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Biggest Summer Hole: Losing Kuester?

The one problem with fielding a successful basketball club involves the plethora of onlookers salivating at the chance to rip into a team’s success, picking and plucking away in order to lure those members who do the majority of the grunt work; this being the assistant coaches. Just ask the New England Patriots from this past decade and all the assistant coaches that have been pulled away. Every year thereafter seemed as though struggling teams were jockeying at the perennial teat of the New England base hoping to pilfer a glimpse of greatness in luring away one of the coordinators. The same theory applies to the NBA with less-than-stellar teams pulling out any stop possible to land a piece that stems from greatness.

Regardless of the telecast airing, almost every Cavaliers game this season involved some mention of the successful and reliable strategies implemented by the entire coaching staff, not just Mike Brown. Aside from Chris Jent, who has been trusted and credited with creating LeBron James’ effective jump shot the last few years, John Kuester has by far been the catalyst for this group. Kuester has fostered a legitimate offensive threat for a team that up until this point lacked much of an identity outside of a certain MVP.

The connection Kuester had with this group was unmatched, and not seen throughout much of the NBA with regard to player-coach relationship. Often during timeouts, Kuester could be seen in the heart of the huddle thoroughly describing and identifying the specific actions that were to occur. The chemistry developed and matured into a mutual trust between player and assistant coach. The defensive-minded Mike Brown could relax, at ease knowing JK developed a firm hold of the offensive side of the ball, an area that had been highly criticized for its lack of design and direction until this past year.

Now, with Kuester deservedly having the Piston’s head position extended to him, the Cavaliers offense suddenly finds itself in a bigger quandary than many fans are aware of. In one sense, it would have been a true pleasure to witness what Kuester could have come up with given the newest acquisition in Shaquille O’Neal. In addition, it is now essential for head coach Mike Brown to figure out sufficient defensive plans to halt what is sure to be an improved and possibly explosive Detroit Pistons’ offense lead by the offensice-minded Kuester. Though the additions of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villaneuva have been a bit overblown as far as their eventual result and impact, make no mistake that John Kuester will make a lot of noise with what he’s got to work with in Detroit.

Consider for a moment the hype and success that many inside and out of the organization raved about regarding the so-called offensive coordinator in John Kuester. As Brian Windhorst mentioned in an article on December 11, 2008, the Cavaliers offense never clicked quite like the way it did when Kuester played the role of offensive general.

“In his second season as Brown's assistant, Kuester has taken over much of the detail operations of the offense. He has brought some new concepts to what the Cavs call their "early" offense, an effort to make them more effective in transition and less bogged down.” (Brian Windhorst, December 11, 2008)

So heading forward into this 09-10 season when it seems a new free agent is added every other day, what can we expect from this Cavaliers team, particularly the offensive aspect? For one, it’s going to take a great deal of planning and strategizing to incorporate each new member of the team with the existing pieces that have already been tremendously successful. A proper balance will need to be perfected between the inside game and the ever evolving perimeter area. One can only wonder how the loss of Kuester will ultimately impact this developing offense. Not only will they not have him to conjure up various unique schemes for themselves, but they will also have to deal with the new and improved Detroit Pistons who haven’t taken long to return to the talk of legitimate contenders.

Early on in the season, this area will be a spot to keep a close eye on as we look to see how swiftly this offense can come together as it did at such a fast pace last year. Only this year, the mastermind behind it all will be lacking and the master plan ultimately falls on Mike Brown and company to realize each player’s role with what is still sure to be a title contending team in the coming year. Let’s just hope Detroit doesn’t become this year’s version of the Orlando Magic.

Patrick Fischbach


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