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Cavaliers fire head coach J.B. Bickerstaff after five seasons

Cavaliers fire head coach J.B. Bickerstaff after five seasons

The Cleveland Cavaliers have reportedly fired head coach J.B. Bickerstaff after five seasons, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Bickerstaff was dismissed after a season during which the Cavaliers finished fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 48–34 record and advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since the 2017–18 season.

Cleveland eventually lost in five games to the Boston Celtics with star guard Donovan Mitchell missing the final two games of the series and center Jarrett Allen missing eight consecutive playoff games, going back to the team's first-round matchup with the Orlando Magic

Bickerstaff took over as Cavaliers head coach following the firing of John Beilein during the 2019–20 season. In 2021, Bickerstaff agreed to a new contract that extended him through the 2026–27 campaign. Previously, Bickerstaff had head coaching stints with the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies.

Overall, Bickerstaff compiled a 170–159 record with the Cavaliers, including two playoff berths.

The Cavs improved during Bickerstaff's first two full seasons, but the stakes raised considerably after the team acquired Mitchell from the Utah Jazz in exchange for Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton and the rights to six first-round draft picks. Suddenly, Cleveland had its biggest superstar since LeBron James, an addition expected to lift the team to compete with the Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers at the top of the East.

However, a promising first season with Mitchell that resulted in a 51–31 record ended with a surprising first-round playoff loss to the New York Knicks in five games. That defeat may have hinted at the problems to come, as players questioned Bickerstaff's approach with a young team and his offensive strategy, according to The Athletic. Those issues continued into this past season, with Bickerstaff also being scrutinized by general manager Koby Altman for playing Mitchell so heavily.

Yet injuries to point guard Darius Garland and forward Evan Mobley likely forced Bickerstaff to increase Mitchell's usage, creating a challenging situation for the coach to navigate.

Bickerstaff's firing comes amid concerns over whether the Cavs can re-sign Mitchell to a contract extension. The five-time All-Star is eligible to sign a five-year, $269.9 million max extension when he becomes a free agent after the 2024-25 season. But if Mitchell is hesitant to re-sign, the front office will likely try to trade him and get something in return.

However, Mitchell's presence in the lineup appears to have had a negative effect on Garland, and Bickerstaff was having difficulty figuring out how to play the two together. The team had similar questions as to how Allen and Mobley, both defensive-oriented big men, could fit together in the frontcourt.

Allen could also be traded to allow Mobley, who's eligible for a contract extension this offseason, an opportunity to take on a bigger role.

Altman creating a more cohesive lineup through trading pieces that don't fit well surely would have benefited Bickerstaff. However, if such changes are made, the new coach will get the opportunity to see how that overhauled roster works.

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