If all these early indications are to be believed, David Blatt is no longer the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. And I am completely baffled by this move. To me, this has every bit of “same old Cleveland” that’s been haunting the city’s sports teams for decades. Let’s get to the heart of this, shall we?
It’s not like David Blatt was a horrible coach. The Cavaliers are 30-11 and number one in a very competitive Eastern Conference. He was 53-29 last season, for a grand total of 83-40, not including last years playoffs where the Cavaliers made it to the NBA Finals. With that being said though, it’s not like Blatt was an astounding coach like Gregg Popovich. He’s a so-so head coach, like Eric Spoelstra. The reason I compare him to Spoelstra is that Spoelstra wasn’t fired halfway through his second season with LeBron James at the helm.
And I don’t want to hear locker room dysfunction as the reason Blatt was fired. That would be utterly insane to put that squarely on his shoulders. Is he to blame for part of it? Absolutely. But LeBron James should also bear some of that burden because he’s their bona fide leader no matter who the coach is. He has to accept that mantle of responsibility and help the coach maintain order in the locker room. He’s a veteran player, he should know that by now.
The timing couldn’t be weirder either. Instead of doing it earlier in the season or waiting for the All-Star Break, the Cavaliers decided to fire him now. Why? What point does that even serve? All you get is instability before the break and players having to learn a new system. And instability doesn’t help any team, in fact, if I was any team in the Eastern Conference (except for the 76ers, they still suck), I’d start licking my chops because the Cavaliers just got a bit less tough to play against, at least for now. Mark my words, this is probably going to cost the Cavaliers the top seed or even the second seed in the playoffs.
Heck, this season is basically over in my eyes. It can really only end two ways for this Cavs team: interim coach Ty Lue will cement himself as one of the great coaches along with Pat Riley by winning the NBA Finals, or he won’t win the NBA Finals. I’m pretty sure Lue is no Pat Riley, so odds are this Cavaliers team doesn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel this season. This is, after all, the same franchise that fired Chuck Daly, and the same franchise that let Lenny Wilkens go to Atlanta, so letting good coaches go is essentially tradition in Cleveland. So, realistically speaking, I wouldn’t be surprised if David Blatt won the NBA Finals in a couple years or so with the Houston Rockets or whoever picks him up. And hopefully whoever picks up Blatt next will treat him with respect, unlike what the Cavaliers have done to him. Until then, Cleveland can always look forward to next season, only to have it’s hopes and dreams dashed yet again. Because that is, after all, a Cleveland tradition.