CHARLOTTE, N.C. On the final frustrating night of a long, frustrating season, the easiest word for both Kyrie Irving and Byron Scott to locate was frustrating.
Irving used it five times in less than four minutes prior to the game while describing this season. Scott used “frustrated” to summarize both this season and his three years in Cleveland – then he grew visibly frustrated with reporters for the first time all season when an out-of-town media member repeated the identical question for Scott to answer a second time.
The Cavs’ 105-98 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday provided closure to a turbulent few weeks for Scott. Now he becomes the focus because his future should be decided today. A high-ranking team official said on Monday that a decision on Scott will be announced at today’s season-ending press conference. He has one year left on his contract, but isn’t expected to return.
“Frustrating, more than anything,” Scott said when asked to summarize his three years in Cleveland. “We just haven’t had our whole complement of players. It’s still a growing process. I think our guys are still getting better. Hopefully next year we’ll be healthy. That’s one of my biggest wishes – that we’re just healthy.”
When his tenure in New Orleans was ending, he knew it. Scott was on the phone with his wife while sitting on the team plane following a loss at Phoenix. He told her he thought he was going to get fired, even though the season was just nine games old. The next morning, he was.
His ending in New Jersey was so bitter, that one didn’t surprise him, either.
This time, he says it’s different. He doesn’t have that same feeling of impending doom that he did in both New Orleans and New Jersey. He still talks with folks in the organization about plans for this summer and the upcoming draft. He doesn’t feel as if it’s over despite a 64-166 record that everyone with the franchise readily admits isn’t all his fault.
“I’ve got a year on my contract,” Scott said. “Unless they tell me otherwise, I’ll be back.”
The final game of the season, and perhaps the final game of Scott’s tenure in Cleveland, ended like so many before it – a fast start and a 20-point lead, followed by a furious comeback.
The only difference was the Cavs were the team making the huge rally, but it didn’t last. They ended the season by losing 16 of their last 18 and their last six in a row.
The Bobcats shot 72 percent in the first quarter and took a 34-16 lead into the second, then extended it to 46-22 with 7:24 left in the first half. The Cavs know all about 20-point leads, since they’ve given away four of them this season.
This time they were on the other end and did their best to fight back. A driving layup from Dion Waiters gave them a brief 77-76 lead with 9:30 left in the game, but the Bobcats scored the game’s next seven points and held on for the victory.
Kyrie Irving had 24 points and 10 assists, Dion Waiters had 16 points off the bench (14 in the fourth quarter) and Tristan Thompson had eight points and nine rebounds.
“We’ve proven throughout the season we can play with any team in this league and we’ve beaten a lot of good teams in this league as well,” Irving said. “Next season we want to limit the mistakes we made this season. We’re not going to win a lot of games if we continue to be the last-place team in the NBA in defensive field-goal percentage. There’s a lot of things we have to correct and this summer is a big summer for all of us.”
The loss clinched the third-worst record in the NBA this season and by extension no worse than the sixth overall pick in the draft.
The most important development, however, was the Memphis Grizzlies’ victory over the Utah Jazz, clinching a playoff berth for the Los Angeles Lakers and an improved draft position for the Cavaliers’ second pick in the first round
The Cavs will swap the Miami Heat’s pick at the bottom of the first round, which they own as compensation from the LeBron James trade, with the Lakers’ selection. It’s a swap right they negotiated last season when they traded Ramon Sessions to the Lakers, only no one knew at the time how valuable it would be. The difference between the Heat’s pick and the Lakers’ pick, depending on final playoff seeding, is about 15 draft spots.
“Just keep the season in mind,” Irving said when asked what he’ll tell his teammates tomorrow before they depart for the summer. “The ups and downs that we had, what we can do individually to make this team better, then we’ll come back collectively in September and come back a better ball club. That’s the main goal. Just continually get better.”