VIDEO: Cavaliers fire David Blatt midway through second season
Cleveland head coach David Blatt – midway through his second season, seven months since taking the Cavaliers to the Finals and weeks away from likely coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars – has been fired.
And LeBron James is going to have to answer for it.
That’s just the nature of James’ superstar status and clout within the Cleveland franchise. There’s a hierarchy in the organization that includes owner Dan Gilbert and general manager David Griffin, who will be front and center in explaining the decision to dump Blatt at this point in another winning season. James and fellow Cavs stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will field the questions, too.
But in the long term, James will be the one most charged with demonstrating whether this was the right move at the right time.
The news of Blatt’s termination was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.
Blatt, 56, exits with an 83-40 record and a 14-6 mark in last spring’s playoffs. Even with the Cavaliers’ elimination in six games from the 2015 Finals, the injury absences of both Love and Irving (after Game 1) made it unrealistic to expect Blatt, James or anyone else to beat the Golden State Warriors.
Blatt had been successful enough in Israel and Europe to become the first international coach hired directly as an NBA head coach. But he was hired before James made his free-agent decision in July 2014 to return to Cleveland after four seasons in Miami. Blatt, ostensibly, had been hired to build a team around promising young players such as Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson and others.
It also opened the door to speculation that Blatt never was the coach that James wanted, or trusted in his quest to bring an NBA championship to the market near and dear to the Akron (Ohio) native.
Tyronn Lue, the Cavs’ associate head coach, reportedly will take over immediately and be on the sidelines for Cleveland’s next game, a clash with the Chicago Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET on ABC).
Blatt had been named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for October/November after guiding the Cavs to a 13-4 start. Cleveland recently had gone 5-1 on a 12-day road trip, pushing its record to 28-10.
But a home blowout loss to Golden State Monday, 132-98, revealed a startling lack of preparation and focus by the Cavs. It exposed further difficulties in blending Love’s complete game with James’ and Irving’s talents. And it had James afterward saying, “We do understand we’ve got to get better. … We’ve got a long way to go.”
There was, naturally, no early confirmation of how much input James or any other players had in the decision. However, there certainly was speculation: