One year ago around this time, the Cavaliers were in the midst of having a failure of a season by going 19-20 through their first 39 games and Blatt was said to be on the hot seat. A couple of trades later and the Cavs marched to the NBA finals where, undermanned, gave an epic fight to the best team in the world, the Warriors. Blatt was not thought to be on the hot seat, certainly not after resisting that nightmare of a first 3-4 months on the job. Fast-forward to this season and the Cavs are number one in the East at 30-11 and they fire Blatt. Does not seem to make much sense right? Let’s try to find out what’s going on with the Cavaliers organization.
First, we have to take a look at the perceived star, GM and coach LeBron James. It is clear he did not like Blatt. His camp was said to prefer Mark Jackson last season and despite not being explicit about it, there was no respect towards Blatt by LeBron. It is not just the play scratching against the Bulls in the playoffs, subbing himself out, or preferring to communicate through Lue. It was all together. He avoided Blatt and basically ran the plays he wanted to run. By doing this, being the “leader” he says he is, the whole team followed and Blatt lost the locker room. Make no mistake. This did not happen after the embarrassing loss to the Warriors, although that could be viewed as the extreme low point that lead to the firing. It had been going on for months and the fault here is on the Cavaliers for not addressing it earlier.
Blatt is not a bad coach. He has a 83-40 record and a Finals appearance in the NBA. He has a legend status back in Europe. Steve Kerr even wanted him on his staff last season and many coaches expressed disgust with the state of the league after his firing. However, this is not about a man’s ability. When a coach loses the locker room there is almost nothing that can be done. Even if he is a good coach, that does not matter if he cannot implement his tactics. An argument can be made that he never had it. And that’s a problem of maturity by LeBron and the rest of the roster. But once it happens, the Cavaliers did the only thing that they could do: Handle their messy business before it was too late.
Now regarding the choice of Tyronn Lue. If their objective was to satisfy the locker room and look to build a culture of cohesion and hard-nosed mentality it was a good choice. The team seemed to love him and so did LeBron. He has a very solid background as an assistant coach, having worked with Doc Rivers as a defensive coordinator, and as a player, having played for greats like Phil Jackson, Rivers, Stan and Jeff Van Gundy. So far, results, despite not many games being played, have been encouraging. Kevin Love has been more involve and the offense is playing at a much higher level with a faster pace. They have gone 4-1 including an assertive win over the Spurs. While it is still too early to rate it as a clear success, it definitely feels that this team is starting to develop that team mentality needed to match with the Warriors or Spurs.
Nonetheless the objective remains: Winning an NBA title. Anything below that is a complete failure, as Lue alluded to. Blatt was not fired so that they could get to the Finals. That part was seemingly guaranteed in the East. Blatt was fired because it was believed he did not have what it takes to win an NBA title. Cleveland believes Lue has it. What happens until June will be of little significance. Bringing the first sports championship to Cleveland in decades will be what defines this season and the decision that was made.
By: Step Back-J