Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt is in motion — just like he wants his offense to be

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LAS VEGAS — David Blatt doesn’t sit much.

That’s one of the first things you notice when you watch him on the sidelines of a game — he’s in motion.

Like he wants his offense to be.

NBA rookie Blatt will coach the Cleveland Cavaliers next fall — a team now flush with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and some very interesting young talent, not to mention skyrocketing expectations — yet he remains a mystery to many. He comes with the reputation of being an offensive genius, but there is no frame of reference with him. Blatt, an American who played at Princeton, spent the last few decades overseas, becoming one of the top coaches on that continent — he just led Maccabi Tel Aviv to an upset EuroLeague title win. He is the first coach to make the leap straight to head NBA coach from there. He is unique.

How is all that going to translate to the NBA?

We are just starting to see that at Summer League. Among the things you can learn watching him courtside in Las Vegas is he’s often moving. Summer League coaches tend to be planted in their chairs more than you see during the regular season. Not Blatt. He stands and paces, usually with his hands in his jean pockets. And he’s talking. To his players, his coaches, and nobody in particular.

“Andrew roll (off that pick). Go set another one.”

“Come through. Come through.”

“Use the screen.”

“Will (Cherry), one side, run it away from Jo (Harris, the other guard on the court).”

He implores his guys to get out and run at every opportunity, even off opponent makes.

Blatt leaps into a low defensive crouch with his arms extended to urge Steven Gray to get in a better defensive position late in a tight game. He talks to his guys more about defense than offense.

And he’s often talking to the bench, trying to teach the guys sitting there (or muttering things to his assistant coaches). At one point on a play where he likes what Anthony Bennet did setting a pick, Blatt walks down the bench and explains what he likes to the other bigs sitting there.

What you learn watching him is he an old-school coach in the meaningful sense — he likes teaching the game. He likes learning about the game. Talk to him a couple times and you see he’s a student of the game.

“All coaches should learn from other coaches, because as John Wooden says ‘it’s what you learn after you know everything that counts,’” Blatt said Thursday. “So I like to listen to guys like coach (Larry) Brown and many others.”

But what does all that mean for the Cavaliers offense?

There will be some Princeton in his offense — move the ball and keep moving off the ball — but what you can expect to see is an up tempo offense that is more about reading what the defense givez and trying to exploit it.

“I kind of want to see what the rest of my team is going to look like but right now, without question, we have some really good and intelligent players,” Blatt told ProBasketballTalk. “That will allow us to be a lot more read oriented then specific play oriented.”

That said, Blatt doesn’t have the answers on exactly what the offense and Cavaliers will look like because he is still figuring it all out. That’s what the summer is for.

“I have a big job to figure out the best way for us to play and utilize the many, many possibilities that are now at our disposal,” Blatt said earlier in the week. “I said the other day our set of limitations has changed and raised exponentially. There are a lot of possibilities and factors to be considered in building a team with guys that really want to play and want to play right.”

Has he consulted LeBron yet? Not yet, but they have texted.

“Everybody keeps asking if I’ve talked to LeBron. LeBron and I are going to talk a lot. Believe me,” Blatt said.

What Blatt does understand that there is a different rhythm to coaching in the NBA compared to Europe and he needs to get used to it, which is why he took on coaching the Summer League team when most coaches leave that to an assistant (fellow rookie coach Steve Kerr did the same thing).

“You’ve probably paid attention, I’ve blown enough situations in terms of timeouts and things like that,” Blatt said of his Summer League performance. “You know that’s why I wanted to do Summer League, I’m coming from a different set of rules and in some ways a different kind of basketball and the best thing I can do is immerse myself in that and take my hits, so to speak, make mistakes and get the knowledge from the coaches I need. It’s not things that are earth shattering, just knowing the rules and knowing what does and doesn’t go. So I’m really glad I had this experience, it helped me a lot.”

Blatt is polished and smooth with the media, flashes a good sense of humor and seems to being enjoying himself. He’s likable, the kind of guy you’d want to hang out and have a beer with.

But I don’t know how long he’d sit there. Blatt is a guy with a huge job this summer to put together systems to maximize what should be one of the East’s best teams.

Plus, he’s not a guy that sits much.

Kenyon Martin: I once played high

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Former NBA commissioner David Stern said the league began testing for marijuana because players complained of other players playing high. Chauncey Billups said he knew teammates who played better high.

But Stephen Jackson is the rare former NBA player who admitted to playing high.

Now, he has company.

Kenyon Martin – who played for the Nets, Nuggets, Clippers, Knicks and Bucks in a 15-year career – via Bleacher Report:

We were playing in Indiana one day. I wasn’t feeling well. I had a hamstring, a hip or something. So, I smoked. I wasn’t going to play originally. So, we got to the arena, and I’m like, “I feel good.” I went and told the trainer, “I’m going to go today.” I went out there and had a great game.

If you want to guess which game this was, here are the possibilities.

This was part of a great feature on marijuana in the NBA and NFL. Matt Barnes, Al Harrington and Gary Paton also participate. I highly recommend (pun intended) watching it in full.

Nuggets president Tim Connelly: Next season playoffs or bust

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The Nuggets have steadily improved over the last four years – 30-52 to 33-49 to 40-42 to 46-36.

But even 46 wins weren’t enough to get Denver into the playoff this season, extending the postseason drought to five years.

Nuggets president Connelly, via Gina Mizell of The Denver Post:

On if next season is “playoffs or bust”:

“I think we’re there. How many times can you be the bridesmaid? Our young core, three of our best players are 23 (Gary Harris), 22 (Jokic) and 21 (Jamal Murray), and they’ve proven they’re capable of doing it at the highest level. I think all of us are, quite frankly, sick of this time of the year having a press conference.”

There’s certainly something to be said for injecting urgency. The Nuggets are already good enough to make the playoffs. They just happened to play in a historically deep Western Conference. But that doesn’t mean they can’t take more responsibility.

Denver lost to the Hawks (twice), Grizzlies (twice without Mikey Conley), Mavericks, Kings and Nets this season. Flip any of those games, and the Nuggets would have made the playoffs.

But I’m not sure what “or bust” means.

Connelly said Michael Malone would return as coach next season. If Denver misses the playoffs, would he get fired? Would Connelly come on the hot seat? What if the Nuggets again produce a record that typically qualifies for the postseason?

Even if Denver misses the playoffs next year, the 2019-20 team would have a 22-year-old Jamal Murray, 25-year-old Gary Harris and probably a 24-year-old Nikola Jokic under contract. That’s still a pretty good place to be.

Because of Jokic’s rapid ascent, the Nuggets are trying to accelerate the timeline. They most notably signed Paul Millsap last summer. (Injury cost him most of the season and contributed to Denver falling short.) They could also emphasize the present by re-signing Will Barton this offseason.

But playoffs or not next year, the Nuggets have a bright future. Connelly just doesn’t want them leaning on that excuse, though following through on his edict could create complications if Denver again narrowly misses the postseason with a good record.

Adam Silver: NBA could eventually reseed in conference finals

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver has three major talking points on 1-16 playoff seeding (rather than the current system of 1-8 seeding by conference):

1. He likes the idea of it.

2. He doesn’t feel bound by the tradition of an East vs. West format.

3. Travel is a big impediment. Not only would there be more playoff series between teams farther away, the regular-season schedule would have to be balanced and therefore include more games between teams currently in opposite conferences.

(An important point I think Silver doesn’t raise nearly enough publicly in regard to a balanced schedule: That’d mean more away games that start at 10 p.m. for Eastern Conference fans and more away games that start at 4 p.m. for Western Conference fans. That can’t be good for TV ratings.)

The NBA commissioner added another consideration in the debate.

Silver on ESPN:

The other thing you could potentially do is reseed at the conference finals. And that deals with if your two best teams are in the same conference. So, there are some other approaches to deal with. You want the two best teams to meet in the Finals.

A balanced schedule wouldn’t be necessary with this setup. The semifinals would either be fairer and produce a better NBA Finals or have the same matchup we’d get in the current system.

Even more importantly, this could pass.

As fun as it is to debate the optimal postseason format, there’s no way enough Eastern Conference owners (at least five, necessary to create a two-thirds majority) approve. They want to protect their eight playoff spots and guaranteed Finals spot.

But what if Eastern Conference teams were still guaranteed eight playoff spots and two semifinals spots? That be enough. The Rockets and Warriors – two Western Conference teams – are the NBA’s best this season. In coming years, it could be the 76ers and Celtics – two Eastern Conference teams. That’s far more variable than which conference is stronger throughout.

If teams in championship contention feel the very top of their conference will be weaker than the other conference, they could resist. But that still leaves contenders that don’t feel that way and non-contenders that want the additional shared revenue a better NBA Finals would generate.

That’s a plausible path to 20 yes votes and something we should take seriously.

Knicks owner James Dolan: Jeff Hornacek ‘way behind’ in dealing with modern players

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The Knicks fired Jeff Hornacek as soon as they returned to New York following their season-ending win in Cleveland.

Then, they really unloaded on the coach.

Knicks owner James Dolan, via Larry Brooks of the New York Post:

“I think Hornacek had the same kind of issue that Phil did in that he didn’t grasp how different the players are now in the way they think and deal with management and the coaches,” Dolan said. “I think he was way behind on that.

“But I think Jeff is a good coach and he’ll do well when he’s hired by another team.”

“The old-style coaching doesn’t work,” Dolan said. “A coach who tries to do everything himself isn’t going to be successful.

Knicks president Steve Mills, via Marc Berman of the New York Post:

“I think just as we observed the team, there were a lot of things that we just thought would be better at, from attention to detail to player accountability, and Jeff did a good job in some areas. In some areas he could have done a bit of a better job.

Knicks general manager Scott Perry, via Berman:

“The evaluation of Jeff for 82 games, we evaluated everything — practices to games to ability to connect with guys. I think we need to be better in that area and with adjustments. It’s something we could be better at with the expectations we have for our next coach.”

“We could have been a little bit better in situational basketball,” Perry said. “We understand the roster as much as anybody. In terms of consistency, we fell a little bit short in that area.”

This is atypical candor about a fired coach. Most teams just thank him and move on.

But I appreciate it. Don’t we all want to know more of what NBA teams are thinking internally? This is revelatory.

That said, I don’t blindly trust the Dolan/Mills/Perry triumvirate. The Knicks have misevaluated too many people for too long. This more about knowing how they viewed things than knowing this is how things are.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

According to a source, Dolan last season sent an email to Hornacek saying he was disappointed in him for not buying fully into the triangle offense. This took place sometime around the All Star break. So we know that as recently as last season Dolan, who loves to tell you he’s not involved, was actually pushing Phil Jackson’s offense down Hornacek’s throat in a not-so-subtle way.

Dolan had Phil’s back. And then on Wednesday, Dolan trashed Jackson for being out of touch. Man, life comes at you fast.

To be fair, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough also cited Hornacek’s lack of connection with his players when firing him. This will be something Hornacek must answer for if he pursues future head-coaching jobs. Hornacek feuded with Marcus Morris in Phoenix and Joakim Noah, Kyle O'Quinn and reportedly Kristaps Porzingis in New York.

Not that the Knicks set up Hornacek to succeed. They didn’t.

Now, they must find a coach who will perform better in all the areas they just criticized Hornacek for. That’ll be more difficult than criticizing him on the way out the door.