Cleveland Cavaliers' Firing of David Blatt is Inexplicable

By Casey Drottar

Honest question: does Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam also own the Cleveland Cavaliers?

I know the answer. I know Dan Gilbert is the Cavs’ owner, but when he makes moves like he just did, well, you’re forced to wonder if Haslam is whispering in his ear.

In an absolute stunner of a move, Gilbert fired Cavs coach David Blatt — the same Blatt who navigated through a nightmarish first season with the team last year and ended up getting to the Finals. The same Blatt who has the Cavs currently sitting atop the Eastern Conference with a 30-11 record.

That David Blatt was just fired. Assistant coach Tyronn Lue, long seen as the guy Cavs players listen to most, now takes the reins and also just received a multi-year deal.

I don’t know how this is going to pan out, but what I do know is that nobody saw it coming. The main reason for this, of course, is that the firing of Blatt makes absolutely no sense.

I’ve heard all the critiques of Blatt time and time again. The players seem to tune him out, his rotations are shaky at best, he’s made more than a few blunders in his short tenure with Cleveland. Most importantly, he and LeBron James never truly saw eye-to-eye.

At the same time, how can this move be anything more than inexplicable?

Yes, the Cavs were slaughtered by the Golden State Warriors this past Monday, and only after they won their next two games was Blatt shown the door. Even though the consensus seemed to be that Cleveland wasn’t ready to contend for a championship yet, it certainly wasn’t a dire enough situation to fire the coach.

Apparently, Gilbert disagreed. And so, four months before the postseason, the team with the third-best record in the NBA axed the man running the show.

We’ll probably learn more about what really happened here as the day goes on. That said, there are already more than a few things we can take away from this.

For one, it sure seems like James really can’t be coached. Everyone knew about how he didn’t take Blatt seriously, but after last season, it certainly appeared as though these two were just going to persevere. Now, though, as more and more shots of James talking with Lue while ignoring Blatt continued to surface, it was clear he and Blatt were just never going to coexist.

If that’s the case, fine — he got his wish. However, what happens if things get off to a rough start with Lue? Is he going to get him fired too?

We also now see that Gilbert is still falling into old habits when it comes to his team’s best player. Word was Cleveland’s owner didn’t want to bow to James’ every wish this time around like he did during his first tenure with the team. This is how he hammers that point home? By firing a coach solely because James just didn’t seem to get along with him?

Finally, this move officially makes Cleveland’s season championship or bust. There will be zero excuses if the team comes up short of a title this summer. None.

They can’t fire Blatt, promote Lue, and lose. It doesn’t even matter if they lose in the Finals. Any result which doesn’t involve the Cavs hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy is a failure. If the belief was that Blatt was keeping Cleveland from a title and Lue was the man who could finish the job, then he has to do it.

We’ll find out in a few months whether this ends up taking place. What we’re left with now is the fact that Blatt, who finished his time in Cleveland with an 83-40 record and was two wins away from a title, was kicked to the curb for no other reason than the fact that his best player didn’t like him. Whatever your opinions are on him or his coaching style, there’s no other way around the fact he got a raw deal here.

Blatt’s firing was a desperation move by a team which really didn’t appear to be that desperate. If the Cavs believe Lue gives them the best shot at a championship, then I get why they did it. However, it doesn’t erase the fact that Cleveland looks incredibly chaotic right now.

This better work.

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