David Blatt coached the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. He received backing from GM David Griffin in January when the team sputtered to a 19-20 record. He received additional support from owner Dan Gilbert when the team won the Eastern Conference Finals. Last Wednesday, both Blatt and Griffin indicated the former was set to return next season.
And yet, despite all of this, there still appears to be speculation someone else will be coaching the Cavs next year.
Much of this was fueled by an article from ESPN’s Marc Stein, in which he talked about how LeBron James spent much of the playoffs emasculating Blatt on the sideline. He rejected play selections, seemed to tune out anytime Blatt was talking and often spoke with assistant coach Tyronn Lue instead.
Today, ESPN’s Chris Broussard claimed Blatt was “highly likely to return.” You’d think, with all of the aforementioned support Blatt received throughout the year from management, “highly likely” is a phrase you really shouldn’t have to hear regarding whether or not Blatt returns. However, such is the case for the Cavs’ coach.
There is still a sizable amount of people – fans and media included – who believe Cleveland is better off without Blatt. I’ve already gone on about how such a thing is unfair. At the same time, it’s clear the constant speculation is showing a bigger concern for the Cavs.
Quite frankly, is this continued issue James seems to have with Blatt a significant problem?
It’s seems as though this has been the story about James and coaches for quite some time. If he doesn’t respect the man running the show, he usually makes such a thing visibly obvious to everyone.
He didn’t like Eric Spoelstra at first when he was with the Miami Heat, purposely bumping into him on the sideline at one point during the 2010-11 season. Former Cavs coach Mike Brown at one point said the phrase “I’m lucky LeBron James lets me coach him.” So, it’s tough for me to be surprised about Blatt being another name on the long list of coaches James doesn’t take as seriously as he should.
The problem, though, is whether or not he’s going to reverse course with Blatt. It seemed as though James gained enough respect for Spoelstra in Miami to allow the two to work better together. Many Cavs fans are optimistic this could happen with Blatt.
Right now, it seems like we’re ways away from this point. Because of this, it makes you wonder how Cleveland feels about this and whether or not the front office would want to consider it a real concern.
Is it more important for the Cavs to stand up to James and refuse to fire their third coach in as many years? Or, knowing just how much power the best player in the league has, would the team rather make an effort to find a coach they know he’ll respect?
This shouldn’t be something on Cleveland’s current agenda. However, the more stories which come up about Blatt and James’ shaky relationship, the more pressing this becomes.
Making things worse, according to Brian Windhorst, James may actually be OK with Blatt returning, only because of the fact he can continue to boss him around. If this is the case, it sets a dangerous precedent in Cleveland.
If a team’s best player sees the coach as a punching bag, how will the rest of the players react? Will they assume, since James can treat Blatt this way, they can, too?
Obviously, this sets up a situation where Blatt simply has minimal control over the team he’s running. It’s tough to imagine such a scenario working out in a positive way.
And so, even though management backs Blatt every time the subject of his job security comes up, nobody seems to buy it. Not yet, at least.
The Cavs are now in what can only be described as an unenviable situation. Should they keep Blatt, knowing full-well that he still coached his team within inches of a title despite his relationship with James? Or, would having a unified team from the coach down make a championship much more likely?
No matter which way the team leans, this much is true; a coach who – yes, along with James’ help – led his team deep into the Finals shouldn’t have to be dealing with this kind of situation.