/ |

Cavs fire Brown again, move into position for LeBron

by Sam Smith

I don’t know about hiring Mike Brown to be your basketball coach. Well, I do know. Don’t do it. He’s awful.

But I might hire him as my investment advisor.

That’s because Brown will be one of the highest paid coaches in NBA history the next few years as he continues to collect maybe $16 million from the Cleveland Cavaliers, who fired him Monday after one season on a five-year contract, and the Los Angeles Lakers, who fired him five games into his second season of a four-year contract.

The Cavs had fired him previously in 2010 in hopes of retaining free agent LeBron James, with whom Brown had clashed over Brown’s idea of the game, which was to try to win 62-58 and keep order in the arena by running such a dull game most of the fans were asleep by halftime.

It must have finally occurred to someone with the Cavs that LeBron is a free agent again this summer and could be again after next season. The Heat are in decline with aging players and the oft-injured Dwyane Wade. And even though the Heat could win another title this season, there’s a chance LeBron could be looking for a new team.

And he does live in the offseason in Akron, which is just outside Cleveland and where the Cavs built their training facility in hopes of persuading LeBron to remain in 2010.

Maybe someone finally told mercurial owner Dan Gilbert that, well, if we want to take a shot at LeBron, you know we have Mike Brown here for four more years.

I guess you give Gilbert credit for moving quickly to remove a coach who was not making much difference. There was hardly anyone who didn’t think the Cavs would make the playoffs this season.

Especially even after the Bulls gave them their leading scorer, Luol Deng, for the expiring contract of Andrew Bynum, who couldn’t play.

There are a lot of bad coaches, so to say Brown was the worst is merely a subjective view. But Brown is awful. He has no offensive system of play to note, advocates a slowdown, defensive style contrary to the rules of the NBA today, and regularly feuds with his players by handing out uneven discipline and emphasizing the turgid game.

One reason for the dismissal was probably the fate of All-Star MVP Kyrie Irving, who is up for a contract extension this summer. Owner Gilbert has said previously he won’t let that occur again what happened with James, that he will trade a player before he can walk out like James did.

So if Irving were to reject the extension, it would suggest the Cavs would be in turmoil again with perhaps a trade of Irving, their best player.

So maybe Brown had to go just to help persuade Irving, as they tried, albeit unsuccessfully, with LeBron in 2010.

Brown is a very nice man and he must be great at interviewing.

But who gets fired five games into a season and then fired a year into a five-year deal with his next team?

Obviously, a miserable person. And since there is widespread agreement Brown is not that at all, there’s another answer.

The suspicion will be that the Cavs are ready to make a run at LeBron.

And they could make a credible case given James really has nowhere else to go this offseason if he decides to opt out and leave Miami.

The Knicks will have room in 2015; not this summer.

The Nets will likely never be under the cap.

The Lakers with Kobe Bryant making $24 million, which is more than they could pay LeBron, don’t interest James.

The Bulls could get close to $20 million, but LeBron rejected them when Derrick Rose was healthy. He’s never wanted a part of the Jordan shadow.

And the Cavs do have a surfeit of young, athletic talent with Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson and another lottery pick coming in a good draft. They could put a heck of a team around LeBron.

Hmmmm.

The Cavs earlier this season fired general manager Chris Grant. Assistant David Griffin was elevated and was named general manager Monday. Griffin comes from the fast- break, open-court Phoenix school where he was assistant general manager with Mike D’Antoni as coach.

One big reason for the firing was owner Gilbert went with Griffin’s plan. You can’t play that way with stuck-in-molasses Brown.

So D’Antoni and the Phoenix gang of Alvin Gentry and Vinny Del Negro and later Steve Kerr, who all were close with Griffin, were immediately the subject of speculation. But insiders say Griffin has been told he cannot hire one of his Suns buddies and will have to look elsewhere.

The guess is they consult the powerful CAA agency that represents James to find out who he might like as coach, hire that man and then become a team available to James.

James has indicated he would sometime like to return to Cleveland to finish his career. And with a base of young talent and good friend Zydrunas Ilgauskas now in Cavs’ management and the Eastern Conference weak and Miami in some decline, it might be the time going on 30 years old next season for James to go home to save the franchise.

Firing Mike Brown with four years left on his contract seems illogical.

Unless, of course, it leads to “the Return.”

Sam Smith covered the Chicago Bulls for 25 years with the Chicago Tribune. He is the author of the best-selling book “The Jordan Rules.”