INDEPENDENCE — Cavaliers coach Mike Brown got an endorsement from guard Dion Waiters as Cleveland players concluded exit interviews Thursday at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
Forward Tristan Thompson, the only other player to talk to the media Thursday, spoke highly of Brown but was pretty much non-committal about the coach’s future.
“I’d like to see Coach come back,” Waiters said. “We’ve been together for a year. The ups and downs, he stuck with us, we stuck with him. I know he wanted to win just as bad as we wanted to win.
“I don’t think we need any more changes right now, especially learning the system already. We’re all good with that and I think Coach fits the team.”
Brown just concluded the first year of a five-year, $20 million contract. The first four years are guaranteed. A decision on his status, as well as that of interim general manager David Griffin, is expected sometime after owner Dan Gilbert returns from Board of Governors meetings in New York.
If no changes are made — or if another person is going to be brought in to work with Griffin as team president — there’s a chance the Cavs make no official announcement about the futures of their coach and GM.
“I’m confident (Brown will be back), but you never know with this business these days,” Waiters said. “I can control what I can control. I can’t control that. The only thing I can do is give you my opinion.”
Thompson spoke highly of Brown, but didn’t have a strong opinion when asked about the coach’s future.
“He’s helped myself and other guys out a lot this year,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a front office decision. That’s what they get paid to do. They make those decisions for our team. All we do is go out and play hard every night.”
Asked if changing coaches would set the Cavs back, Thompson said: “I just play basketball. I just go with the flow. … I can’t control who’s not here, who’s here, who’s leading us.”
The Cavs hadn’t played meaningful games in April since the 2009-10 season, so Brown is viewing that as one of the biggest positives to come out of what many view as a disappointing season.
“It was the first time a lot of these guys were under a different type of pressure going down the stretch in April,” the coach said. “It was good for them to experience it. It was good for them to feel. Whether we won, whether we lost, any time you go through experiences, in my opinion, you grow.”
Brown was disappointed with how the Cavs (33-49) played in November and December, but was happy with how they came together while going 17-16 down the stretch.
“I think that team in the locker room has a chance to be a playoff team,” he said Wednesday after a win over Brooklyn.
Waiters reiterated his relationship with Kyrie Irving is much better than many have portrayed and said the guards made many positive strides in their second season together.
“People put their two cents in, but they made it seem like we hated each other,” he said. “That’s the only part I don’t get. You’re not going to always see eye to eye on the court, especially with two ball-dominant guards, but you have to just continue to keep working together, with one another.
“We made huge steps,” he added. “I don’t always need the ball. I showed people that I can come off screens. But I pass the ball, too. I can pass. I find him, he finds me. But it’s not just about me and Ky. It’s about the team.”
** Waiters had kind words for former general manager Chris Grant, fired after the Cavs fell to 16-33 following a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, who finished that game with four healthy players and one who was allowed to play with six fouls (each additional foul also would have resulted in a technical).
“That’s a guy who took a chance on me, a young kid like myself coming from where I came from (North Philadelphia),” he said. “He made my dream come true.
“You never want to see nobody get fired. He’s got a family. You’ve got to feed your kids. What could we have done differently? Did it take him getting fired for us to start playing the way we did? You never know. I know I took it hard because if we’d have been taking care of business like we were supposed to at the beginning of the season, he would still be here.”
Hungry for more
While happy with the fact the Cavs were in playoff contention in April, Irving left Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday night eager to accomplish even more next season.
The 22-year-old, who will be working out and playing for USA Basketball much of the summer in preparation for the FIBA World Cup, will have plenty of opportunities to grow — on and off the court.
“After we got eliminated (from the playoffs) completely, it’s been on my mind,” Irving said. “There’s definitely a lot of motivation going into the summer. I expect a lot from all of us, just to be with each other and make strides in the right direction and prepare for next season.”
Calling himself a “work in progress,” Irving is anxious to mature as a leader in his fourth NBA season.
“This year was just constant learning, strictly that,” he said. “I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about being a better point guard from all aspects of the game and becoming a better leader. I’m a work in progress, which I’ve already admitted.”
The Cavs finished 12th in the league in field-goal percentage defense at .452. They allowed teams to shoot .476 last season. Cleveland was 15-2 this season when holding teams to less than .400 shooting.
** Brown notched his 305th win with the Cavs against Brooklyn, moving him past Bill Fitch for second in franchise history. Lenny Wilkens won 316.
** Waiters was the highest-scoring bench player in the Eastern Conference at 14.7 points. He started the final 15 games and posted the sixth-highest scoring average in the East in that span (21.2).
Quote of the day
“We’ve got great young players. We’ve got a bit of everything. We’ve got shooters. We’ve got good bigs. We’ve got a great point guard leading us. I think we’ve got what it takes.” — Thompson, who has played in 206 straight games.