Quite the notification came across my phone Friday afternoon. It read “The first-place Cleveland Cavaliers fire coach David Blatt and replace him with Tyronn Lue.”
The first thing anyone would think about would be the start to last season, when the Cavaliers were 19-20 through 39 games. As we’ve found out since, that was when David Blatt was first supposed to go.
The second thing anyone would think about would be: Good God, Lebron James is literally running this team. And while that’s probably not a good thing (to most people), let me remind you: If he didn’t have the capability to do that, then he wouldn’t be playing for the Cavaliers.
The reports about Lebron having no role in Blatt’s firing are too funny. Lebron acting like he didn’t is hilarious. He is running this team, but why do some think that’s shocking? Or, why do some think that’s a bad thing? Of course he’s gonna have say in anything the Cavaliers do basketball operations wise. He’s the 2nd best player in the league, and practically the savior of all Cleveland sports. And chances are, the Cavaliers would probably screw up any decision they made without his consent anyways. So let’s chill out on that front.
The stories of Blatt doing many unwise things have been written ever since that rough start to last season. But the stories, like the one Woj wrote for Yahoo!, and with the details it contained, hadn’t been written. And that’s where this whole situation gets really interesting.
A couple thoughts from Woj’s piece…
- David Blatt clearly had no idea how different the NBA was from any league he’d coached overseas. This reminds of some of the college coaches who’ve came into the league this year.
- Did he realize what kind of team he was coaching? Coaching’s a strong word, really. These guys know what they’re doing.
- Cleveland hired Blatt before Lebron came back. So what was Lebron thinking relating to Mark Jackson? And why Mark Jackson of all coaches?
Blatt came in with the wrong attitude last season, and it bothered some players, and it may have been the reason for the slow start. And clearly, that attitude, whether it was there this season or not, still had a negative impact on the team. But the craziest thing is: It didn’t affect them on the court this season. Not one bit. That’s the case for Blatt that some people have made. And I’m about to make it now.
Cleveland’s been in 1st place in the Eastern Conference for pretty much the whole season, to no one’s surprise. Even if there’s chemistry issues, a team this talented should be producing, and they have been. That’s why firing Blatt seemed so unfair to some.
Let’s be honest: Kevin Love’s never fit in Cleveland since he got there, and I’m not surprised. I wrote a year and a half ago that this wouldn’t work; But that was when the goal of the season was to dominate the East or make it to the Finals. Now, any team who has title aspirations knows one thing: You have to beat Golden State. That’s all its about now, for anyone.
Theoretically, the only two teams (who’re contenders) that can beat Golden State are Oklahoma City and San Antonio (Take tonight’s game with a grain of salt, since San Antonio clearly doesn’t see the importance of it, resting Tim Duncan). It’s been shown twice now (this season) that Cleveland can’t beat Golden State with this lineup. So what’s the issue, and what’s the resolution?
You would think that Cleveland can handle Golden State. Their lineup is a modern one: Two guards, a small forward, a stretch four, and a true center. Golden State plays the same way. You have to play the way Golden State plays to beat them. But what the Cavaliers’ issue is doesn’t apply to a matchup problem against the Warriors. Cleveland issue is Lebron James’ and Kevin Love’s chemistry.
Lebron’s been a 3 and a 4 throughout his career. With this 2nd stint with Cleveland, its clear that Lebron wants to play the 4-spot more, but that’s Kevin Love’s spot. Love has never been a true 4 in his career. He just doesn’t have the skills to.
With the Timberwolves, Love was dominate at (defacto) power forward. He was a stretch 4, and was the leading scorer and rebounder. Minnesota didn’t have anyone else to truly go to. It worked. That’s why he was so dominate.
In Cleveland, there’s other players that need the ball in their hands (Lebron, Kyrie). Its upsetting Love, but what he doesn’t realize is that its partly his fault. Love isn’t a good enough post-up player, and is clogged with Lebron when he goes low. On defense, we know Love’s never been a rim protecter. He’s not good enough defensively.
Through the year and a half they’ve played together in Cleveland, Lebron and Kevin Love have been playing the same position. But the team hasn’t suffered from it due to the star power that exists. With the way the league is, star powers works, and can beat anyone. Except Golden State, and that’s the issue the Cavaliers are facing. Its been proven two times that the Cavs can’t beat the Warriors with Lebron and Kevin Love on the court. Lebron knows it, and he just can’t say it. This is the move that Cleveland needs to make, and had they, maybe David Blatt would still be coaching.
The Cavaliers need to offer up a package of Kevin Love and Timofey Mozgov for a wing player. Mozgov has had a rough year and Tristan Thompson can easily start at center if Mozgov is moved. Thompson spreads the Cavaliers out even more, which is a plus against a team like Golden State. If they can’t find the right guy who’s worth those two guys (I’m not sure that player is available), then individually float each player. Would the Kings do a Timofey Mozgov for Rudy Gay swap?
Love’s value is probably high around the league. The problem is that there isn’t the right guy available to swap him for. Maybe the Cavs sell him for future picks, so that they don’t have to add any more guys to the rotation and don’t add on to the cap?
All in all, Love’s a problem for Cleveland, whether its on the court or in trade talks. And somehow, some are treating this like a bombshell report.
I told people who asked what I thought about Blatt’s firing that this was the first of many changes to come to the Cavaliers. I said those changes would come soon, and they better, because Lebron, and the front office, probably isn’t gonna take it anymore. Everyone should realize the urgency.
If these moves are made, and whether they’re big-time moves or not, we should be scared. Other teams should be scared. Because Lebron is smart. He knows what’s right for this team, and while some think it’s odd that he has this power, Cavs fans should understand, and probably just be grateful for it. Understand that getting rid of Blatt wasn’t basketball-related. And even though it wasn’t, it could very well give this team some juice, with moves made or not. Cleveland fans are probably embarrassed, but just know, no one’s worse than the Browns (I love the hires they’ve made though.)
Again, this is upsetting to many around the league, understandingly so, but you’d hope they know what they’re doing, and if they do, be afraid. Be very afraid.