Report: J.B. Bickerstaff was almost fired earlier this season, could be coaching for his job in playoffs

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

One NBA executive alleges that the Cleveland Cavaliers could opt to part ways with head coach J.B. Bickerstaff if the team doesn’t reach the Eastern Conference Finals this year and claims that the Cavaliers were close to firing Bickerstaff earlier in the season.

“J.B. could get fired if the Cavs don’t make it to the conference finals,” the NBA exec told Hoops Wire. “He was almost fired earlier in the season before the team got its act together. There are people inside that organization who can’t fathom how a team with Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland is so poor at scoring the ball.

“J.B. is 100% on the hot seat and he knows it.”

Bickerstaff’s stint as the head coach of the Cavaliers began during the 2019-20 season, when he took over in the middle of the campaign. He has coached Cleveland to a 168-158 regular-season record to this point.

The Cavaliers reached the playoffs for the first time under Bickerstaff’s leadership during the 2022-23 season. Cleveland finished the regular season with a record of 51-31, which was good enough for the team to secure the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference behind only the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.

But despite their successful regular season, the Cavaliers lost to the New York Knicks in five games in the first round of the 2023 playoffs.

Currently, Bickerstaff and the Cavaliers stand out as a team with a shot to finish with one of the top records in the Eastern Conference for a second consecutive season. With a record of 46-33, Cleveland is 1.5 games behind the Bucks — who are on a four-game losing streak at the moment — for the No. 2 seed in the conference.

But the Cavaliers’ recent play has the team limping to the regular-season finish line. The squad is riding a three-game losing streak, with all three of its losses coming against teams in the Western Conference with records above the .500 mark in the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns. The Cavs have fallen to fifth in the East.

Each of Cleveland’s last three games of the 2023-24 regular season will take place at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, starting when the Cavaliers play the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

If the words of an NBA executive are any indication, Bickerstaff could lose his job soon if the Cavaliers aren’t able to shake their playoff demons from a season ago.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer at SB Nation’s CelticsBlog and The Knicks Wall.