The peculiar case of King James, the Cleveland Cavaliers and David Blatt

That was weird, huh? The Cleveland Cavaliers are the reigning Eastern Conference champs, having lost last year’s NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors. They have bounced back with a fury this season, sitting at 30-11. They have a six and a half game lead over the Chicago Bulls in their own division and a three game lead over the Toronto Raptors for the best record in the entire Eastern Conference.

And yesterday, they fired their head coach.

David Blatt ends his career in Cleveland with an 83-40 record. He made one trip to the NBA Finals and looked to be headed back there once again. It’s not too hard if you have the best player of his era leading the charge.

Blatt was an odd fit from the beginning. He had never coached in the NBA… or America for that matter. He was a highly decorated — one of the most highly decorated actually — coach in the Euroleague.  He was a four-time Israeli League Coach of the Year and was hired by the Cavs off the heels of his Euroleague Coach of the Year award.

But everyone knows that they are two completely different games. And everyone questioned how he would translate to the NBA.

The simple truth is that he didn’t.

If you have the time, you must read Adrian Wojnarowski’s piece at Yahoo! Sports to see why Blatt never stood a chance.

Every report indicated  that Blatt had lost this team some time ago. James would brush off offensive play calls, and rumors were that the team had turned to top assistant Tyronn Lue well before he signed a three-year deal yesterday for the promotion to head coach. Reports were even that Lue would call time outs when Blatt wasn’t looking.

The Cavs last two losses were against the Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs was a four point loss while the Warriors was a humiliating 34-point beatdown.

Think about it. The team that beat LeBron James in last year’s Finals AND the team that beat James the year before in the NBA Finals. One team that is led by the Tim Duncan — one of the only players who could rival James as the best player of his generation — and the other team that is led by Stephen Curry, the player many feel has surpassed King James as the best player in the NBA.

Blatt was a goner.

So while many in the nation stood surprised, I did not. You see, I had seen it before.

I was a New Jersey Nets fan growing up (side note: I no longer hitch my wagon to the Brooklyn Nets. It has nothing to do with the fact that they are terrible on the court, but I just don’t believe in what ownership and management has done to this team off the court. You have to understand, I was a Nets fan since 1982. I watched some of the worst seasons by any team in the history of the NBA. Losing means nothing to me. Treating your fanbase with some respect by trying to run an NBA team, not a fantasy squad does mean something. But I digress).

Anyway, I remember yelling at Benny Smalls how stupid the Stephon Marbury trade was for an aging Jason Kidd. It just didn’t make sense. Starbury was a metro area kid, he belonged with the Nets. Boy was I wrong.

Kidd of course would lead the Nets to the greatest era of their history. He would also be the rumored leader of the revolt that saw Byron Scott hit the road.

Scott took over an abysmal Nets team in the 2000-01 season with Starbury as the only real talent that they had (don’t get me wrong, I loved me some Aaron Williams, but when it came to NBA stardom, no one else knew who he was). He went 26-56 in his rookie debut, but then that trade happened.

The Nets would go 52-30 the following season. They would win the Eastern Conference for the first time ever and get swept by the Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal led Lakers. I remember actually thinking Jason Collins and A-Will would somehow combine to shut down Shaq. What a buffoon I was.

The following season, they would go 49-32, win the Eastern Conference Finals yet again and lose in the NBA Final to the San Antonio Spurs, winning two games this time around.

The following season, with the Nets sitting at 22-20, Scott was axed. They said he had lost the team. But rumors were he had lost Kidd. And Kidd wanted Scott’s top assistant, the kid from Indiana Lawrence Frank, calling the shots.

It looked like a brilliant move. Frank would make history by reeling off 14 straight wins to start his coaching career. A mere nobody in the annals of the NBA takes over the two-time defending Eastern Conference champs and heading into his 15th game of his career, he sat at 14-0. Nets Nation thought we were invincible.

The problem was that Frank, nor the Nets have ever reached the Eastern Conference Finals again.

Now, am I saying it was because they axed Byron Scott? Of course not. We have learned over the years that Scott isn’t the best NBA head coach, he’s not even close. What I am saying is that the Nets are a precautionary tale of what happens when the players get what the players want.

LeBron is too good a player for the Cavs to fall off the map. Lue could very easily break Frank’s record for a rookie coach and go 15-0 to start his career with the talent that is on the Cavs (and the talent lacking in the rest of the East).

Remember Mike Brown? He seemed to take the same rap that Blatt just did when Bron didn’t win, didn’t he? Just remember, when the Heat didn’t win, Erik Spoelstra was on the hot seat. The guy went to four straight NBA Finals, and always had to look over his shoulder for job security. The same happened with Blatt. And the same will happen with Lue. When King James isn’t hoisting the NBA Finals trophy, everyone above him will be questioned.

That’s just the nature of the beast.

 

 

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