Mike Brown fired

Per Brian Windhorst of Cleveland.com…

In a move expected since the team lost three consecutive games to be upset by the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals, the Cavs fired coach Mike Brown on Sunday according to a league source. The news was first reported by ESPN.

Okay, no shocker there. What was the reason for his dismissal?

Some Cavs’ players, including LeBron James, also seemed to lose patience with Brown after some of his adjustments and rotations didn’t work against the Celtics in the playoffs.

However, James is not believed to have made a personal push with management for a coaching change. He left it to the front office to make the final decision.

Brown seemed to struggle with his rotations after having to incorporate Shaquille O’Neal back into the team in the playoffs after O’Neal missed the final six weeks of the season. He started a lineup in the first game of the playoffs that he hadn’t used all season and the turbulence from multiple players changing roles appeared to upset the balance of the team.

Those problems plus, according to sources, some disagreement over some game plans for playoff games with some of the team leaders eventually led to some discord in the locker room during the Celtics series.

I put that bit about LeBron in bold because it may hold a clue to his future. If it’s true that he left Brown’s fate up to management, then it seems like he’s not all that interested in who’s coaching the Cavs, and that’s a bad sign for Cleveland fans that are hoping he re-signs.

Mike Brown will land on his feet. He bungled the playoff rotations, but that was partly because he had too many good players he had to play, especially when the Celtics started picking the Cavs apart.

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Mark Cuban toes the tampering line

Did Mark Cuban’s big mouth get him in hot water again?

Cuban, meanwhile, went public with his quest to acquire James in an interview this week posted on CNNMoney.com, in which he expressed his interest in James as a free agent and said that the NBA star needs to play in a place where he trusts the organization.

“Come July 1st, yeah, of course, anybody would be interested in LeBron James, and if he leaves via free agency, then it’s going to be tough,” Cuban said. “If he does like I’m guessing, hoping he will, which is say, ‘I’m not going to leave the Cavs high and dry,’ if he decides to leave — there’s still a better chance he stays — then he’ll try to force a sign-and-trade, and that gives us a chance.”

That’s fine, right? Everyone wants to sign LeBron, so what’s wrong with talking about it now that his season is over?

Not so fast.

Cuban’s comments could fall under the NBA’s tampering rules, although he dismissed that notion Thursday. In 2008, the league sent a memo to the 30 NBA teams detailing specific guidelines when discussing potential free agents with the media.

The memo read: “If a member of your organization is asked by the media about a potential free agent prior to the July 1 following the last season covered by the player’s contract, or about any other person under contract with another NBA team, the only proper response is to decline comment.”

Penalties outlined in the memo could include suspension, prohibition of the offending team from hiring the person being tampered with, forfeiture of draft picks and individual and/or team fines of up to $5 million.

He certainly didn’t decline comment, so Cuban could be fined over this. Rockets GM Daryl Morey was recently fined $100 K for discussing the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement with Bill Simmons.

It has to be tough to hear all the speculation surrounding LeBron’s future and refuse to comment when asked about it. But maybe Cuban should avoid interviews if he can’t follow the NBA’s rules.

Or maybe the NBA’s rules should be a little more lenient. They’re trying to avoid certain teams getting a leg up on the courtship of LeBron James, but that’s no doubt already begun through back channels.

Does anyone really believe that LeBron isn’t going to start thinking about this decision until July 1? If so, I’ve got a bridge to sell.

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How much power does LeBron need?

In an ESPN Insider column, Ric Bucher writes that one factor prospective teams will have to weigh is whether or not to give LeBron the kind of power that he’s enjoyed with the Cavs over the last seven years.

Just know that the Cavs are where they are — capped out with a modicum of trading chips — because the team power structure supposedly has looked like this: owner Dan Gilbert, GM Danny Ferry and head coach Mike Brown.

With James standing just below Gilbert and just above Ferry.

Multiple league sources say that the Cleveland Cavaliers, in their attempt to keep James since drafting him with the No. 1 pick seven years ago, have done just that. Two opposing GMs, without citing specific examples, said they know James has vetoed deals Ferry would have made over the past few years.

Meanwhile, the acquisitions of Larry Hughes, Mo Williams, Shaquille O’Neal and Antawn Jamison all have been made at James’ behest, sources say. And whether it’s by James’ hand or the Cavaliers’, the team has been constructed on the presumption that he is Michael Jordan, a scorer and finisher, rather than Magic Johnson, a playmaker who needed a go-to closer alongside him to win titles. “They tried to make him Michael,” says one league executive. “He’s not.”

Hmm. That makes me wonder what this team would look like had Ferry had his way on those aforementioned (undisclosed) trades. Players are notoriously bad at player personnel because like most things in life, it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees.

Also, with this kind of power, LeBron has to (or should) take a lot of responsibility for the failures of this hand-picked group of players over the past few years. Does he look at it that way or does he blame the game plan and player rotations? Only he and his boys know.

It has to be tempting for a team to offer LeBron this kind of power. Without it, they probably don’t sign him and they’re left to several more years of mediocrity. With him on the roster, barring injury, they’re basically guaranteed that they’ll make the playoffs every year, and who knows, if his personnel decisions finally work out, maybe they win a title.

That said, the Bulls don’t appear to be one of those teams. They didn’t give Michael Jordan that power so it’s doubtful that they’ll hand it over to LeBron.

Are the Bulls atop LeBron’s list?

Yes, at least according to Chad Ford’s sources

I keep hearing that the Bulls are atop his list at the moment. That could change, but that’s the word around the league at the moment.

I’m not sure exactly how the Derrick Rose/LeBron James dynamic would work, but there’s no doubt that the Bulls would become an immediate contender with the arrival of LeBron. With Joakim Noah and Luol Deng (a “stretch” four that can play some pick-and-pop with LeBron) rounding out the front line, the Bulls would be in a good spot for years to come. Deng really is more of a small forward, but he can play some power forward if need be.

But would LeBron want to play for a franchise that has been all about Michael Jordan? MJ is LeBron’s hero, but it might be tough walking past that statue of His Airness every day on his way to work. Doesn’t LeBron want his own statue?

Chicago might be a great situation for him, but if he wants a challenge, he should go to the Knicks or Nets, or stay put in Cleveland.

Later, Ford listed his top three landing spots for LeBron…

1. Bulls. 2. Knicks 3. Heat … I think the darkhorse is Dallas who’ll try to acquire him via sign-and-trade. As for the Cavs, it doesn’t look very good at the moment, but things can change. I think owner Dan Gilbert would essentially have to give him the GM job as well to keep him there.

With all the John Calipari rumors flying around, if he gets hired by one of these teams it could be a leading indicator that LeBron is on his way. For what it’s worth, Calipari told blue chip recruit Brandon Knight that he’d be coaching at Kentucky this fall, but does anyone really believe that he’s not exploring his options right now?

Who is the best sidekick for LeBron?

John Hollinger examines the rumored big-name sidekicks that LeBron may find himself playing with next season and tries to figure out who’s the best fit. This article requires an Insider subscription, so I don’t want to excerpt too much, but it’s an interesting read if you are a numbers guy (or gal).

The four criteria Hollinger used were: 1) he will not hog the ball (low Usage Rate, relatively speaking), 2) he will space the floor (Long 2 %), 3) he will be offensively efficient (True Shooting %) and 4) he will crash the boards (Offensive Rebound Rate).

Hollinger combined those factors in the following way.

Using this data, I created a “LeBron Rating” for each player by taking three-fourths of the player’s true shooting percentage, subtracting half his usage rate, adding his offensive rebound rate and subtracting twice his turnover rate.

I don’t really like it when stats guys start arbitrarily adjusting numbers by “taking 3/4,” “subtracting half,” “adding” and “subtracting twice” to adjust the numbers. I would probably adjust each stat from a level of 1 to 100, or maybe pull in the league average to come up with a factor for each stat.

But this isn’t my exercise. Here’s what Hollinger found:

The perfect companion: Chris Bosh
Bosh hits every check mark on the list above. He’s an outstanding midrange shooter who would provide a fearsome weapon on the pick-and-pop, something James has never really had in Cleveland. His offensive rebound rate (9.9 percent) was in the top third of power forwards, which is amazing considering how often he played outside. His turnover rate was in the bottom third and his TS% (59.2) was outstanding.

I don’t think this should come as too big of a surprise. Even though Bosh has said he thinks he’s a player that a team can build around, his game is ideal for a sidekick role with another really, really good player. A LeBron/Bosh pick-and-pop would be devastating, and he’s good enough on the block that LeBron can take a breather on offense every so often.

Click here to see the rest of the list. A few names at the bottom are Baron Davis, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Devin Harris, who are all guards who dominate the ball.

If I were building around LeBron, I’d want to add Bosh (or Stoudemire) to give him a good pick-and-roll/pop guy. At the other three positions, I’d have two guards who are good defenders that can shoot the three (and take it to the hole occasionally) and another big who can crash the boards and hit 15-footers from the baseline.

So how do LeBron and Bosh hook up? The Knicks would be the easiest, because the franchise has the cap space to sign two big-name free agents outright. Miami would also have room to sign two max players if they are able to move Michael Beasley in a salary dump. The two could also meet in Chicago if the Raptors or Cavs would want to take on Luol Deng and another player.

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