Why might Cleveland’s front office think that?
It isn’t just the casinos that are agape at how this is playing out — the Cavs were 4-15 in their past 19 games against the spread coming in to Tuesday — so are league scouts, executives and rival players.
They see players appearing to run different plays than the bench calls, see assistant coach Tyronne Lue calling timeouts literally behind Blatt’s back during games, and hear Cavs players openly talking about coaching issues with opposing players and personnel. Not once, not twice, but frequently over the past several months.
I have limited reason to be concerned with those first two issues. Head coaches, to varying degrees, allow their players freedom to break set plays and their assistants freedom to call timeouts. Just because those things happen in Cleveland doesn’t mean Blatt is being undermined. (Lue’s presence is tricky, though. He interviewed for the head-coaching job, even earning a meeting with owner Dan Gilbert. Then, once Blatt got the job, Cleveland made Lue the highest-paid assistant in NBA history.)
However, if players are so upset with Blatt’s coaching that they’re bringing it up in conversation with people all over the league, that’s a problem.
Players know it’s uncouth to discuss coaching problems widely, which is why they usually don’t. But the Cavaliers players apparently take such intense issue with Blatt, they break that protocol.
LeBron James has given Blatt only tepid support, and his talk with Dwyane Wade about reuniting sparked all kinds of rumors, even though LeBron said it wasn’t about basketball. Kevin Love has listened to Blatt question his contract. At least Kyrie Irving and Blatt haven’t had a public issue.
But with those three, expectations remain high.
Ultimately, it will matter very little if Blatt doesn’t start coaching better. He needs to coach well enough to get his players to stop badmouthing him, which will be difficult as long as they don’t trust him enough to keep issues in-house. It’s a catch-22 with Blatt’s future on the line.