The Cleveland Cavaliers are, in a word, a disaster right now. They fired coach Tyronn Lue a week ago after an 0-6 start and since then they have picked up one win, but returned to reality with two lopsided losses in a row.
Larry Drew has taken over head coaching responsibilities, but refuses to accept an interim tag until he gets a contract extension. Kevin Love had surgery which will keep him out for more than a month, while J.R. Smith has had a bizarre start to the season in which management has told him he won’t be playing and could take some time away if he wants to, but both Lue and Drew have played him at different times, including Saturday night’s loss to Charlotte.
There’s a very clear rift between the veterans and young players, namely rookie point guard Collin Sexton who is struggling to open his NBA career, and the dysfunction of this team very clearly runs from the top to the bottom. The locker room tensions are heightened by a disconnect between the front office and the coaching staff, which is partially the product of confusion over the direction of the franchise at the top.
The Athletic’s Joe Vardon highlighted all of these issues in detail in a recent piece that explains just how bad things are in Cleveland, and is well worth a full read to get the scope of the Cavs’ problems. One of those, though, shows exactly how confused the organization seems to be about its direction and what to do in terms of the veteran and young player balance on the roster.
The first player Altman ever signed to a contract as GM was Kyle Korver. It was a three-year, $22 million deal inked in July of 2017, but it came with an understanding: If LeBron were to leave, the Cavs would either trade Korver or buy him out of the deal so he could move his family to his next team during the summer. So when LeBron left July 1 for the Lakers, Korver asked for the Cavs to move him. They refused because, they told him, they wanted him to play and for the team to try and win. To be fair, in the event of a Korver trade they would want maximum value in return, like a first-round pick.
This is not a good look for the Cavs’ front office if that were indeed the understanding. Getting a first-round pick for Kyle Korver isn’t going to happen, so demanding that from other teams is, effectively, refusing to trade him. The problem here isn’t just that it’s them going back on what seemed to be a mutual understanding that if James left and they weren’t going to be good they’d move him to a contender. It’s that this will be remembered by Korver’s agent and noted by vets around the league that this is how Altman and the Cavs organization handles things.