Haywood: Blatt ‘couldn’t help’ team, ‘scared’ of LeBron, lost locker room

VIDEO: Ex-Cavalier Brendan Haywood gives his inside view.

Brendan Haywood played the last of his 13 NBA seasons with David Blatt, LeBron James and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers, so he knew the dynamics in the room as Blatt made his way as a rookie NBA head coach in 2014-15.

Based on that, and what he learned from Cleveland contacts he had maintained inside and outside the organization, the former center was less surprised the news that Blatt was fired Friday by the Cavaliers than by its timing.

He shared his thoughts on the Cavs’ dramatic move in an interview on Sirius XM’s NBA Today channel.

“From what I was hearing, David Blatt kind of lost the team,” Haywood told hosts Justine Termine and former NBA player Eddie Johnson. “Then there were differences about what guys should be playing and what guys weren’t playing, from a management-coaching standpoint.

“When you throw in those type of things combined with the fact that Tyronn Lue already had a lot of power in the organization, had a lot of traction, and a lot of people that were there already viewed him as the coach, these type of things happen.”

Lue, 38, the Cavs’ associate coach was promoted to Blatt’s position Friday, agreeing to a new multi-year deal. There had been reports last season that Cleveland players heeded Lue’s instructions, confided in him and leaned more on his advice than on Blatt’s.

Haywood, 36, spent most of his career with Washington, won an NBA championship with Dallas in 2011 and was with Charlotte for one season before arriving in Cleveland in July 2014 in a trade that also delivered shooter Mike Miller. He mostly served as an insurance policy, logging 119 minutes in 22 appearances, but was a witness to the team’s business from within.

“It’s unfortunate because David Blatt’s a good guy,” the 7-footer said. “He was in first place. I’ve never seen a coach in first place fired. And on top of that, they’re in first place and their second-best player [Kyrie Irving] didn’t play most of the first part of the season.”

But there were legitimate reasons for the change that Haywood specified in the satellite radio interview. Among his charges: Blatt had a double standard toward James that other Cavaliers players resented.

“Coach Blatt was very hesitant to challenge LeBron James,” Haywood said. “It was one of those situations where, being a rookie coach, and LeBron being bigger than life, it was a little too much for him. I remember we had James Jones [talk] to Coach about how, ‘Hey, you can’t just skip over when LeBron James makes a mistake in the film room.’ Because we all see it.

“And we’re like, ‘Hey, you didn’t say anything about that. You’re going to correct when Matthew Dellavedova‘s not in the right spot. You’re going to say something when Tristan Thompson‘s not in the right spot. Well, we see a fast break and LeBron didn’t get back on defense or there’s a rotation and he’s supposed to be there, and you just keep rolling the film and the whole room is quiet.’ We see that as players. That’s when … as a player, you start to lose respect for a coach.

“Slowly but surely, that respect started chipping away where he would kind of be scared to correct LeBron in film sessions. When he would call every foul for LeBron in practice. Those type of things add up. Guys are like, ‘C’mon man, are you scared of him?’ ”

Blatt did not meet with reporters Friday, instead releasing a statement through his agents. It read in part: “I’d like to thank [owner] Dan Gilbert and [general manager] David Griffin for giving me this opportunity and am honored to have worked with an amazing group of players from LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love through our entire roster.”

The flashpoints that marked Blatt’s first season in Cleveland – his attempt to call a timeout that the Cavaliers didn’t have left late in a playoff game against Chicago, drawing up a crunch-time play against the Bulls that James vetoed because it didn’t put the ball in his hands, assorted incidents of bad body language by the Cavs superstar relative to his coach – were largely missing this season.

But according to Haywood, they weren’t replaced by the positives needed from the head coach of an NBA championship contender. That’s why he considered Cleveland management’s move Friday to be fair.

“I remember last year telling somebody on the team, ‘I love David Blatt. But if we’re in a close game, he can’t help us,’ ” Haywood said on Sirius XM. “That’s not a shot at Blatt. But … David Blatt can’t come to a huddle and draw up a play that would get us a good shot. David Blatt doesn’t understand sometimes substitution patterns.

“The mistake he made against the Bulls when he didn’t have the ball in LeBron’s hands at the end of the game… There were obvious mistakes he was making, and you start to see it as a player, where ‘We’re going to have to win this on our own, because he can’t do for us what Gregg Popovich can do for the Spurs. He can’t take advantage of a mismatch the way Steve Kerr did in the NBA Finals – Steve Kerr made it so it was hard for us to play James Jones. They attacked him every time he was in the game.”

Actually, every coach in the NBA would attack James Jones with whomever he was guarding, but Haywood was on a roll.

“Blatt didn’t feel the game like that, and those mistakes can get you beat. When the goal is championship or bust and you don’t think that coach can get you to a championship or help you win a championship, then that’s what has to be done.

“I honestly think they’re a better team. I have no ill will toward David, I hope he gets another job. But as a guy who was there last year, I think Tyronn Lue will do a better job.”

16 Comments

  1. Fadj says:

    Well if you guys hate Lebron, just give a reason why that after Lebron left the cavs in 2010 (noting he got them to finals more than once) they weren’t even a contender in the playoffs. Adding, when he returned to cleveland it wasn’t a miracle they got back to the top and winning the East from the first season. Yes Blatt is a great coach, but the only reason warriors couldn’t sweep the cavs was because of Lebron James. So back off your silly comments and don’t judge a player. Admit hes great and never has been a player like him, Stephen curry time will soon fade off, as Iverson did, his speed will slow down, his shots will go off balance and he won’t be able to do the things hes doin now in 3 years time. However Lebron has been goin on for 10 years and another 5 to come.

  2. chrispenson says:

    why they didnt hire coach tom tibo or scott brooks?

  3. Alvaro says:

    Unfortunately for the CAVS there are no checks and balances in the organisation. The point is that Le Bron is “bigger than life” and has become, knowingly to CAVS management, toxic to the organisation. There is no way that he alone, however good he may be, will bring a championship to the city. This will not happen because he is more than a “franchise player”. He is the franchise. So, removing him is not possible. Keeping him is the least detrimental to the CAVS. When in Miami, Le Bron James was the spearhead of a valuable group of players. Inside that group he excelled. The CAVS lack the figure of Pat Riley, lack checks and balances. David Blatt is a victim of this situation and my only surprise is that is accepted a position of head coach in the first place, a position where he was set to fail.

  4. arnolo101 says:

    the “king”, that little snake

  5. adam says:

    well , the “comments” from lebrons muppet-“friends” , that didn’t get any minutes from blatt- because of their ability to play in high levels- are very convincing. the cavs just lost one of the best coaches in the world. lebron is the cavs problem, not their solution.

  6. bayaraa says:

    @David Blatt, Please welcome to Los Angeles Lakers. We want this. @Lakers management, Please consider David Blatt. he has very good basktetball IQ. He can develop our young guys. He can give us what we expect

  7. Kirby Record says:

    I think I’ll take remarks from a guy who was there and isn’t any longer more seriously than comments that base their entire premise on hating Lebron James. This man had very solid points for why he supported the firing. And he was also critical of James too but just presented a more rational picture. And the team itself not just James held similar views. I watch Cleveland not as a fan but out of curiosity and they don’t seem well coached to me. They win off pure talent and depth except when they play against equal talent and better coaching.

  8. Go Dubs! says:

    Blatt was trash. He was in over his head from day one. He is not a NBA coach yet. He needs a couple seasons as somebody’s number 2. Great move by the Cavs.

  9. Raptor4Life says:

    In my previous post, I tried to include a URL link to a New York Post newspaper article. That link did not appear, maybe it is against the “rules”….
    Anyway, for anyone who wants to read the piece (and the Rick Carlisle comments) you can find it at “nypost.com” on January 22nd. The title is:

    “Source: LeBron’s mutinous Cavs group got Blatt fired, Lue hired”

    The URL contains “cavs-whack-coach-david-blatt-as-lebron-gets-his-man”

    It’s a decent read, probably contains more truth than what you are likely to hear from David Griffin, LeBron James, or Tyronn Lue…. and yes. it names names.

  10. I never thought Blatt had a chance w/ the Cadavaliers, and I also thought even still he wasn’t a good fit for Lebron James and company. Might as well be Daffy Duck for all I care.

  11. Raptor4Life says:

    An interesting read, with some good comments by Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle :

    @ dasman – while nothing could make me happier, I’m not willing to hold my breath on this one. Cheers! We The North.

  12. dasman says:

    The Raptors will make sure CLE doesn’t make it to the Finals

    • Kal says:

      Clevelands got two or three long, ugly series coming up — first and especially Chicago (if they stay in 4th) then a little less ugly but just as challenging in Toronto (if they stay in 2nd) with Paul George sandwiched at the start for extra wear and tear… On the other hand, these might be exactly what the Cavs need to get their mojo back before the Finals date with one of the two deadliest teams ever… I wish I could say the prophecy will be fulfilled but I dunno… Cavs seem to be missing a major piece or some pieces… coach isn’t the worst change to make but also sort of a bandaid … as always … really it’s all on the GM … as always … excuses excuses but bottom line is they can’t find the right backup going all the way back to 2008,2009,2010… Time *is* running out, Kyrie may be a fine sidekick but Kevin Love’s been hit and miss and he’s the best of the other sidekicks, the others are even more inconsistent… Hopefully Lue knows what buttons to push…

  13. Houston Fan says:

    If that’s true Blatt deserves the boot, but honestly Blatt never showed his full coaching capabilities and that’s why it’s kind of a pity. Hope Rockets can hire Blatt and find a way to trade Harden…

  14. Fefe (Nets) says:

    This decision shows everything that is wrong about sports.
    Why fire Blatt? Sorry but if you think that it’ll change something about title contending, it won’t. Blatt has done nothing to deserve to be fired; they got smacked by the GSW. They responded with two good wins.

    And LeBron not informed by this decision??? LOL. When you hinder the work of Blatt since day 1, then push for Lue to be a head coach, then say you weren’t informed…….. lol just plain hilarious.

    It shows that the management is fragile and can’t overcome adversity; it shoes that LBJ and Co. are fragile too.

    It won’t change, Cleveland will loose to either the Spurs, the Warriors, even the Thunder, if they reach the NBA Finals. Yes, if they reach the NBA Finals.

    And “Blatt lost the team”?????? Really? LeBron hinder him since day 1…He was trapped, whatever he does, he was the culprit for all the wrong things happening. LeBron pushed his guy, and because he is the “King”, other players had to follow (otherwise, they would be punished likewise).

    It’s on LeBron