CLEVELAND — When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for a second time in 2018, many thought one positive would be a lack of "drama" in the organization. During James' tenure, this often included bickering among the players, coaches, front-office officials, and even ownership.
Now LeBron is gone, but it appears old habits die hard in Cleveland.
According to a new report from The Athletic's Joe Vardon and Shams Charania, players on the Cavs are growing increasingly frustrated with first-year head coach John Beilein. All members of the team who spoke with the publication did so anonymously, but the situation has apparently gotten so bad that players are "drown[ing] out his voice" in favor of top assistants like J.B. Bickerstaff.
"When guys start searching for the next in line for help, I believe you’ve lost them,” one player said.
Beilein, hired this past spring after 37 seasons at the college level, took over a Cavs team that went 19-63 in the immediate aftermath of James' departure and got them off to a respectable 4-5 start. However, they have since lost 10 of 11, and many are now beginning to view his perceived "quirks" as more of an annoyance.
From the article, players reportedly are unhappy with Beilein's lack of understanding for the NBA game, and even believe the assistants "are definitely more prepared." Common gripes include Beilein's focus on "rudimentary" fundamentals, long film sessions, and a lack of creativity on offense.
Some even harped on Beilein's strange names for moves on the court. For instance, a curl is known as a "polar bear" in Beilein's scheme.
"You don’t go pro to do that kind of thing," one league source said.
Beilein is the sixth head coach the Cavs have hired since 2010, with only two (Byron Scott, Tyronn Lue) lasting for more than one full season. The article drew comparisons to former head coach David Blatt, who led Cleveland to the NBA Finals during the first season of LeBron's return only to be fired midway through the next year amid reports he had lost the locker room.
Formerly, the University of Michigan's coach, Beilein was brought in with the goal of developing the Cavs' young players, although sources now tell The Athletic both rookies and veterans alike are not happy. Two of those players, 2019 first-round picks Darius Garland and Dylan Windler, were injured in a preseason rookie camp many saw as excessive.
Still, the same players who expressed their concerns about Beilein in the article admit they aren't doing enough themselves, and that their problems don't necessarily stem from the recent string of losses.
"I think the players are the reasons things are happening the way they are," one player said. "Coaching can’t fix 20- and 30-point blowouts."