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One of the most shocking firings in NBA history took place yesterday when the 30-11 Cavs axed head coach David Blatt.
As soon as the firing took place, speculation was that LeBron James forced the Israel basketball legend out of Cleveland. However, James stated that he learned about the firing at the same time as his teammates, while other reports suggested this was all of David Griffin’s decision.
Report released by ESPN and Yahoo Sports this morning went into detail of the situation in Cleveland and about how LeBron James and his camp wanted Blatt gone from day one and basically manipulated the Cavs front office to make this move. According to these reports, the situation in Cleveland was pretty awkward and uncomfortable for the past year and a half. Via ESPN:
-After James signed, he showed no interest in meeting Blatt. Weeks passed before James took a brief break from filming a movie in New York to have a face-to-face conversation with his new coach. It was clear James’ respect for Blatt was limited, and soon it also became clear that Blatt assumed respect would be coming his way.
– Shortly thereafter, James changed his role in the Cavs’ offense and began playing point guard while moving Irving off the ball. In conjunction with the move, the Cavs, naturally, started moving away from the Princeton sets Blatt had installed during the preseason. James nonchalantly told the media he didn’t consult Blatt on the changes.
“No, I can do it on my own,” James said. “I’m past those days where I have to ask.”
– From that moment forward, it was clear James gave little more than lip service to Blatt. As the days passed, James seemed to connect more and more with Lue. For years, he had admired Lue’s former boss, Rivers, and that helped them establish a connection. At times over the years, James grumbled about having not played for a former NBA player since his first season and a half, when Paul Silas coached the Cavs.
“It was like an 800-pound gorilla as the season moved on,” one person involved with the team said. “You could just see LeBron connecting to [Lue] and turning his back on David.”
– That didn’t stay a secret. James’ and other players’ complaints about Blatt’s style got out quickly. During games, Cavs players complained about the coach to opposing players. Once, while on the road, an injured Cavs player used the home team’s therapy pool and complained about Blatt, with his thoughts literally echoing throughout the home locker room.
This same report reveals that David Blatt changed a lot since he became head coach of the Cavs. In Europe he had a reputation of being an aggressive, no-tolerance-for-bs type coach, but he was that total opposite in the NBA and at times even scared of James. This caused Blatt to lose the rest of the players on the team as well.
– Those who knew Blatt from Europe, where he was known as a fire-breather with players during games, were stunned at how he had changed. When Blatt was the coach of the Russian national team, he famously once kicked two of his best players off the bench because they were talking over him in a timeout. Now, spectators watched in awe as players barked at Blatt in timeouts.
– Griffin sat in on a film session and jumped on James for not getting back on defense against the Nuggets, one of his bad habits. James accepted the criticism in stride, sources said. But this moment only inspired less faith in Blatt because it is supposed to be the coach — not the GM — holding the players accountable.
– Within days, both Williams and Smith showed up late for games, arriving less than an hour before tipoff. Blatt said it was dealt with internally. Some around the team expressed surprise that multiple players did that, and it was thought of as another example of a lack of accountability.
– It was nothing James or Irving or Love or anyone said that got Blatt fired. If it had truly been up to James, sources said, Blatt might have been fired a year earlier. As it turned out, the actions of the entire team, Blatt included, over the past 15 months brought Griffin to this conclusion.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reveals that James and his agent Rich Paul wanted Mark Jackson to sign with their agency, Klutch Sports and go onto coach this Cavs team. He also goes into detail about how much influence James had behind-the-scenes and how much of a role he played in this firing.
If this is all true, then you have to feel for David Blatt. The rookie head coach came into a lose-lose situation when he was hired by the Cavs.
– Before David Blatt ever conducted his first training camp practice in September 2014, Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James and his agent, Rich Paul, had the coach’s succession plan in place: Mark Jackson.
– To become the preferred candidate of the most powerful player in the NBA – and de facto Cavaliers general manager – Jackson understood what he needed to do: Bring on James’ and Paul’s Klutch Sports agency as his representation, and prepare to deliver those commission fees into the King’s coffers. Blatt never had a chance. He never knew what hit him.
– From the beginning, the Klutch Sports campaign to puncture Blatt’s standing as head coach had been as relentless as it was ruthless. James is one of the great leaders in pro sports, and he directed the Cavaliers how he wanted them: in complete defiance of Blatt.
– In the end, here was the problem for Klutch Sports’ original plan: Cleveland refused to hire Jackson. General manager David Griffin is too well-connected in the NBA, too knowledgeable of the truths inside Jackson’s Warriors regime to let that happen. So much of Griffin’s job has been to manage the constant demands of James’ camp and the volatility of owner Dan Gilbert. As much as anything, his job has been to bridge the chaos above and below him.
– Once James’ camp realized that Jackson would never be considered as coach – nor would Lue leave his representation to join Klutch Sports agency, despite overtures – Lue became a compromise choice for James’ group, sources said. They started pushing for Lue to replace Blatt last season, and grew louder in those calls in recent days and weeks.
– Outside of his own maximum contract, James and Klutch Sports could turn the Cavaliers into one of the loose slot machines across the street in Gilbert’s casinos. It worked with client Tristan Thompson, whom they leveraged into a five-year, $82 million contract. Rival agents find themselves spending more time with clients who end up with the Cavaliers, if only because Rich Paul and his associates work to pilfer players for Klutch Sports, promising the power of James’ influence in contract talks with the team.
NBA coaches and executives across the league sound pretty disgusted by the way the Cavs dealt with Blatt. With a 30-11 record which is good for first place in the Eastern Conference and an 83-40 record since his arrival in Cleveland, many feel that Blatt shouldn’t have even be in the conversation of being fired.