LeBron and Blatt didn’t deny that.
They also didn’t see it as a big deal.
Blatt, via David McMenamin of ESPN:
“I don’t think that’s peculiar,” Blatt said after Cavs practice Wednesday. “When the game is going on and you are in the heat of the battle at times, you can’t get a message through or you don’t want to stop the flow, so a guy may [call the play on his own].
“We have sets that we know what we’re going to use going in. You know, we have a package that we’re going to use going in and at times, according to the flow of the game, somebody may call out a play. I don’t think that’s unusual.”
LeBron, via McMenamin:
“Well, we have a package,” James said. “If I see something, I have the right to call plays. Kyrie does as well. We kind of do that play calling. Coach Blatt does the play calling obviously throughout the game in timeouts, but it’s great to be able to have some type of freedom out there with Kyrie to be able to call sets that we feel best suit our team.”
This obviously a matter of degree.
If LeBron hijacks the offense more than Blatt is comfortable with, that’s a problem. If Blatt repeats the play call just so he seems on the same page as his star rather than echoing in case anyone misheard, that’s a problem.
But a key factor in NBA offense is shooting before the defense sets, and requiring a player to turn to the bench for a play call reduces the possibility of that happening. Increasingly, coaches allow players to call plays in order to push the pace.
Whoever is calling plays for the Cavaliers, it appears to be working. They rank third in points per possession, behind only the Clippers and Warriors.
To be fair, the counterfactual is difficult to analyze. Cleveland – with LeBron, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and now a strong cast of role players – is loaded with offensive talent. Perhaps, its offense would be even better with Blatt calling more plays.
However, that’s mostly irrelevant. If there’s a bigger problem here than Blatt and LeBron are admitting publicly, it’s on Blatt to fix it.
Just as when LeBron declared himself point guard earlier this season without consulting Blatt, it’s clear who runs the show. It’s the superstar, not the first-year head coach.
LeBron can – and will – continue calling as many plays as he wants. It’s on Blatt to make the best of that arrangement.
Downplaying this controversy is a good move in that direction.