January 23, 2016

Splat Goes Blatt!

I Tweeted the Cleveland Plain Dealer, but too late Friday night for them to use that header, based on Eastern time. The Saturday morning paper, describing how the Cleveland Cavaliers dumped head coach David Blatt in mid-season, was surely already in bed.

That said, hoops fans know the basics, as broken by ESPN, it appears. Cleveland, despite leading the Eastern Conference and despite injuries to several players at the start of the season, above all Kyrie Irving rehabbing from offseason knee surgery, and Iman Shumpert also starting the year on IR, decided to can second-year head coach Blatt. (Timofey Mozgov and some guy named LeBron James also were dinged at the start of the year, but were on the opening roster.)

Why?

In a word, the King wanted him out, though he'd not talked to GM David Griffiin recently, and he wanted assistant head coach Tyronn Lue in. And, as a friend reminds me, ESPN's Mark Stein called out LBJ for coach-undermining last July.

All hail the King-tyrant?
As soon as I heard the backstory, I was reminded of middle of the 1981-82 season, in Los Angeles, when Magic Johnson got Jerry Buss to can Paul Westhead for some guy named Pat Riley. Per Stein, LBJ could and should, at a minimum, "man up" and say this was exactly what he wanted. Especially since Magic in 1982 was a third-year player and not even the established leader of the Lakers yet, still often considered second dog to Kareem. And, the Riles-Magic age gap was bigger than this one, which makes one wonder how Lue will keep James under control.

If this move works half that well, the James comes off smelling like a rose. (Half that well, I mean that technically — Lue winning two NBA titles to the four Riles won in LA.)

Anything short of an NBA title, if not this year, then next year, starts raising eyebrows. And not just at LBJ. Griffin will also come in the gunsights.

And, on the "losing control" theme? Sometimes one loses control, and sometimes, one has control ripped away. Per that, and per an ESPN follow-up, LBJ was bad-mouthing Blatt to other teams, as were other players. You just don't do that. Well, you shouldn't. However, outside of places like San Antonio and Golden State, this may, more and more, be today's NBA. But, players can't be fired when they undercut coaches and it goes wrong.

Per that, Tweeters, especially those with a modicum of Photoshopping skills, were eating this up.

Owner Dan Gilbert apparently had Blatt's back to near the end, but Griffin didn't. Yes, Blatt had screwups, or potential ones, at times last year, and James saved him once or twice, but James was overriding his coach too much, I think.

That ESPN follow-up has a lot on this, too. Gilbert didn't want a "retread," but when going out in free agency after hiring Blatt, the King and his Court were upset that they wouldn't have input.

Then, James took weeks to meet Blatt, while Blatt assumed that based on his past international coaching experience, he'd get respect that didn't come his way.

At the same time, the learning curve was steeper than Blatt expected, and perhaps he shouldn't have taken so much slight at Irving calling him an "NBA virgin" with his first coaching victory.

I think he'll learn from those mistakes, though, will Blatt, and per Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, he'll land another head job. But, he's got learning on both the player management as well as game management sides, especially if he goes to another veteran team.

Adrian Wojnarowski follows up with this on Yahoo. He also notes that for all the alleged love for Lue, the King and his Court originally wanted Mark Jackson as coach, who IS, as Bob Ryan recognized, a Bible-pounding phony who also, as Ryan recognizes, isn't even a legit Bible pounder.

If everybody is in the crosshairs, per Griffin's video at the second link, I'm guessing J.R. Smith and Kevin Love are probably the first two. Indeed, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst, who broke the story, when players first heard about a team meeting, they thought it was to announce the trade of Love.

That said, the Cavs should trade love, per Cleveland bloggers, if Lue can't fit him into the lineup, with whatever tweaks he plans — if they can get a decent return for him. Of course, that begs the question of what "decent return" means, especially if one is looking for chemistry, and for leadership if he's not a second banana, and not just stats.

Next then, is Griffin's worry about keeping the King, since next year is a player option for him, which makes Griffin next under the spotlight after Smith and Love, or maybe even before. I think LeBron will stay — but for  more money.

And, of course Griffin is going to deny the King forced Blatt out. It makes it look like Griffin doesn't have a lot of GM power.

Back to the Mavs. While the firing was weird, Mark Cuban canned Avery Johnson the year after he took them to the Finals but lost two the Heat. The guy who replaced him? Rick Carlisle, who went on to beat Heat five years later.

No comments: