CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman knew he had to do something before the NBA’s trade deadline expired.
Altman just didn’t realize he’d be able to do this much in pulling off an extreme roster makeover – trade deadline edition – on Thursday.
Having seen the team lose 14 of 22 that included blowout losses to the Celtics, Raptors, Thunder, Rockets and the lowly Magic, it was time to blow it up.
“We addressed the culture,” Altman said as he described how he lamented how visible “the lack of energy and enthusiasm” from the team had become to everyone inside and outside of the organization.
“I think it’s obvious, the goal was to get younger… I think we got more sustainable in the future. We addressed the culture of the team and the future. We’re just gonna be fun again. Fun to watch and fun to be around,” Altman added.
And so Altman picked up the phone Thursday and sent Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye and Dwyane Wade packing in three separate trades – one of them a three-teamer with Sacramento and Utah – to bring in Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and George Hill to Cleveland in an effort to resuscitate their floundering championship aspirations.
“We wanted to be patient and we wanted to see this thing work out,” Altman said. “We were really worried about what was going on on the floor and with our culture in the building. We were marching [towards] a slow death and we didn’t want a part of that.”
Altman conceded that Thomas wasn’t a fit alongside LeBron James. He didn’t say it – but didn’t have to – neither was Crowder. Both came in the Kyrie Irving trade last summer that also netted Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick which they hung onto Thursday.
“The level of value we got back in the Kyrie Irving trade was pretty good,” Altman said. “Did it fit? Did it work? Probably not. So with those pieces, we decided to shuffle the deck and get younger and get some youthful talent with energy and enthusiasm, great cultural pieces that I want to be a part of.”
Losing Shumpert and Frye was tough for Altman considering both players played a role in the Cavs’ 2016 NBA championship, but that’s the business of the NBA. Frye’s leadership will be missed but Altman is confident he’s breathed new life into a team that has lost 14 of their last 22 games.
“I feel much better about us culturally,” Altman said. “I feel much better about the air in the building. That sort of stuff you can’t quantify, but I do know that it matters. It’s a big deal to me.”
Sending Wade back to Miami for a protected 2024 second-round draft pick was done out of respect for Wade, who was about to see his playing time decrease significantly with the new arrivals and the emergence of Cedi Osmond.
“I realized that this is going to be a role for Wade where minutes are going to be reduced, reduced and reduced,” Altman, who consulted Wade and James prior to pulling the trigger on sending him back to South Beach, said. “I said, is this fair for Dwyane? Is this what he signed up for? We explored that with Miami.
“We wanted to give Dwyane the option. Do you want to be a part of this? No one’s telling you that you have to go by any means, but, we want to give you a chance to go home, and I think he and his representation were very, very appreciative of that.”
Altman accomplished his mission to make the Cavs a much younger, energetic and athletic team on both ends of the floor, which he expects to pay dividends starting with a “rejuvenated LeBron James and that’s the key.”
But what does the midseason shakeup mean for the Cavs’ prospects of keeping James, who is expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer?
“We want LeBron to be here long term,” Altman said. “I know that he is committed to this team and he’ll be committed to these new players. I know for a fact he’s excited about each addition.” w