With the additions of LeBron James and Kevin Love, the Cleveland Cavaliers have the most talent going into the 2013-14 season, but they also have some big question marks. Chief among them is the learning curve for new head coach David Blatt, who has never coached in the NBA before as a head coach or an assistant.
In addition to learning the NBA game, Blatt has to work to win the trust of the greatest player in the world. It’s no easy task — James is coming off four years in Miami playing under Erik Spoelstra, who has become one of the most respected coaches in the NBA. That’s a tough act to follow for anybody, let alone someone whose only experience is coaching in international play. But according to a report from CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger, Blatt has nothing to worry about:
At the end of the evening practice, Blatt blew his whistle and told the players to clear the court and get off their feet; it was a long day, with many more ahead in this team’s drive for the city of Cleveland’s first major pro sports championship in 50 years. (The NFL’s Browns are the city’s most recent title celebrants, in 1964.)
The coaching staff retreated to their evening meeting, which lasted 30 minutes or so. When they emerged, what they saw was heartening, if not particularly surprising: There was James on the practice floor with four teammates, marching them through the intricacies of Blatt’s offensive system from the perspective of each position, one through five. James had already mastered them all.
James’ legendary photographic memory is well-documented. That’s not the story here. What’s important is that not only has James already internalized his new coach’s playbook, but he’s already completely bought-in to the point that he’s teaching it to his teammates when the Cavs are supposed to be done practicing.
In the Sports Illustrated essay announcing his return to Cleveland, James stressed the importance of taking on a mentorship role with younger players like Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson. That’s not just helping them get better on the floor, it’s doing things like showing them that he, the best player of his generation, is already invested in his new coach’s offense, and so should they.