The Cavaliers Should Fire David Blatt And Make LeBron James Their Player-Coach
The Cavaliers are LeBron James' team. Hell, the NBA is LeBron's league, but only the Cavaliers are under his direct influence, while the other franchises merely orbit him, as we saw during this summer's free agency period. He brings other players into the fold (Mike Miller, Shawn Marion) and sends others away (Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, in exchange for Kevin Love). He decides how the team should function, what kind of schemes they should run, and even has thoughts on how many minutes the guys should play.
Meanwhile, David Blatt is technically the team's first year coach. Unfortunately, despite the fact that he seems like a good guy and an even better basketball mind, he is not LeBron. Few coaches in today's game could usurp LeBron in terms of influence within the Cleveland organization -- Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers? -- and David Blatt is not one of them.
Based on what we've seen through the Cavs' first 10 games (in which they went 5-5), Blatt's involvement is superfluous. The organization should fire Blatt and install LeBron James as a player-coach -- or assign a puppet assistant to play the role of "head coach" and let LeBron unofficially assume the role he appears poised to play for the rest of his career.
The open secret of the NBA is that LeBron has been in charge of things in Cleveland since he wrote that "Coming Home" piece -- he likely orchestrated the Kevin Love trade himself, for example -- and has assumed the role of team leader. If he hasn't positioned himself above Blatt, he is certainly something separate, on a different plane. Since the season started, LeBron has:
*Called a players-only meeting just before the team's first practice, where he told each player what he expected from him personally.
*Made a conscious decision not to involve himself on the offensive or defensive end, forcing the Cavaliers to play stagnant basketball until they agreed with "his way of thinking."
*Took the air out of Blatt's tires by saying he didn't believe in "pep talks."
*Said that the young guys on the team were like his "kids" and that he'd taken on the "burden of leading" them.
*Called for a reduction in his, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love's minutes.
But LeBron's wish to assume coaching duties was never more apparent than last night, when he commandeered a number of timeouts to discuss the game plan, relegating Blatt to bystander status:
This supercut coincides perfectly with an article from NBA news guru Adrian Wojnarowski called "David Blatt's key to success: Learn to coach LeBron James." One passage seemed particularly telling (emphasis ours):
As much as anything, Blatt has to learn to coach LeBron James. They had moments together on Wednesday night, talking as co-coaches on the bench, taking the time to address breakdowns and missed opportunities with Cavaliers players. If James wants this to be a partnership, it'll be one. If not, it'll make success impossible for Blatt. Together, they have to incorporate Love into the offense. Together, they have to find a defensive tenacity that'll sustain them in the postseason.
As always, it comes back to LeBron. It doesn't matter how successful the Cavaliers are as a team, or how well Blatt manages the roster, or how beautifully Blatt's plays are run coming out of a timeout. This team will live and die by LeBron. And if LeBron wants a change -- whether that's to the coaching staff or the roster -- he'll get one, because the Cavaliers are terrified at the prospect of losing him again.
Is this a healthy situation for the team? Probably not. No organization should be beholden to just one player (or, as Kanye put it, no one man should have all that power), no matter how good that player is. But LeBron has the entire league by the balls, and it won't be until we see a true dimishing of his skills that the situation will change.
I don't actually see the Cavaliers axing Blatt in favor of LeBron just yet, especially since NBA by-laws wouldn't allow it. But LeBron's basketball IQ is clearly through the roof, and he has support from an all-time great coach already:
One of the greatest coaches of all time (Popovich) talking about one of the greatest players of all time (LeBron) pic.twitter.com/dXJIqlie3B
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) November 19, 2014
Whether the players would respond well to a ostensible peer taking over coaching duties remains to be seen, but the Cavaliers should do away with the farce that is Blatt coaching the team -- or making the decisions or even taking the blame when the team loses -- and let him go somewhere that doesn't involve getting shunted out of the huddle like the runt of the litter. Then, LeBron can have officially what he already has unofficially: complete control.
Photo via Getty
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