star Kevin Love has repeatedly acted out.

If he wants to keep his job long-term, Beilein has more work to do than handling just this situation.

Cavaliers coach John Beilein says he learned lesson in slugs-thugs mix-up: ‘Enunciate better’

John Beilein
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Leave a comment

DETROIT – Words like “posse,” “urban” and “thug” provide learning opportunities about how racially coded language works. Cavaliers coach John Beilein – who called his players “thugs” then said he misspoke when trying to use the word “slugs” – said he learned his lesson. It just has nothing to do with race.

“I have to be very good at choosing words very carefully and not slipping,” Beilein said. “When you talk a lot and you talk fast sometimes, that happens.

“It’s something I have to learn from and just enunciate better and just be clearer with…”

Ironically, Beilein trailed off a little. I think he might have finished with “what my intents were.” I’m not sure:

Beilein said he apologize individually to players last night then collectively this morning. He said the common response were: “I’m good” and “You’re good.”

Cleveland forward Larry Nance Jr. spoke for the team.

“I don’t think there’s any player on the team that believes there was malintent behind it,” Nance said.

“He made a mistake. We all make them. But he apologized, owned up to it. And at this point, that’s all we can ask him to do, and he’s done that.”

Nance said the word didn’t immediately trigger him. Kevin Love said the incident came at the end of the film session, and players left quickly, anyway. Beilein said he was told of his word usage a couple hours later and slowly pieced together how it happened.

Then, he went about apologizing.

It’s one thing for Beilein to know what word he meant to use. How does he convince others of his intent?

“I told them,” Beilein said.

He hopes that will suffice. In a long college-coaching career, Beilein built a reputation for his integrity.

“At the end of the day as a person, he’s a good man,” said Love, who has clashed with Beilein. “He misspoke.”

Love said Beilein called him last night. But out to dinner, Love and his coach didn’t talk.

Even if his players accept Beilein’s explanation about this specific situation, a larger disconnect remains.

Rob Pelinka tells Lakers story of Kobe Bryant meeting Heath Ledger on date after Ledger died (video)

Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has a poor reputation around the NBA.

Former Lakers president Magic Johnson accused Pelinka of betrayal. Johnson also said numerous agents warned him about Pelinka, himself a former agent. The Pelicans reportedly cut Pelinka from Anthony Davis trade talks. Andrew Bogut accused Pelinka and Johnson of lying to him. (At least former Laker Larry Nance Jr. denied Pelinka lied to him.)

And then there’s the time Pelinka, who represented Kobe Bryant, addressed the Lakers in March 2018:


There was one time when Kobe, who I worked with for 18 years, was going back to play in Madison Square Garden. And he had just seen “The Dark Knight.”Obviously, you guys saw that movie. And he’s like, “Hey, hook me up with dinner with Heath Ledger, because he got so locked into that role. I want to know how he mentally went there.” And so he had dinner with Heath, and he talked about how he locks in for a role. And Kobe used some of that in his game against the Knicks in terms of mental preparation.

The problem: “The Dark Knight” was released in July 2008. Ledger, who played The Joker, died in January 2008.

Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

A source with direct knowledge said no such arrangement was made and no dinner ever took place.

Maybe this was an innocent mistake, Pelinka mixing up details. The meeting occurred a decade prior. It could have been a different movie, a different actor.

But this isn’t the only example of Pelinka spreading falsehoods. I recommend reading Holmes’ article for more.

People obviously want to paint Pelinka as a compulsive liar. Maybe fairly, maybe not. Either way, there’s a problem he must address.

Larry Nance Jr. denies report Lakers GM Rob Pelinka lied to him about trade

Jason Miller/Getty Images
1 Comment

Early last year, Larry Nance Jr. was playing for the Lakers.

Bill Oram of The Athletic:

Nance Jr. and his fiancée, his college girlfriend, were interested in buying a house. He wanted to get a sense of whether the Lakers planned on keeping him around, and Pelinka told him that the Lakers would only trade him if it meant landing one of the game’s three best players. He told him to buy the house, multiple sources confirmed.

In February of last year, the Lakers traded Nance and Jordan Clarkson to the Cavaliers for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a first-round pick – definitely not top-three players.


Maybe Nance is setting the record straight after an inaccurate report. If so, good for him. The truth is important, and Pelinka doesn’t deserve a false report harming his credibility.

Maybe Nance is denying an accurate report because he doesn’t want to burn bridges or just wants to downplay controversy surrounding him. That happens.

But because he put his name behind his claims and Oram’s sources didn’t, I’m trusting Nance unless further information emerges.

That said, Pelinka has a problem either way. He’s either lying to players or has so many enemies, some of them smeared him to Oram. Pelinka knows which is the case and, as he takes control of the Lakers’ front office, must handle it.