CLEVELAND, OH – Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson battled Orlando's big men and then defended his rookie coach.
At least some of the Cavaliers have John Beilein's back.
Following a 93-87 loss to the Magic — Cleveland's 11th loss in 12 games — Thompson said he was disappointed to learn that some of his teammates had anonymously criticized Beilein, the former Michigan coach hired by the Cavs to develop their young roster during a massive rebuild.
Thompson said he was unaware of the report by The Athletic, which didn't identify three players who said they were unhappy because Beilein is treating them like they're still in college and that they've tuned out the 66-year-old coach.
“It's not fair,” said Thompson, who grew more agitated the more he learned about the report.
“I love coach Beilein,” Thompson said. "He's great for development and he understands that players have so much in them and he wants to get the best out of you. ... I'm thinking the guy is pretty good. I'm probably the smartest guy in this locker room, so if I think I know what the guy is doing then we shouldn't hear nothing else — to be honest.
Before Friday's game, Beilein was put in an awkward situation by having to address the report, which seemed to come out of nowhere as many of the players have been publicly effusive in praising the coach who has already lost more games with the Cavs than he did in his final two years with the Wolverines.
Beilein acknowledged he's continuing to grow in his first stint as a pro coach, and he believes he has his players' undivided attention. He said the feedback he's received in meetings has been positive.
"We had more than one of them — two, three, four we’ve met — and it’s like, ‘Coach, keep doing what you’re doing because we really need this. We need accountability, we need to play harder, stronger, tougher. Don’t stop what you’re doing,’” Beilein said.
Beilein understands that players may feel frustrated. It's no different than he experienced while coaching at Canisius or West Virginia, and it's not going to change him.
“Here’s what happens: You’re a coach all these years," he said. "The leading scorer wants to score more. The guy that’s not the leading scorer wants to be the leading scorer. The guy that’s a starter wants to get more shots. The guy that’s not starting wants to start, and the guy that’s not playing wants to get in the rotation.
“So that’s part of the game and that’s part of coaching. No, it’s not frustrating — it’s what I signed up for a long time ago and it’s what I signed up here."
Forward Larry Nance Jr. said Beilein has been an ideal coach for the Cavs' youngsters. Like Thompson, he felt the criticism was unwarranted, and the fact that players didn't put their names on the comments was disappointing.
“Ideally you want to keep that in house,” he said. ”I guess that’s today’s NBA,. Am I worried about it? No. My job doesn’t change. I’m going to play as hard as I can for as long as I can and try to get us to win. I’ve never had an issue with a coach in my career, him being no different. I wanted to play for him at Michigan, to be honest with you. I’m enjoying it."
The report also quoted players saying they are turning more to top assistant J.B. Bickerstaff than Beilein. Thompson said that's been the case with every coach he's played for. The assistant is more accessible simply because he doesn't have as many responsibilities as the head coach.
And as for players hiding in secrecy, Thompson said that has to stop.
“If you're going to build a culture and a family, you can't have that chatty Patty (stuff) going on,” he said. “That (stuff) is whack to me. Everyone has got to look in the mirror. There's only so much coach can do and there's only so much we can do. Do we have the best roster in the NBA? No. But we're going to go out there and compete every night. But guys got to look in the mirror.”
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