Amico: Cavs Can Learn a Lot From Nuggets and Heat

Every team can learn a lot from the Nuggets and Heat. Namely, don’t panic. Stay the course. Don’t let loud voices on Twitter or in the media influence your decisions.Bam Adebayo shakes hands with Donovan Mitchell

And mostly, keep believing whenever times seem a little tougher. It’s something the Cavaliers can undoubtedly apply.

The Nuggets and Heat square off in the Finals, beginning Thursday. Nobody predicted that this would be the matchup — not at the start of the season, not at the start of the playoffs, and maybe not even the start of two weeks ago.

But here they are. The Nuggets have been building around center Nikola Jokic and under coach Michael Malone for eight years. The Heat were just the No. 8 seed — and became the first team in NBA history to reach the Finals via the play-in tournament.

How’s that for turning the NBA upside-down?

Meanwhile, the Cavs were eliminated by the Knicks in the first round, despite owning the higher seed (Cleveland was fourth in the Eastern Conference; New York fifth).

But a lot of people were expecting that entering the series. Multiple players on the Cavs’ main core were playoff rookies — Evan Mobley, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro. It showed. Others had little experience in the postseason — Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

The only player with a lot of experience in these situations was Donovan Mitchell, and the Knicks decided to place just about their entire focus on shutting him down. That way, you make the guys with less experience in these situations try to deliver.

For New York, it worked to perfection. The Knicks won in five games, and none of them were close.

So of course, everyone started freaking out. The Cavs need to trade Allen. They need to replace Bickerstaff. They need a lethal shooter with size. At least, those are all the things we heard.

It’s also similar things to the Nuggets and Heat have heard. And they basically did not listen — nor should the Cavs. Fill in around the edges? Sure, that’s the plan. Blow it up and try again? Definitely not.

When you make sweeping changes, you run the risk of spinning your wheels. You run the risk of making a splashy move … and then going nowhere anyway. There is a lot to be said for familiarity. Just look at the Nuggets and Heat. 

President of basketball operations Koby Altman said it best at his end-of-season press conference, as relayed by Chris Fedor of

“We’re still feeling the pain of the first-round loss, but two things or both things can remain true at the same time,” Altman said. “We can be disappointed in our results and also largely really excited about our future with this franchise and the players we have in house.

“We accomplished a lot this year and really put this franchise back on the map in terms of being able to compete at the highest level. This is part of the journey. The pain and the agony is part of it. We’re going to get better for it. But it doesn’t change how we feel about this group. This is going to be part of a largely successful journey that we’re just getting started with.”

The pain and the agony is part of the journey. That part is worth repeating. Say it over and over again. Learn it and accept it when it comes to this version of the Cavs.

Yes, they could lose Mitchell at some point if things don’t improve. They know that. But they are banking on the idea that experience and familiarity will carry them before that time comes. 

Do the Cavs want to make roster upgrades this summer? Of course. Everyone does. But they also want to be smart, mostly run it back, then make small changes accordingly.

The Nuggets didn’t freak out. The Heat didn’t freak out. And neither should the Cavs.

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