LeBron James explains pushing David Blatt: ‘Just protecting my coach’

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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.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

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.