Cavaliers Had Interest in Avery Johnson as Head Coach, per Source

Avery Johnson

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 10: Avery Johnson the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide gives instructions to his team in the game against the Ole Miss Rebels during the second round of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 10, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Cavaliers made a coaching change last week, parting ways with John Beilein in a somewhat surprising move. J.B. Bickerstaff has been given the duties on a permanent basis.

Prior to hiring Beilein, the team discussed the possibility of hiring Avery Johnson, who most recently was the head coach of the University of Alabama basketball team, sources tell Cleveland had interest in Johnson dating back to the start of the 2018 offseason before they dismissed Tyrone Lue and before LeBron James officially left town.

Johnson had interest in taking the job back in 2018, per a source, though it’s unclear how that sentiment fares now. It’s worth noting that Johnson’s interest came when the possibility of James remaining in Cleveland was still on the table even though that was perceived as a long-shot by many around the situation.

The 54-year-old coach had two stints as an NBA head coach. He led the Mavericks from 2005-2008 and the Nets from 2010-12.

Bickerstaff has Cleveland’s Full Support

Let’s be clear: this is Bickerstaff’s job. He’s not on an interim title; he’s the head coach and barring the unforeseen, he’ll remain on the sideline when the 2020-21 season begins. Since taking over, he’s helped to lighten the mood in the locker room while implementing an overall theme: effort.

The Cavaliers believe in Bickerstaff’s ability to develop the young talent on the roster, multiple sources tell The career arc of Kevin Porter Jr. is expected to be among Bickerstaff’s litmus tests as he embarks on his journey in Cleveland.

“There’s no one on the [Cavaliers] with real All-Star potential,” a former scout told “If you told me one player will take his game to that level, I’d bet on Kevin Porter Jr.”

Bickerstaff, who got his start in the NBA as a 24-year-old assistant coach for the expansion Charlotte Bobcats, has been a head coach twice before, leading the Rockets and Grizzlies, starting both with an interim title. Bickerstaff’s father, Bernie (who is a long-time NBA coach), is currently an advisor with the Cavaliers.

Kevin Love Rumors

According to Jason Lloyd of The Athletic, Portland had an offer for Love, though the Cavaliers turned it down. Hassan Whiteside and Kent Bazemore, both of whom are on expiring deals, were included in talks.

It’s not clear when exactly the proposal took place, though the Blazers ended up trading Bazemore to the Kings in earlier January, so presumably, it was before that deal. Portland netted Trevor Ariza as part of the five-player trade.

Whiteside is making $27.1MM this season. Bazemore is making $19.3MM while Love is taking home $28.9MM. The outlined of the deal suggests that Portland would have received other players as part of the trade in order to meet the league’s salary-matching rules.

The Cavaliers had Brandon Knight and John Henson on substantial expiring pacts prior to the team trading them to Detroit for Andre Drummond. Perhaps one of those two were in the proposed deal. Tristan Thompson, who is making $18.5M in the final year of his contract, could also have been a possibility, though that is simply speculation.

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