On expectations this season:
“I think it’s a whole different feel around here. We have higher expectations than the last few years being rebuilding years. There’s just a whole different chemistry and feel, not only in the locker room, but in the whole organization when you walk around and you talk to people in the business office, you talk to the coaches, you talk to the players. That was a feel we had all summer, even at the practice facility. It’s one of those years where talent has evolved, we picked up some players, we have a defensive-minded coaching staff and expectations are higher, not only from us, but from the fans, as they should be.”
Mike Brown seems different this year:
“I think that’s right. He seems more confident, more sure of the exact direction he wants to go. He’s confident in his defensive-first philosophy. He took a little bit of heat on the other side of the floor from the years he was here and maybe even out there (in LA). I don’t think that matters to him any more. He’s just so focused on who he is and what his culture’s all about. He knows what he wants.
It’s great to see because we loved him initially. When we hired him, we loved him when he was here. Now that he’s even got a stronger presence about him … he was only I think 35 years old when we hired him. What does that make him now, 42, 43, and you can see that maturity.”
Are you expecting this team to make the playoffs:
“It’s hard to make exact predictions. I would say if we would avoid catastrophic injuries and things like that, there is an expectation this team is a playoff contender. But the NBA is a competitive place and anything can happen. I think that’s the expectation of the coach, players, the franchise, myself, Nate Forbes and Jeff Cohen and everybody.”
“I think it’s a game-time decision. He seems to be ready to play, from what I’m hearing in talking to Mike and Chris.
Andrew Bynum worked his tail off all summer and fall, about as hard as they’ve seen any player work. It’s hard to know exactly how things will turn out. We feel good about it. It’s a big moment for him in his career … not just the moment, but the year, actually, because I don’t think you want to judge anything by one game.
It’s one of these things, it was a great opportunity for us, we built into the situation some upside for the Cavaliers should things work out and we’re hoping they do. I’m as anxious as any of you to see what happens.”
Chris Grant applauded you for taking a chance on him:
“I don’t know how often situations like that come around where you’ve got a 25-year-old veteran who’s been in the league eight or nine years and less than two years ago was an All-Star. Clearly he has knee challenges, but the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic were of the belief that he had a pretty good chance of coming through it and being able to play a decent amount of minutes. For us and the cap space we had, it was a pretty easy decision, I thought.”
Did you think it would take four years after LeBron left:
“That’s a great question. We had various people sort of study how long does it take from when you hit the restart button in the NBA to become relevant again. There’s different ways and different paths that you can get there. Us building through the draft primarily, then adding a few key pieces over the summer here. You never knew exactly how many years. But I would say three years is a place you should start being competitive again based on a lot of factors, of course. We had a lot of injuries last year, too, it wasn’t just the youth or the talent not being at the level of some other teams. We had significant injuries. That’s a big thing with the reset of our entire training and medical staff this year, as well as the coaching staff. Hopefully we’ll see some progress in that area, too, because that can hurt a team as you all know as much as anything.”
Do you think you maximized all your assets and draft picks last few years:
“I do. I’m happy if you go with our six picks, the two we picked up this year we have to see what happens. The other four I’m happy with. Kyrie is Kyrie. Dion Waiters had a substantial year last year for a rookie, if you look at his numbers. He’s only 21 years old. He’s got a huge upside. Tristan Thompson has evolved tremendously, especially over the last year, even in the international play he had over the summer. As far as a human being and a person, too and a leader, he’s at at the top of the charts. Even Tyler, you look at his progress he made last year, I’m pretty happy with all four picks. Hopefully the next two will show themselves as well.”
On Kyrie staying here long term:
“We don’t even frankly discuss that yet, it’s still a little bit early. We feel good about Kyrie being here for his entire career. We think we set up an environment and a culture that’s conducive to him being not only an All-Star, but the leader of a championship-contending team. We’ll keep going until we get to that point, whether it’s this year or next year or whenever that may be.
That’s something frankly we haven’t even talked about, but we feel good about. We have a good relationship with him. The head coach, him and Mike Brown really kicked it off this summer; they really jelled. I’m looking forward to it.”
Is Kyrie ready to be the leader:
“I think there’s been a lot of growth in Kyrie, even over the summer in talking to Chris, I spent some time with him, just talking to him and hearing people around him, it seems that way.
He’s still very, very young. Believe it or not, Kyrie is 21 years old. It’s hard to imagine all these guys are just 21. The age of our team compared to where we could be this year is really encouraging. When you look at how young these guys and the core that’s built.”
On the GM poll where Kyrie finished third among players to start a franchise with:
“When you have experts give that kind of confidence it makes you feel really good. He’s a special player. I don’t even think we’ve seen near the upside where Kyrie Irving could be. I think Mike Brown is going to really be helpful to him. Mike and him working together, that head coach, your leader-superstar relationship is absolutely critical in building a championship NBA team. I think seeing Kyrie on the other side of the floor excel to add to his offensive skills is going to be critical for that kind of thing to happen, or to be at least categorized as a player you want to build a franchise around. We feel very fortunate and we’re lucky the lottery ball feel a couple years ago. A very, very critical part of our franchise evolution.”