Report: Cavaliers President Koby Altman Admonished JB Bickerstaff For Playing Donovan Mitchell Heavy Minutes vs. Rockets In December

According to NBA insiders Shams Charania, Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd of The Athletic, Cleveland Cavaliers president Koby Altman admonished head coach JB Bickerstaff in front of his entire staff for playing Donovan Mitchell heavy minutes against the Houston Rockets on December 18. 

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“In the second game after they learned in December they’d be without both Darius Garland and Evan Mobley for a while, the Cavaliers beat the Rockets in overtime,” Charania, Vardon and Lloyd wrote. “That night on Dec. 18, Mitchell played 45 minutes, including the entire second half and all but four seconds of the extra period.

“After the game, Altman walked into the coach’s office and admonished Bickerstaff in front of his entire staff for playing Mitchell such heavy minutes, multiple sources briefed on the interaction told The Athletic. Descriptions of the incident spread across the organization, including the locker room.

“The immediate aftermath of that night was confusing. For instance, Altman was unaware at the time he was scolding Bickerstaff that the coach had asked Mitchell if he wanted to come out, according to league sources, and Mitchell declined. Yet, Mitchell was absent from the court for Cleveland’s next four games due to what the team called a non-COVID illness.”

The Cavaliers lost to the Boston Celtics in the second round of the 2024 playoffs in five games. 

Mitchell can sign an extension for up to four years and around $200 million this offseason. He has a player option worth $37 million for the 2025-26 season.

Mitchell can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2025 if he declines that player option. 

Bickerstaff’s job is in serious jeopardy after five and a half years as head coach. Mitchell, one of the best players in the NBA, did not have great confidence in Bickerstaff.

Several players questioned Bickerstaff’s strategies, game management, practice habits and accountability measures throughout the season.

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