An Unnecessary Risk: The Cavs Messed Up By Hiring David Blatt
By Jack Marcheschi
Imagine you’re going out to dinner with a group of friends. You guys go out to a burger joint and your friends can’t wait to get their hands on a plump, grilled patty topped with all the traditional fixings that made the American hamburger what it is today. They know what they’re going to get, and they’re going to be satisfied. Predictable…in a good way.
There are a ton of different types of burgers you can choose from. There’s the tangy black and blue, the stout bacon cheeseburger and the American Classic that is a simple cheeseburger. No flash, but all of the different options bring their own pros and cons to the table. All remain viable, satisfying options.
Then something new on the menu catches your eye. It’s a new type of burger and it happens to be all the rage in Europe right now. It’s lean, made out of some exotic meat you’re not familiar with. The burger’s accoutrements drive your taste buds wild. You haven’t heard of half of the ingredients used to make this burger.
You don’t care, though. You’ve made up your mind that you want to impress your buddies.
You want to show them how cultured you are, how you think outside the box. How you are a true visionary, and how they should be following in your brave, radical footsteps.
After waiting, it arrives. Finally, the moment where you get to show off your genius, so you take a bite way bigger than you can chew. The concoction of foreign meat and veggies hits your taste buds, and you realized you have made a mistake. This burger, which you thought had all the potential in the world to be great is, well, average…at best.
You’ve made a mistake, but you can’t back out. You are locked in. You have to act like you made a decision you love, like your appetite has been satiated. So, you eat the whole thing with a crooked smile on your face and grimace as the last bite works its way down your throat, into your upset stomach.
You now recognize that you shouldn’t get swept up in all of the flash of something that seems too good to be true. A valuable lesson.
I bet you can all see where I’m going with this, right?
This situation I laid out for you is extremely similar to the one Dan Gilbert and the 2014-2015 Cleveland Cavaliers have on their hands after making the worst coaching hire in NBA history: David Blatt. They took an unnecessary risk and passed on many proven, viable NBA coaches. They chose to hire Blatt, the former coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv BC, a Russian pro team. He had zero NBA experience prior to the Cavs job.
I’m not condemning Blatt, he might not be a bad coach forever. I’m just saying that with this Cavs roster, with this win-now mentality, the hire made no sense. George Karl was out there, and George Karl was willing. And that’s just one example.
The Cavaliers franchise has three outstanding talents to build their team around: Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and Kevin Love. Between them, they have fifteen NBA All-Star appearances (10 for James, three for Love and two for Irving.)
Love and Irving are considered two building blocks for the foundation of the future of the NBA. Isiah Thomas and Moses Malone are names you hear when comparing Irving and Love to past players, respectively. Kyrie might have the best handles in the game and he makes three to four plays every night that end with you picking your jaw up off of the floor. He is unanimously considered a premier talent at the point guard position and will be for years to come.
Now, Love is a rebounding machine. The lowest amount of boards per-game he has hauled down is 9.1, way back in his rookie year. Since then he has added scoring to his arsenal, too. His game has expanded into a smooth inside-out, pick-and-pop style that someone who is 6’11″, 260 lbs simply should not be able to do.
Their games can be matched by few. Not to mention LeBron James, who in his own right, is easily considered a top-twenty player in NBA history and will without a doubt considered a top five player when he hangs up his sneakers for good. There’s really nothing I can say about him that you don’t already know.
Now add in a cast of role players that include Timofey Mosgov, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Sean Marion and Mike Miller. You’d think this team would be atop the Eastern Conference, vying for a shot at being the NBA’s best team, right? Well, you’re wrong.
In the significantly down Eastern Conference of the NBA, the Cavs have mustered a 21-20 record. That’s good for third place in their own division and the sixth seed for the playoffs this year. Don’t let that record fool you, though.
The Cavaliers aren’t even good enough to have the record they do know from a team stand point. The games that they have won have been based off of the fact that they are simply more talented than the teams they are facing. James, Irving and Love are willing their team to victory through their play. And that can’t last.
During a game, Kyrie, LeBron and Kevin look worn out. They look confused. And, often, they seem like they are indifferent about their current situation. The reason for this is that the team simply cannot get behind its head coach, the one man who is supposed to get his team ready—whether it be mentally or physically—for every game, every night. He is supposed to lead them on to the court every game with a specific plan of attack to try to defeat the opponent.
Blatt just doesn’t do that. If you watch an NBA game with one of the premier teams playing, you will see an elite coach (Doc Rivers, Thom Thibodeau, Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, etc.) on the sideline, yelling enthusiastically at their players to run certain plays, to get back on defense and to just give it their all. These coaches are unflappable as well. They don’t let the pressure get to them. They remain calm, cool and collected. Even as time winds down, these coaches stick with their game plan and believe in their players.
If you watch a Cavs game, you will see David Blatt on the sideline, often with his hands on his hips and a confused look on his face.The players on the bench will have their heads down. Blatt often looks very timid, like he’s not the leader.
That’s why LeBron James has been more of a coach than he ever has this year. During timeouts, there have been instances where David Blatt is to the side of the team while the players stand in a circle around LeBron James as he draws up plays. If that tells you anything, it’s that Blatt does not have control of this team, even half-way through the NBA’s regular season.
Even last Thursday, LeBron was caught on camera pushing Blatt out of the way while he was talking to an official, as if LeBron were the coach protecting one of his players, and not the other way around. If Blatt doesn’t change his philosophy soon his team could go down as one of the worst teams in NBA history, not in terms of record, but in terms of underachievement.
Now that the Cavs have made some moves in the past couple of weeks, this is Blatt’s chance to right the ship. They’ve traded Dion Waiters, who is literally a walking antonym of the word “efficiency.” J.R. Smith (basically another Waiters) and a young, elite, perimeter defender in Iman Shumpert have arrived.
Furthermore, they traded two first round draft picks for former Denver Nugget and Russian National Team rim protector, Tomofey Mozgov. Hopefully these players will revamp the Cavaliers’ season and give them a shot at a title, before it’s too late.
The Cavs got “too cute,” to use some sports terminology, with the hire of Blatt. They could’ve chosen a proven NBA coach who has experience with superstars (George Karl, Lionel Hollins, Marc Jackson), but they went with the obscure. The season definitely isn’t over, and Blatt still has a chance, but right now the Cavaliers are just confusing.