Cavalier fans seem to be split on the team’s most recent transaction, dealing PF J.J. Hickson to Sacramento for SF Omri Casspi and a first round draft choice, that unless the Kings get good again soon, will never wind up in the hands of Cleveland GM Chris Grant, or whomever is occupying that seat in 2017.
Many feel Hickson showed he was ready for stardom based on the second half of this season, when he averaged just about 17 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Those people obviously discount the feelings of the man who watched Hickson practice everyday, Byron Scott.
Scott is an old school guy, a player who was stunned when he learned that Magic Johnson and Larry Bird became friends after shooting a shoe commercial in the late 1980’s. Scott and his Laker teammates knew how much Johnson was obsessed with beating Bird, and they couldn’t believe that feeling would remain the same after they became cordial.
This trade might have a lot to do with a game in early December, when the Miami Heat came to Quicken Loans Arena for the first time since LeBron James joined them.
The Cavs’ head coach watched as several players on his team fawned over and held running conversations with James, while his new team was hammering his old one. For a guy like Scott, who cut his NBA teeth in the midst of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry of the 80’s, this had to be tough to watch.
Hickson was one of the LeBron guys, a player James said should get more playing time. He wasn’t the only one, for sure, but it seems like Grant and Scott are slowly pushing the “James Gang” out the door.
The coaching staff wants players who are tough, that won’t back down from opponents, that will not concede anything to the opposition.
In talking about Casspi, Grant spoke of his “nastiness”. Others connected to the Kings spoke of how Casspi is ultra-competitive, and is not shy of confidence.
In short, he’s a guy who would have knocked LeBron James on his butt on a drive to the basket on that December night, not joked with him, sitting back while the Heat embarrassed the Cavaliers.
Cleveland got some measure of revenge by beating Miami on their next visit in town, but that was one game too late for a guy like Byron Scott. It shouldn’t have taken a humiliating loss the first time around to get that kind of effort.
The Cavs’ new regime wants players who can play, but who also are tough. The team seemed to get that message toward the end of the season and started playing better with guys like Baron Davis, Ramon Sessions, Samardo Samuels, and even Ryan Hollins playing with that type of passion.
Hickson exhibited that on some nights, but not every night, and Scott saw that, and it appears didn’t like it.
Byron Scott has been around the NBA block. He’s not a first time head coach in the league, he’s been around it as a player, assistant coach, and head coach for almost 30 years.
He has an idea of what type of players win in the NBA, and he is setting out to get them. Obviously, J.J. Hickson isn’t one of those players. Let’s trust Scott knows what he’s doing (he’s taken a team to The Finals), and remember, there are more than likely, more moves to come.