Being a head coach on a team LeBron James is playing for means that you’re not going to get any credit. Things don’t seem to change with the Cleveland Cavaliers and David Blatt, but might there be something more than just the usual chatter about a puppet coach when it comes to the Israeli, Jewish Blatt?
Brian Windhorst reports for ESPN on NBA, but mostly he’s about LeBron James. Recently, in a podcast with Bill Simmons, Windhorst shared his view on the current success the Cavaliers are having, telling the listeners who really runs the show for the hottest team in the Eastern conference.
The Princeton offense that David Blatt installed in the preseason, they just threw that out. What typically happens—and this has been happening for like three months now—is LeBron will take the ball, and LeBron will call the play. David Blatt will see what play LeBron calls, and he will repeat it to the team. That happens on a regular basis.
Blatt was hired by the Cavaliers to help bring the team to the playoffs. Then LeBron James arrived and everything changed. The expectations, the dynamics within the team, everything. Now they’re championship contenders. Now they’re the team with the most eyes and fingers pointed at them. And it didn’t really work early on.
Blatt probably knows that regardless of what happens at the end of this season, it’ll be James that’s praised. If the Cavaliers do make the NBA finals or even win the championship, James will be the one who gets praised. How can it be any different when the Cavaliers miss the playoffs during his four seasons in Miami and his return changes everything? If the Cavaliers flunk out early from the playoffs, Blatt will be blamed for not being the coach James and Irving deserve.
These stories about Blatt having zero respect in the dressing room, or having zero influence over what’s going on during the game, have been coming out all season long. James shoving Blatt in one of the games, allegedly so he can protect his coach from getting ejected, didn’t really help the whole hierarchy delivery. Not that there’s any doubt that James is more important to the franchise.
But Erik Spoelstra went through the same thing. Rumor has it that James and Wade wanted Spoelstra gone, but Pat Riley didn’t flinch and kept the young head coach on the sidelines, and from that a mini-dynasty was born. The Cavaliers have already been through the ugly patch of their season. They have their work cut out for them in the playoffs with at least one series of playing without home court advantage waiting on the path to the title. Blatt survived the initial media onslaught, and the team came out stronger for it, possibly due to the moves made in the middle of the season, bringing in Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert.
And about the Anti Semitic angle which some Deadspin commenters touched on? There’s no real proof for it. The only thing that is quite clear is that Blatt is being portrayed as a lackey who can’t really have any effect on the game, riding LeBron James’ gracious cottails. Putting a picture of him looking less than impressive next to every article helps makes that message even clearer.