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On January 22nd, the Cleveland Cavaliers, then sporting the best record in the Eastern Conference (30-11), decided to let go of their head coach, David Blatt. Being the clear class of the Eastern Conference and the favorites to go back to the NBA Finals could not hide the fact that the Cavs, internally, were a dysfunctional group. LeBron James was at the head of it.
Last season there were several instances where Lebron showed a blatant disrespect for Blatt’s authority as head coach and maybe some of it had to do with Blatt’s mistakes. According to SBNation.com, Blatt had trouble calling plays out of timeouts and would even draw up plays for players who weren’t on the floor. LeBron, in response, called plays on his own, called timeouts, and often looked to Tyronn Lue for guidance on the sidelines. He even changed the play Blatt’s called on the game winning shot he made to tie up the series against the Chicago Bulls in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals last summer.
There’s no doubt that someone of LeBron’s stature deserves a say in the huddle on what should get drawn up, but to what extent? According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, LeBron’s treatment towards Blatt was described as abuse and that relationship caused Blatt to lose the rest of the locker room. Brendan Haywood who last played for the Cavs last year told NBA.com that Blatt had a double standard towards James opposed to the rest of the group.
“Coach Blatt was very hesitant to challenge LeBron James,” Haywood told NBA.com. “It was one of those situations where, being a rookie coach, and LeBron being bigger than life, it was a little too much for him. I remember we had James Jones [talk] to Coach about how, ‘Hey, you can’t just skip over when LeBron James makes a mistake in the film room because we all see it.”
He continued: “And we’re like, ‘Hey, you didn’t say anything about that. You’re going to correct when Matthew Dellavedova‘s not in the right spot. You’re going to say something when Tristan Thompson‘s not in the right spot. Well, we see a fast break and LeBron didn’t get back on defense or there’s a rotation and he’s supposed to be there, and you just keep rolling the film and the whole room is quiet.’ We see that as players. That’s when … as a player, you start to lose respect for a coach.”
*Photo via USA Today
It even got to the point where Haywood, speaking on behalf of several players in the locker room, said that he didn’t think that Blatt could coach this team to a championship.
“Slowly but surely, that respect started chipping away where he would kind of be scared to correct LeBron in film sessions. When he would call every foul for LeBron in practice. Those types of things add up. Guys are like, ‘C’mon man, are you scared of him?’ ”
I’ve never heard of a coach being scared of a star player or any player for that matter. Some coaches, I would think, look forward to coaching the best players in the league in addition to having the full autonomy to call the shots. Phil Jackson, Mark Jackson and Doc Rivers for example, had it but Blatt didn’t. It might’ve been too much for Blatt to handle stepping into his first ever NBA head coaching job, with the no.1 player in the league, but was this LeBron’s fault. Is he a coach killer?
Everything above is true. And all of LeBron’s actions point towards not favoring Blatt as opposed to assistant head coach, Lue. Sometimes not saying anything is saying something and in this case, disrespecting Blatt and doing whatever he wanted to do as “The King” told management all they needed to know in their decision to move on from one of the best coaches outside of the United States.
*Photo via NBA.com
“I have never seen a locker room not be as connected after wins as they need to be,” Cavs general manager, David Griffin told ESPN.com. “We've only been galvanized when expectations were not high.”
When your GM is saying that, things can’t be good. But this isn’t the first time LeBron has had problems with his head coach. In LeBron’s first stint with the Cavaliers, Mike Brown, Cleveland’s coach at the time, also was a victim of Lebron’s presence. In Shaquille O’Neal’s book “Shaq Uncut”, the NBA legend recalls his playing days in Cleveland at the peak of LeBron’s career and states that Lebron did not listen to coach Brown.
*Photo via AP
Shaq writes: “Our coach, Mike Brown, was a nice guy, but he had to live on edge because nobody was supposed to be confrontational with Lebron,” according to Slam.com. “Nobody wanted him to leave Cleveland, so he was allowed to do whatever he wanted to do. I remember one day in a film session LeBron didn’t get back on defense after a missed shot. Mike Brown didn’t say anything about it. He went to the next clip and it was Mo Williams not getting back and Mike was saying, ‘Yo, Mo, we can’t have that. You’ve got to hustle a little more.’ So Delonte West is sitting there and he’s seen enough and he stands up and says, ‘Hold up, now. You can’t be pussyfooting around like that. Everyone has to be accountable for what they do, not just some us.’ Mike Brown said, ‘I know, Delonte. I know.’ Mike knew Delonte was right.”
Recent reports stated that LeBron had some trouble while he was title chasing down in South Beach. In a recent post by thebiglead.com, a minority owner with the Heat expressed that while LeBron was in Miami, he wanted Erik Spoelstra gone. The report also stated that Spoelstra remaining as the head coach was one of the reasons why LeBron left Miami. Now this is the opinion of Raanan Katz, the minority owner, discussing the firing of David Blatt as a panelist on an Israeli Sports Talk show but there could be some truth to it.
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The post also states that it even came to a point where Pat Riley had to call LeBron into his office to tell him that no one will tell him how to run the organization. It also says that there is no truth to Katz statements but they were made and featured in the article. Sounds a lot like Pat Riley. Sounds like it could be LeBron. Spoelstra built his career working under Riley and there was no way Riley would give him the boot but I think it says a lot that someone who guided LeBron to four straight NBA finals appearances and won back-to-back championships still did not appeal to the King.
There was a time when LeBron bumped into Spoelstra during a 105-94 loss to the Dallas Mavericks which dropped the then Heat to 9-8, capping off their fourth loss in five games during that 2010 season. But it didn’t matter, it was Lebron, the NBA’s “golden child”. Throughout his career, Lebron has taken a lot of heat, which came with the territory of self-proclaiming himself as “the one”.
The Decision. Passing up the last shot. Quitting against the Celtics. Losing more finals than he has won. One thing he hasn’t taken heat for is the fact that he could be a coach killer due to his history. Maybe it’s time we start associating him with that.