These Cavaliers might be too big to fail

  • ESPN.com NBA writer since 2010
  • Covered Cleveland Cavs for seven years
  • Author of two books

THE NEMACOLIN RESORT is tucked into the hills of southern Pennsylvania, a high-end property with a chateau hotel, two golf courses and a modern spa with everything from gentlemen’s facials to IV nutrient infusions.

In September, the Cleveland Cavaliers coaching staff checked in for a stay and enjoyed absolutely none of it.

For days the group, led by coach J.B. Bickerstaff, was holed up in a conference room watching film, studying their analytics and working through meals.

“It’s a really nice place,” Bickerstaff says. “But we mostly worked.”

Preseason coaching retreats are common in the NBA, but the mission the Cavs had for that trip was not. In a league that has been on a decade-long march to get smaller and faster, the Cavs were workshopping how they were going to get bigger.

Bigger, in fact, than anything the NBA has seen in a generation.

And so what began inside a hotel conference room some 70 miles south of Pittsburgh has knocked a procession of teams off balance throughout a league that has become infatuated with small ball.

Using a starting lineup featuring three 7-footers and reintegrating a former All-Star big man, the Cavs have big-footed their way into Eastern Conference contention. And doing so has not only changed the fortunes of a franchise not long ago predicted to continue its residence in the East basement, but also served as a resurrection that could disrupt NBA roster construction.

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