Heading into their matchup with the Detroit Pistons on Thursday, the Cleveland Cavaliers found themselves back in the national spotlight -- and not for the right reasons.
Instead, the Cavs became a trending topic on talk shows and Twitter after head coach John Beilein reportedly referred to his players as "thugs" during a film session on Wednesday. Considering the racial connotations associated with the word and that he's coaching in a league largely comprised of African American players, Beilein's blunder put his future in Cleveland in doubt, although the Cavs ultimately opted to retain the first-year head coach.
Speaking to reporters in Detroit following shootaround on Thursday, Beilein addressed the situation and explained that he intended to say that his players had been playing like "slugs" when he misspoke.
"Yesterday in a film session, I used a word -- I meant to say 'slug' and 'thug' came out,'" Beilein said. "It was brought to my attention a couple hours later. I called all the players afterwards, explained the situation. We met about it today, I apologized about it today as well. It was never intended and I think the players understand that now. It's something I have to learn from."
According to at least two of his players, Beilein's apology and reaction to the incident were each well received.
"I didn't think there was any malice or intent behind it to upset us or anger us," said Kevin Love. "Obviously it wasn't good, the reaction after the fact. But at the end of the day as a person, he's a good man. He misspoke. He owned up to it and came in here and apologized this morning and now we move on."
"This is all about taking accountability," added forward Larry Nance Jr. "Had he ran from it, it'd be one thing. But he apologized to us individually, apologized to us as a team today. We all make mistakes."
While Beilein's gaffe might be behind the Cavs, Wednesday's incident only strengthened the perception that the 66-year-old former Michigan coach is still having a difficult time adapting to the NBA. That's something that's also been reflected in Cleveland's on-court record, as the Cavs enter Thursday night's game against Detroit with the fourth-worst record in the NBA at 10-27.