It seems David Blatt is destined to be the scapegoat for everything wrong on the Cleveland Cavaliers, and as long as LeBron James keeps drawing, grabbing and hogging in the spotlight, it’s not going to change.
Because even after a dramatic, slightly stunning 86-84 win over the Chicago Bulls, Blatt seems like a guy who interfered and almost cost his team the win.
At first, it was his almost timeout while the Cavaliers were running on empty. The refs missed that, and assistant Tyronn Lue had time to pull Blatt back and tell him he’s out. The Cavaliers and especially Blatt dodged a huge bullet there.
Then came the final play. Now, James shouldn’t have actually told reporters what happened there because it’s undermining his head coach. Maybe it’s planned. It’s hard to tell with all these mixed versions of the power hierarchy in the ball club. But he did. And despite it being a rather regular occurrence in the NBA over the years between stars and their coaches, there’s always a different reaction when it’s Blatt.
James was supposed to be the one inbounding the ball. Up until that moment, he was 9-of-29 from the field and 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. J.R. Smith was the hot hand. Blatt wanted James to inbound the ball. But James wanted to take the shot, and drew up another play while the officials were reviewing a call. You know the rest: James hits a jumper from the corner, Cavs win the game.
Blatt is American. But also Israeli. And Jewish. He’s an outsider for learning and performing his trade for so many years outside the NBA. He landed right in the head coach job. It should have been a rebuilding assignment, but turned into a lot more the moment James came back to town.
Blatt is playing without Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving at 50% (at best), J.R. Smith missing a couple of games and a superstar, his leading man, that’s not giving his best series ever, and that’s being gentle. But he’s taking a lot more fire from the national press compared to Steve Kerr with his deep, historically good Golden State Warriors who are behind on the count against the Grizzlies. No one is talking about the bad job Mike Budenholzer is doing in his Hawks-Wizards series. Kevin McHale is losing his team, but Blatt remains the focus. It’s the attachment to James that brings all the attention and fire, but it’s also because he’s an outsider.
And unless he leads the Cavaliers, or simply helps guide them, to a championship or maybe the NBA finals, he’ll be the one who takes the blame. The moment LeBron James joined the team and helped bring over Kevin Love and make other signings, including being involved somewhat with adding J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, Blatt was put in a position with very little upside. Now, even when he’s winning, he’s treated like the biggest loser around.