CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers season may not have ended the way they hoped, but this offseason they plan to build on their new foundation, focusing on fostering the relationships and growing the chemistry that helped them have unexpected success this year. How? Open communication, summer workouts, and perhaps even a little karaoke.
Ending the year with a winning record and just one game away from a playoff appearance, the Cavs season shocked many fans who didn't expect much more than the 20 wins they had in 2020. Despite adversity all year, the Cavs showed no quit and throughout the year created an environment and culture that may be unmatched across the NBA.
“We’re just having fun. I mean, we have a great group of guys here. The locker room has been fun and we really enjoy playing with each other,” said forward Cedi Osman.
Osman said he believes this team has shown how special they are and believes that they have the potential to make it even further next year.
"We know that we're a special group and we can do special things, and I really do believe that we deserve to be in the playoffs," Osman said. "Next year, especially with this loss, it's going to make us stronger, so we'll come back and hopefully we'll have a great season next year."
The talent across the roster helped greatly in regards to the Cavs success, but the chemistry the team was able to create was a big factor too.
"I think our team chemistry is what helped us out starting out the year this year," said guard Isaac Okoro.
"We spend a lot of time doing a lot of team bonding stuff, " Okoro said. "Everybody is always with each other, always texting the group chat or trying to find out where we can go eat at. So we spend a lot of time with each other and that's a special thing to have with the team."
It's a group chat that has found guys like Okoro and forward Lamar Stevens cracking jokes, sending in funny videos and keeping everyone laughing, and veteran Kevin Love enjoys it very much.
"It's hilarious. It's funny, like all of us stay connected in that way, so we don't lose touch," Love said.
Stevens said he thinks the relationships he and his teammates share are not too common and something that they truly value having.
"We really just have fun together. Like on the road, we go out to eat together, even when we're home we spend a lot of time together. It's only my second year, but I heard that's not what a lot of teams do," Stevens said.
The players have bought into the culture—a culture spearheaded by head coach J.B. Bickerstaff.
"You start at that base and I think what we try to do as coaches and our staff is we focus a ton on relationships so that the conversations, as they shift throughout the year, they're genuine conversations," Bickerstaff said. "The guys trust you enough and are open with you enough to be honest."
Bickerstaff said those ideals have helped the team deal with adversity, which is why they value it so much.
"If you don't have those relationships and that trust, when times are difficult guys will just bottle that up and hold it inside. When guys have questions, if they're insecure in their relationship, they'll just hold to those questions, So the more and more we've built those relationships, the conversations can be more in-depth and honest.
That foundation and the way Bickerstaff has been able to really grow relationships on the team is something that he has told his players he aims to continue through the offseason.
“What he expects for us is in the summer to be together and get strong and coming back with a purpose and knowing what we want for the next season," Osman said.
Under Bickerstaff's request and the team's own desire, offseason meetups are expected to take place this summer.
"I fully expect us to do like a pre-training camp somewhere as well and get together at some point during the summer, whether it be summer league or elsewhere," Love said.
When they do get together, players will workout together, work on their game and spend time crafting their on-court skills.
They'll also keep having plenty of fun—the way they did all season long—with Love taking the lead on the planning and hoping to workout their vocal chords as well.
"We're going to try and try going to Nashville, and I'm trying to get the guys on some karaoke and they got to do something outside of their typical genre," Love said. "I think everybody's pretty excited."
The Nashville trip is expected to take place in August or early September, Love said, and heading to a football game isn't ruled out. But singing is definitely on the top of the itinerary and Love already has his song selections set.
"If I'm going to go to Nashville, Chris Stapleton," Love said. "But these guys I know would love to see me, maybe me and Cedi, do some sort of rap or something like that, probably get a kick out of it."
As for Okoro, he's also ready to belt out a hit on stage.
"I always stay ready for singing," Okoro said with a smile. "Always ready for that."
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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