CLEVELAND — J.B. Bickerstaff was fired as Cleveland’s coach Thursday despite leading the Cavaliers through a major rebuild, an injury-ravaged 2023-24 season and into the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Bickerstaff’s dismissal came one week after the Cavs were eliminated in five games by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Cleveland played the final two games of the series without All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, who played with a left knee injury for more than two months before hurting his calf in the closing minutes of Game 4 against the Celtics.

Mitchell has to decide whether to sign a long-term contract extension this summer, and his future may have played a role in the team moving on from Bickerstaff, who made incremental progress in each of his four-plus seasons with Cleveland but not enough to keep his job.

The Cavs delayed their decision in order to meet with Bickerstaff and discuss the team’s future. In the end, president of basketball operations Koby Altman and chairman Dan Gilbert decided a change was necessary.

“J.B. is a well-respected NBA coach and an incredible human being,” Altman said. “Over the past four years, he helped establish a culture that progressively drove players to become the best versions of themselves. Decisions like these are never easy, particularly when you look back at where this franchise rebuild started under his leadership.”


The team has begun its search to find a replacement for Bickerstaff, who coached Memphis before coming to Cleveland as an assistant and taking over for John Beilein midway through the 2020 season.

Bickerstaff was under contract through 2026.

In his first full season, the Cavaliers went just 22-50 with one of the league’s youngest rosters. They jumped to 44 wins in his second year before losing in the play-in game while showing major strides.

After acquiring Mitchell via trade, the Cavs went 51-31 last season and had home-court advantage in the first round before getting knocked out in five games by the New York Knicks. The early exit put added pressure on Bickerstaff to do more this season.

Bickerstaff, 45, went 170-159 in the regular season and 6-11 in the playoffs with Cleveland, which defeated Orlando in seven games this year before losing to Boston. Along with Mitchell, the Cavs were without center Jarrett Allen, who suffered a rib injury in the opening round against Orlando.

TV RIGHTS: According to a report from Sports Business Journal, the NBA is finalizing contracts for its media rights to be with Disney – which owns ESPN – NBC and Amazon beginning in the 2025-26 season. NBC looks to take over TNT’s “B” package for $2.6 billion per year and include “Basketball Night in America” or “Sunday Night Basketball” once the NFL season comes to an end, per the report.

Should those rights get acquired, “Inside the NBA” with Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith would cease to exist after the 2024-25 NBA season.

“Inside the NBA” has been on TV since the 1989-90 season and would mark the end of an era if it goes away. If that happens, though, Barkley didn’t rule out making the show an independent one with his production company.

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