Cleveland Cavaliers fires coach J.B. Bickerstaff despite back-to-back playoff appearances

Basketball: After five seasons, J.B. Bickerstaff, the head coach of Cleveland Cavaliers, was sacked, according to reports. After a season in which the Cavaliers went to the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since the 2017–18.

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Varun Sarwate
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J.B. Bickerstaff (Source: NBA)

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After five seasons, J.B. Bickerstaff, the head coach of Cleveland Cavaliers, was sacked, according to reports. After a season in which the Cavaliers went to the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since the 2017–18 campaign and ended fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 48–34 record, Bickerstaff was fired.

Star guard Donovan Mitchell missed the last two games of the series, and centre Jarrett Allen missed eight straight playoff games, dating back to the team's first-round showdown with the Orlando Magic. Ultimately, Cleveland fell in five games to the Boston Celtics.

Bickerstaff became Cleveland Cavaliers' head coach after John Beilein was fired during the 2019-20 season. Bickerstaff signed a new contract in 2021, which would take him through the 2026-27 season. Bickerstaff formerly served as the head coach for the Houston Rockets and the Memphis Grizzlies. Overall, Bickerstaff had a 170-159 record with the Cavaliers, including two playoff appearances. 

Bickerstaff's first two seasons with the Cavs saw improvement, but after the team acquired Mitchell from the Utah Jazz in exchange for Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, and the rights to six first-round lottery selections, the stakes increased significantly. With the arrival of the greatest talent Cleveland has had since LeBron James, the club is predicted to contend with the Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Bickerstaff's firing comes amid to re-sign Donovan Mitchell

Bickerstaff went 22-50 in his first full season with one of the league's youngest squads, while being under contract until 2026. They increased to 44 victories in his second year before falling in the play-in tournament game, demonstrating significant progress. 

After acquiring Donovan Mitchell in a deal in 2022, the Cavs went 51-31 last season and enjoyed home-court advantage in the first round before being eliminated in five games by New York Knicks. The early exit puts pressure on Bickerstaff to perform better this season. 

Bickerstaff's firing comes amid doubts about the Cavs' ability to re-sign Mitchell to a contract extension. When the five-time All-Star becomes a free agency following the 2024-25 season, he will be entitled to sign a five-year, $269.9 million max agreement. But if Mitchell is unwilling to re-sign, the front management would most certainly try to trade him for something in exchange. 

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