Dribbles: Cavs Fight To Finish, But It’s Season Over And Let The Questions Begin

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ season-ending 113-98 road loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of their NBA playoffs. …Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers, Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics, NBA

1. If you had told me Marcus Morris would come off the bench to score 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting, I probably would say the Cavs won the game.

2. That’s what happened, and man, what a showing from Morris. But without Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert, the Cavs just didn’t have enough. Throw in Darius Garland‘s 4-of-17 shooting performance … and yeah, it’s season over.

3. Nonetheless, you had to like how the Cavs who were healthy and able to play gave it their absolute best. Some people may not like to hear this, but I think that says a lot about what the players think of J.B. Bickerstaff. If they didn’t like their coach, they would’ve quit.

4. I’ve been covering the NBA for a long time and I’ve seen it before. Teams mail it in when they have every reason to do so and they’re ready to play for someone else. These Cavs did not do that. They hung tough for the majority of the 48 minutes. They were just overmatched without some of their biggest guns.

5. What does that mean for the future of Bickerstaff in Cleveland? I have no idea. I’m sure those talks will be had by ownership and the front office in the coming days. Everyone will be evaluated — from the coaching staff to the guys at the end of the bench.

6. As for the here and now, even NBA legend Charles Barkley noticed the effort. “Give those guys credit,” he said of the Cavs on the TNT postgame show. “They could’ve packed it in. They made me proud.”

7. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert also sent out a message on social media. “Cleveland, it’s heartbreaking, but I am proud of the fight and the progress of this team,” he wrote. “Thanks to all Cavs fans and supporters who were there all season for us. The future is bright in The Land!”

8. The future, of course, starts with Mitchell and whether he signs a contract extension before October. The entire immediate future of the franchise hinges on that.

9. I’m not saying anything that’s a big surprise there. You know it, Mitchell knows it, the Cavs know it.

10. Hopefully for the Cavaliers, an answer on that isn’t far off — because again, you build your whole summer around what that one man decides. And my gosh, that man is remarkably talented and a really good dude to have around the locker room and practice facility.

11. Since I know you’re wondering, yes, I think Mitchell stays. I’ve been wrong before, but otherwise, he’s walking away from a chance at a lot of money, and probably for a situation that isn’t much better.

12. The Cavaliers have taken the natural steps in each of Mitchell’s two seasons. They went to playoffs last year, then got out of the first round this year. Despite not having big names like LeBron James or Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry, they got to the second round. None of those guys did.

13. Granted, it would’ve been nice to sweep Orlando in the first round (as opposed to needing to rally from 18 points down in a Game 7), and given a better showing against the Celtics. Improvements are needed — either from within, or by making more trades. I’m just an NBA writer. I’m not about to tell an NBA team what it must do. 

14. But I’m smart enough to know that, again, you can’t really do anything until you know what your brightest star decides.

15. As for the game, Evan Mobley was very good with a game-high 33 points on 15-of-24 shooting. The promise is there. Man, is it ever there. Next year, though, he has to take the next step. We’ll get deeper into that as the offseason comes along, but we are entering Year 4 now. I think both he and the Cavs want even more from him.

16. And yes, I see all your comments about Garland. I’m of the opinion he had a lousy season. Much more is expected of him. But I think it’d be a mistake to make any rash decisions. He’s been very good in the past and you just need to figure out if you believe he can be again.

17. The Cavaliers finished 48-34 and for the second straight season, with the No. 4 overall seed in the Eastern Conference. They had plenty of injuries and inconsistencies. After the NBA All-Star break in February, you never knew which team you were gonna get. It’s hard to get very far that way.

18. How do they keep it from happening again, or worse, from taking a step back? Well, welcome to the NBA offseason, where the goal is to take what you learned and just get better. We’re about to watch the Cavs try to do exactly that with all their might.

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  1. Hey Sam I don’t think a professional basketball player with average smarts is going to stop playing hard in a playoff game just because they don’t like their coach.

    The player’s opinions of the coach is not the primary motivating or de-motivating factor for a professional basketball player. They’re there for bigger things. Not just to show their approval or not if BJ Bickerstaff. They still want to win, no matter who is coaching.

    Inferring that they didn’t quit because they have no problem with JB is just… wow. Actually gives you the appearance of being bought and sold by the organization. Not a good look. They are not playing their basketball for JB freakin’ Bickerstaff. They are both trying to win and be successful in their careers.

    There is absolutely no connection. If we had pouters on our team, it might be different. We don’t. Gonna need you to come around on the reality of the JB Bickerstaff situation. Nobody’s buying this stuff.

    • You’re wrong. There is a MASSIVE connection. I’ve been inside locker rooms and at practice going on 20 years and have seen players quit, very obviously, on Mike Brown (twice), on Ty Lue, on John Belein (like, a week into camp), on Larry Drew (one player told me, “I’m not playing for that guy,” and he just stopped). Massive connection. And frankly, I’m not a shill for the team because I don’t care who the coach is or if the team keeps JB. I root for one team — my website. I only care who runs that. As for the Cavs, nope, sorry. Don’t care. I’m just sharing with the readers what I see. Win, lose, draw, fire the coach — doesn’t matter in the least to me.

  2. After soo many years, and soo many columns written, people continue to disregard the main reason for NBA franchises. That is, money! Is Darius Garland worth 44 million a year. Can he make the Cavs money? I think that’s the biggest question. I say no, he has difficulty in playing team basketball, replace him. Mitchell is just a typical spoiled vet, who will move on. Why? because he can make more money! Yes, it’s important to win. To make more money! Oh, and get rid of the big egg, Niang. If your emphasis is on defense. . .

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