Random dribbles ahead of the Cavaliers’ road game against the Kings on Monday night.
1. The Cavs are coming off a big win over the Warriors at Golden State. Mike Brown and his Kings have won two straight after a sluggish start. So something’s gotta give, right?
2. At least part of Sacramento’s early struggles can be chalked up to the absence of point guard De’Aaron Fox, who’s missed time with an ankle injury.
3. Fox is among the league’s top five or six point guards and is the machine who drives the Kings. He’s going 100 percent at all times. He’s a major reason why the Kings won the Pacific Division and finally returned to the playoffs. But he’s listed as “doubtful” vs. the Cavs.
4. Brown, of course, is the NBA’s reigning Coach of the Year. He deserved it after taking a decent roster and making it really good and fun to watch. He did so by totally changing his philosophy during his two stints with the Cavs (2005-10 and 2013-14).
5. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been a decade since Brown coached in Cleveland. That was his second stint, and it lasted just one season, during the old Kyrie Irving–Dion Waiters era. That’s when GM Chris Grant got fired after a home game against the Lakers when the Lakers had seven available players … and three fouled out. And they still beat the Cavs!
6. Interestingly, Grant and I had a long conversation right before that game. It had nothing do with basketball. He just pulled me aside, asked about my family, about my career, about life in general. I’ve joked that moment must have been the kiss of death for him.
7. Once Grant was fired, most of us who covered the team knew Brown would be next. It was just a matter of time. Grant was replaced by David Griffin, and the Cavs’ next game was at Washington. I made the trip to interview Griff. He didn’t exactly give Brown a vote of confidence, but said he’d give him a chance.
8. Then the season ended and Brown was immediately fired. Griffin decided on international coach David Blatt, LeBron James returned, and the rest is history.
9. That was my fifth year writing about the team as a full-time job. That was a decade ago. That makes this year No. 15. Good grief, I’m old.
10. Brown went on to assist Steve Kerr with the Warriors. He won a couple of championships — including two over the Cavs. Brown is among the kindest and most humble people you’ll ever meet. He didn’t hold anything against the Cavs as an organization, he didn’t gloat about beating Cleveland for a ring. He was just happy to be part of a winning situation.
11. He finally got another chance to manage his own roster last year in Sacramento. When he was with the Cavs, it was all about “ugly” basketball, defense first, and as Brown used to say, trying to “muck up the game.”
12. Cavs games during the Brown era indeed could be downright unsightly. And that makes Brown’s run with the Kings that much more interesting — as they play at a super-fast pace and score lots of points (when Fox is healthy, anyway). So Brown did an about-face in his philosophy. And as it turns out, he’s still a pretty good coach.
13. Meanwhile, the Cavs (4-5) have this game and Wednesday’s at Portland left on this trip. They then return home for another one of those In-Season Tournament games — this time, Friday vs. the Pistons.
14. The Cavs have started to look something more like the team they said they could be — winning two of three, and both against the Warriors. Beating Brown and his team on its own floor would be another big accomplishment. Both Brown and the Cavs have come a long way in the past few years.
15. I’ll have more after the game, despite the fact it may not be over until 12:30 a.m. If you can’t stay up that late, you can hear my mindless ramblings on the Cavs Now pregame show on WTAM 1100 at about 9 p.m.