Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown reacts to a call by NBA official Marc Davis in action against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Mark D. Smith
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Whenever you miss the playoffs, you set yourselves up for speculation. And it’s not exactly a rumor that the Cavaliers face an offseason of potential change.
How much change, exactly, remains to be seen.
Those questions and more were on everyone’s mind Thursday, as interim GM David Griffin and coach Mike Brown conducted exit interviews with the players. Griffin and Brown held the interviews in the same room at the same time.
Clearly, most of the speculation surrounds Griffin, who does not yet have the job on a full-time basis. But some of it, deservedly or not, also surrounds Brown.
Despite the fact the Cavs made considerable improvement defensively (with no strong individual defenders or rim-protectors to boot), and despite the fact they won 17 of their final 33 … well, Brown’s support among fans has been mixed at best.
But the Cavs’ top two scorers sure don’t seem to have any issues with their coach, who just completed the first year of his second stint with the team.
"I’d like to see coach come back," Cavs guard Dion Waiters said. "We’ve been together for a year. He stuck with us, we stuck with him. I don’t think we need any more changes right now."
Waiters later added: "I think coach fits the team."
Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving voiced some support of his own on Wednesday, right after the Cavs thumped Brooklyn in the regular-season finale.
"I’m pretty sure Coach Brown will be back, which I’m happy about," Irving said.
Power forward Tristan Thompson credited Brown with helping players improve individually, and as a unit. But both Thompson and Waiters conceded they won’t be the ones making the call on Brown’s future.
"At the end of the day, it’s a front office decision and that’s what they get paid to do," Thompson said.
Waiters said he’s confident Brown will return, "but you never know with this business these days. The only thing I can do is give you my opinion."
Brown has a reported four years and $16 million remaining on his contract (although the fourth year is supposedly a team option). So if the Cavs were to decide to part ways, it would come at a hefty cost.
Griffin, on the other hand, is on shakier ground. He wasn’t initially hired to be The Man in Charge. That was the job of Griffin’s predecessor. But Chris Grant was fired in early February.
Griffin was supposed to meet with reporters Thursday afternoon, but that get-together was shifted to Tuesday morning, as the exit interviews took longer than expected. Coincidentally, Tuesday comes a few days after owner Dan Gilbert returns from his visit to New York for the NBA Board of Governors meeting. The Board met Thursday and will do so again Friday. After that, Gilbert is expected to take some time to think things through and formulate his next moves.
A decision on Griffin is expected to come within the next two weeks, sources said Thursday.
Once Gilbert hires a full-time GM, the Cavs can place their focus on the draft (they have another lottery pick), free agency (Luol Deng, Spencer Hawes and C.J. Miles all hit it July 1) and trades (Griffin, if he gets the gig, is said to be eyeing some).
Hawes and Miles have both indicated they’d like to return. Deng has been a little fuzzier on the matter. But once that final buzzer sounded on the Cavs’ 33-49 season, everyone seemed to agree that the majority of this roster, and the key decision-makers and coaches, are worthy of another shot.
"We have really good relationships on and off the floor," Miles said of his teammates. "It’s hard to build a nucleus when you have a revolving door. If you keep the team together, it will help with the team’s success."