August 22, 2014

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Cavs year in review: Team acknowledges tough year, points to better 2012

INDEPEDENCE — There was a franchise-record 55-point loss in Los Angeles, but there was also a victory over the Lakers at Quicken Loans Arena.

J.J. Hickson and the Cavaliers were down and out a number of times this season, but the team is optimtistic about the future. (AP photo.)

J.J. Hickson and the Cavaliers were down and out a number of times this season, but the team is optimtistic about the future. (AP photo.)

There was the Dec. 2 debacle in LeBron James’ first game back at The Q, but there was also a home win over the Miami Heat.

There was an NBA-record 26-game losing streak, but there was also a 5-4 start and 6-6 finish.

The Cavaliers acknowledged all the negatives Thursday at Cleveland Clinic Courts as they prepared to go their separate ways for the offseason — and with a potential lockout looming — but the overall mood was extremely positive and optimistic.

“There were so many opportunities for our guys to go haywire, but they never did,” coach Byron Scott said. “They hung in there.

“The last couple of weeks were really important,” he added. “We were very competitive. We won some games a lot of people thought we wouldn’t win.”

At times, it almost seemed like Cleveland had just finished the regular season 63-19 and not 19-63, the second-worst mark in the NBA.

“We had some embarrassing losses, but those only made us stronger,” center Ryan Hollins said.

While there was no mistaking the fact the Cavs missed the playoffs for the first time in six years — they narrowly escaped becoming the first team in NBA history to go from the best record in the league to the worst in back-to-back seasons — guard Daniel Gibson answered “without a doubt” when asked if making the playoffs next season was a possibility.

“That’s our goal; that’s our mindset,” he said. “Every guy here is going to be working this summer with that goal in mind.”

The bigger question is exactly how many of the 15 players who ended the season on Cleveland’s roster will return.

Guys like Christian Eyena, Manny Harris, Samardo Samuels, Semih Erden, Alonzo Gee and Luke Harangody remain largely unproven at the NBA level. Anthony Parker is a free agent. Joey Graham was basically a bust. Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao, Ramon Sessions, J.J. Hickson, Baron Davis, Hollins and Gibson are not nearly so untouchable they couldn’t be part of a trade.

“After a season like we had, we expect changes to some extent, so we’ll see,” the 35-year-old Parker said.

The Cavs also have two first-round picks — they’ll be No. 2 and No. 8 if the draft lottery goes true to form — and two second-round selections — “It gives me more players to play around with,” Hickson said — but Thursday seemed to be more about reflecting positively on the 2010-11 season than looking too far into the future.

“When things aren’t going well, that’s the test,” Parker said. “I was really proud of our group.”

Scott, who took the job over the summer not knowing if LeBron James was coming back to Cleveland, was even more upbeat, choosing to accentuate the positive rather than dwell on the fact his team went through a stretch where it lost 36 out of 37 games.

The 50-year-old, who said he was in a “feel-good place,” was extremely cordial and quotable in his answers, even when asked about the toughest points of the season.

“Most of the time, I kept my composure,” he said. “It did get to a point where I told the guys, ‘A bunch of you won’t be here if this is the way you’re going to play.’”

A minute later, Scott added, “I had a moment where I wanted to kill everybody on the team, but not necessarily where it was, ‘What did I get myself into?’”

Asked how he assessed the job he did in his first season with the Cavs, Scott laughed and said, “I give myself an ‘A’ for not losing it. I could have easily done that.”

He then gave himself an overall grade of “B” and added, “Players always look at the guy in charge. If I would have lost it, they would have went haywire as well.”

Though their coach ripped into them on more than a few occasions over the course of the season, Cleveland players were extremely complimentary of Scott.

“The last 20 games or so was an opportunity to form some camaraderie, brotherhood, a family environment,” Davis said. “Once you have that, you have something to build on.

“First and foremost, you have to look at the coach,” he added. “You have to look at the man in charge. Coach Scott is poised; he’s motivated.”

That was the gist of an afternoon long on platitudes and short on real news — Parker wants to return, Eyenga may not go back to the Republic of the Congo in the offseason because he said his visa is about to expire and Samuels will have surgery on his wrist before returning to his native Jamaica — but that’s the way the day after the end of the season usually goes.

“We’re building this the right way,” Gibson said. “It won’t be long until that (losing) feeling is gone.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.