In the Cavaliers’ loss to the Suns yesterday, LeBron James pushed David Blatt.
To everyone sensible, LeBron was just trying to prevent his coach, who was arguing with a referee at the time, from drawing a technical foul. It’s the type of thing that happens countless times in a season, just not usually with the NBA’s highest-profile player and the embattled coach of the team facing highest external expectations.
But not everyone is sensible, and some wanted to show how this – like LeBron bumping Erik Spoelstra (which, itself, may or may not have been anything) – showed a problem between the star and coach. If you fall in that camp, LeBron and Blatt aren’t helping your narrative.
James and Blatt assured media the push looked worse than it really was. Both player and coach said James was simply saving Blatt from being called for a technical foul.
“I got called for an offensive foul, and they said I hooked one of the Morris twins on a post-up when he grabbed me,” James said after the game. “It was a referee that was away from the play [who called it]. I was talking to Eric Lewis, one of the other refs, and Coach Blatt was getting a little fired up about it, too, and he was on his way to a technical. So I just got him up out of the way before he got a T. So, just protecting my coach.”
Blatt echoed James’ explanation.
“He was trying to keep me from getting a technical foul,” Blatt said.
When a reporter suggested that usually it’s the coach holding the player back from being whistled for a tech and not the other way around, Blatt retorted: “He wasn’t arguing with the official; I was.”
This is actually a good sign for the LeBron-Blatt relationship. Blatt was working an official on LeBron’s behalf, and LeBron prevented Blatt from costing his team a point. Their partnership helped the Cavaliers get the best of both worlds.
Of course, this doesn’t mean LeBron and Blatt are cool. There are real signs of disconnect, and LeBron has a history of needing time to build a rapport with his coaches.
But if you’re using this incident as evidence of a rift between LeBron and Blatt, you’re doing it wrong.