Column: Team-building? Check. Culture-building? TBD.


FILE – In this Dec. 21, 2017, file photo, San Antonio Spurs guard Bryn Forbes, right, guards Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood during the first half of an NBA basketball game, in Salt Lake City. The Cavaliers sent guard Derrick Rose and forward Jae Crowder to the Utah Jazz for forward Rodney Hood, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

When Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman dumped Dwayne Wade back to Miami to finish off his trade deadline house cleaning, he probably didn’t pause to notice the irony. His intent was to dump salary to the Heat, but the move, the cherry on top of several others, has brought the Heat on him and his constituents.

Altman is all in: he moved six players and their first-round pick and brought in four new ones. Whatever happens to the franchise going forward, it will be on him. He has staked his reputation on George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. not only saving the Cavs’ trainwreck of a season but returning them to championship contender status. He believes by removing a poorly performing Jae Crowder, an antagonizing and poorly performing Isaiah Thomas and a previously absent Derrick Rose, the season’s toxicity will be cleansed.

He may be right. He has brought in a good mix of youth and experience. But his attempts for a fresh start will not be completely fresh. Head Coach Ty Lue, who Altman decided to save despite poor performance, and megastar LeBron James are still around. So is LeBron’s sometime friend, sometimes enemy Kevin Love.

It was only Jan. 20 when LeBron ambiguously didn’t give Lue much verbal support. A couple weeks ago, the Cavs held a team meeting apparently attacking Love, a few days after, reports came out which said LeBron doesn’t communicate with the front office and still holds owner Dan Gilbert in contempt.

The front office builds the team and aims to create a culture. However, in the day-to-day, it is really Lue and LeBron who have the reigns. So far, they have unequivocally failed. Lue apparently could never reach Kyrie Irving, who forced his way out because of disdain for LeBron.

The Cavs came into this season with a retooled roster as well. Instead of taking the opportunity to grow, the Cavs were as abominable off the court as they were on it. Lue was apparently at the meeting with Love. LeBron has always been passive-aggressive and petty. Both LeBron and Lue let things fester to the point that such a blow up was needed.

Indeed, there will be some new bodies in Cleveland. But if LeBron continues to be reticent about his future and demanding of his teammates and Lue continues to be beneath reproach from his players and struggle with the X’s and O’s, has anything really changed?

Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson have proven to be prolific scorers, Larry Nance might be as good an athlete as present-day LeBron and George Hill is an experienced ace defender in a career shooting year. Yet their most important attribute will be their ability to fit in, lest they be subject to a tweet from the King.

I can’t speak to their mindset, personalities and attitude heading into Cleveland. However, their presence marks a creation of a blank canvas, one which Altman has loudly signed his name to. Once things get a move on and socialization leads to a culture, a mindset, an atmosphere, it will be one leaders Lue and LeBron are signing as well. The trio has already made a one big mess, but deserving or not, they are living to paint another day. The potential for a masterpiece is there, but should they turn out rubbish, their reputations should be irrevocably tarnished.

Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at

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