INDEPENDENCE — Lindsay Gottlieb didn’t join the Cavaliers because she wanted to be the first female assistant in team history or check the NBA box on her resume.
The 41-year-old left after eight successful years as women’s head coach at the University of California, Berkeley because Cavs general manager Koby Altman and coach John Beilein convinced her she would be an important addition to the staff.
“I was just fortunate that Koby had a mindset to say, ‘It’s not that we want to hire a female, not that we want to check a box, but we think you can add value to this staff,’” Gottlieb said Friday following a news conference to introduce first-round picks Darius Garland and Dylan Windler.
“Then the process of spending time with Coach Beilein (was) seamless. This situation was the best, because I would not have done it if it just felt like, ‘I just want to be in the NBA. Here’s my NBA card. That’s cool.’ It was very specific. This felt really right.”
Gottlieb went 179-89 (.668) at Cal. Five of her players earned a total of 10 All-America honors and six were drafted by WNBA teams. In 2013, the Golden Bears became the first team in school history to reach the Elite Eight and Final Four.
“I came from a family that made me believe there was nothing I couldn’t do, so I was probably thinking about doing things outside the box more than your ordinary person,” said Gottlieb, who contacted Spurs assistant Becky Harmon and thanked her for paving the way for women in the NBA.
“Clearly, I had thought about this,” Gottlieb said. “I had some friends in the NBA who said, ‘You can do this, whether it’s front office, coaching.’”
Beilein, who also is entering his first season in the NBA, has no doubt Gottlieb will be a valuable part of a staff that also includes associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and Antonio Lang.
“It’s a home run for us,” he said. “She sees some things I may not see. … You put the puzzle together as a team and you put together another puzzle with your staff.”
The draft came and went Thursday and veteran shooting guard J.R. Smith is still a member of the Cavs, though not for long. It appears the team may outright release him prior to the June 30 deadline.
“We’re going to investigate what we can do there,” Altman said.
Altman had viewed Smith as a significant trade asset heading into the draft — mainly as a salary cap dump for the guard’s new employer — but everyone wanted Cleveland to take on an equally bad or worse contract that would have resulted in significant luxury tax penalties for the Cavs.
Smith is scheduled to make $15.7 million in 2019-20, but only $3.9 million of that is guaranteed, so the Cavs probably will end up paying him the latter portion and releasing him. Smith was paid $14.7 million last season basically to stay home.
Close to done
Not counting Smith, the Cavs have 10 players under contract for next season, plus the three rookies (No. 30 pick Kevin Porter Jr. was not at the news conference because Cleveland’s trade with Detroit won’t become official until July 6).
The team reportedly has decided not to give Jaron Blossomgame a two-way G League deal, while Marquese Chriss and David Nwaba are unrestricted free agents. Combine all that, plus salary cap restrictions, and the Cavs are highly unlikely to be heavily involved in free agency. A more likely scenario is signing an established player to a veteran minimum contract late this summer.
“I don’t know how big of a player we’re going to be in free agency,” Altman said. “Right now, we’re pretty focused on what we have.”
Altman talked to 20-year-old point guard Collin Sexton prior to the draft and told him about the possibility of the Cavs taking Garland at No. 5. Both players are 6-foot-2. The second-year guard responded positively, telling Altman he had studied Portland’s 6-3 duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the playoffs.
“He brought that up: This could be us,” Altman said.
Dan’s the man
Altman talked to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who is recovering from a May 26 stroke, via FaceTime prior to the draft.
“He’s still sounding like Dan, which is super aggressive and go after this thing,” Altman said.
- The picks the Cavs gave Detroit to take Southern Cal’s Porter are reportedly a 2020 Utah second-rounder, 2021 and 2023 Portland second-rounders and a 2024 Miami second-rounder. The latter will go to the Pistons only if it falls from 55 to 60. The Cavs also gave Detroit $5 million.
- In some ways, Windler is ambidextrous. Altman noted the 22-year-old is a scratch golfer who can strike the ball from both sides, though he plays that sport right-handed and shoots with his left hand. Windler played golf with retiring Belmont basketball coach Rick Byrd on the morning of the draft and hit a 350-yard drive.
- Garland said he and Cavs center Tristan Thompson became friends last summer, adding Thompson told him a lot of great things about Cleveland.
- Garland joked he probably set a record by having more than 60 family members, most from Gary, Ind., join him in the green room at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the draft was held.
- Garland will wear No. 10 with the Cavs and Windler will be No. 9.
- Beilein will coach at least the Cavs’ first three summer league games beginning July 1 in Utah. After that, the Cavs will play in Las Vegas, but it hasn’t been determined whether Beilein will be on the bench or observe from the stands, like most veteran head coaches do.