Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) stands on the court in front of head coach David Blatt during the first half of Game 2 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
LeBron James may have left the Heat last summer, but he apparently transferred some of the flame to current Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt. The first-year coach has been behind the gun for much of the season, but recent reports suggest trouble could be brewing in Ohio after the Cavaliers’ most successful campaign in team history. A report riff between James and Blatt has been made public since Cleveland was upended by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in six games, with the Warriors closing the series 4-2 on Cleveland’s home court. Reports have been firing at a rapid pace and the consensus among media circles is that the tie between Blatt and the Cavs could be a rather short one.
Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt holds a ball during the second half of Game 5 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Cleveland, however, would be wise to be patient with the rookie coach after the former international guru made a successful transition to the NBA. While James will (and should) get most of the credit for Cleveland’s turnaround, Blatt’s job with handling the megastar as well as a cast of shuffled faces should also be applauded. James was the Cavs’ last-guy-standing from the playoffs opening night lineup as the starting five had been almost completely eradicated by the end of Game One of the Finals. Starters Anderson Varejao, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving had been shelved by injury, while opening night shooting guard Dion Waiters had been moved to Oklahoma City. Love went down in round one of the playoffs while Irving was hobbled in round two. By the time the conference semifinals began against Atlanta, it was only a matter of time before Irving went down for good for the duration of the playoffs. However, it wasn’t just James’ steadying influence that lifted up the Cavs but Blatt’s as well. His defensive mindset turned Cleveland into a top notch lockdown unit in the postseason while he leaned on James’ experience.
The Cavaliers are in excellent position provided they re-sign the core of their free agents, James included. Love, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Timofey Mosgov and Iman Shumpert all are expected to be free agents at some point during this summer, but the Cavs are in the lead position to potentially re-sign them and put up a challenge for next season’s trophy. It would be a setback for Cleveland to return the same group of players but have to get started over with working in a new coach. While Blatt may be the focus of the team’s criticism right now, any coach guiding James and a championship stocked roster would. Barring injury, returning Blatt and the core of the team would put a stranglehold on the odds of not just returning to the Finals, but also winning a title in favor of the Cavaliers.
Blatt was hired before James even made his announcement to return, so his hiring was never signed off by James. LeBron could easily voice his opinion to have Blatt removed and it would likely be done. But, James reportedly had gripes with Miami coach Eric Spoelstra in the early stages of their relationship, but the two worked it out to the tune of two NBA titles and four Finals appearances. The relationship with the man that James now affectionately refers to as “Coach Spo” didn’t start off well and James could be ready to relive that same situation. As long as James doesn’t start calling Blatt “Coach Bla” then the Cavaliers should encourage Blatt’s return, as continuity and familiarity would be the two aspects that Cleveland needs to focus on if it wants to win a title next season.