Despite the 56 point effort by superstar forward LeBron James, a franchise record, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost on the road to the Toronto Raptors 105-98 last Sunday. With the team sliding as the playoffs near, Cleveland management decided that a change was needed.
On Monday, the organization fired head coach Paul Silas, in the midst of his team’s fight for a home court position in Eastern Conference Playoffs. In his place, the team appointed veteran assistant coach Brendan Malone as interim head coach. Stephen Silas, Paul’s son and the Cavs assistant coach was also relieved of his duties.
In his first season as the Cavs head coach, Silas went 35-47, an 18-game improvement from the previous season.
“As the season goes along, all teams either make improvement or go backwards,” said Cavs’ general manager Jim Paxson at a news conference. “We’ve been relatively healthy and we feel that we have the players and believe in the players that can be playing at better level. Ultimately that falls on the head coach.”
The Cavs became the ninth team this season to make a coaching change during the season, joining the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Los Angles Lakers, Memphis Grizzles, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and Portland Trial Blazers. That is close to about one-third of the NBA.
This move, according to new owner Dan Gilbert, shows that the team was serious in becoming a championship contender and also keeps James in a Cavalier uniform. However, Gilbert did say that James had no role in Silas being let go.
“Were here to build a championship team,” said Gilbert. “The way LeBron James or any great player stays with an organization is if an organization is a winning organization. You can’t get there unless you’re willing to make the steps or the decisions that get you to the steps to becoming what you want to become.”
By accumulating a 4-9 mark since the All-Star break, the Cavs have gone from the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs at 30-21, to the fifth spot in the East at 34-30.
While many of Cleveland’s problems stem from lack of consistent outside shooting and a strong bench, they also have had a great deal of internal team issues throughout the season.
That team turmoil mounted on Sunday when Silas replaced starting point guard Jeff McInnis with Eric Snow. That proved ineffective as Snow did not score in the contest at Toronto, while McInnis did not play though in uniform and uninjured.
Last December, Silas and Snow got into a heated war of words on the bench in the first quarter at the Detroit Pistons. It was something that took the whole team by surprise because of Snow’s reputation as a leader.
A week ago, Silas was fined $10,000 by the Cavs organization for making a derogatory comment to reporters about former Cleveland Cavalier forward Carlos Boozer.
But with less than 20 games remaining in the season, the Cavaliers have to find a way to gain momentum for the playoffs.