Playoff tensions lead to question: Will David Blatt coach Cavaliers next season?

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LeBron James was not asked about it directly, he volunteered the information that he overruled Coach David Blatt to get his game-winning shot on Sunday.

To be honest, the play that was drawn up, I scratched it. I just told coach ‘Give me the ball.’ We’re either going to go to overtime or I’m going to win it for us. It was that simple… I was supposed to take the ball out. I told coach there’s no way I’m taking the ball out unless I could shoot it over the backboard and go in. So, I told him to have somebody else take the ball out and get out of the way,” LeBron said. 

That’s not the first time these playoffs LeBron has publicly thrown his coach under the bus. After the Cavaliers’ Game 1 loss to the Bulls, LeBron said Chicago was “exploiting us with our coverage” and that was a key reason for the downfall.

All of that follows a season of what ESPN’s Brian Windhorst cleverly called “a giant game of passive-aggressive theater” between the coach and his star player. Blatt came in wanting to install a motion-based offense and eventually had to scrap it and go with something more conventional in part because there was no buy-in from LeBron. That dynamic has been there all season long.

Throw in that LeBron is the most powerful person in the Cavaliers organization, and you have to wonder:

Will David Blatt be back to coach the Cavaliers next season?

Right now it doesn’t feel like it.

Blatt was hired before owner Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers realized LeBron was serious about returning to his home after four years in Miami. Blatt was seen as an offensive genius who could spend years developing a young team — one that would have top pick Andrew Wiggins — and get them to buy into and grow into what he wanted to do.

Then LeBron instantly changed everything about the Cavaliers’ season. Especially the expectations.

Blatt — who had won big in Europe and had plenty of sideline experience — had to learn the NBA way while in a fishbowl. He’s still learning some of the basics, as evidenced by his attempt to call a timeout late in Game 4 Sunday when the Cavaliers were out of them. If the officials had seen Blatt before Tyronn Lue had grabbed him, LeBron might have never had the chance at his game winner.

Blatt and LeBron — and the rest of the Cavaliers’ players — have had an up-and-down relationship over the course of the season. At times, LeBron has praised his coach, other times the tension has been evident. LeBron has been the one calling plays at times — although if you have the best player on the planet, a high IQ player, you should let him call plays. Ttheir relationship started out slowly and with the way LeBron has acted during the playoffs, you have to wonder how far it’s come. That said, Blatt has grown more comfortable with the NBA game as the season has gone on, and he’s made moves — such as adjusting the Cavaliers’ defensive systems after the trades to bring in Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert mid-season — that helped fuel the Cavaliers’ second half run.

How well the Cavaliers do the rest of these playoffs will play into what happens to Blatt — can you really let a coach go of a team that makes the Finals?

But the biggest say will be LeBron’s.

Based on what LeBron has said during the playoffs, Blatt could be one and done as an NBA guy. If a change is made, it will not be framed by the organization as LeBron’s call, they will shield him. Then a guy with more of an NBA background the players trust — maybe lead assistant Lue? He’s popular with the players — could step into the big chair next season.

This summer in Cleveland will be very interesting.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

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Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.

Watch Russell Westbrook drain two buzzer-beaters against Blazers

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The Portland Trail Blazers had to know it was not their night when Russell Westbrook knocked down a buzzer-beating step-back 3-pointer just before the half.

Westbrook wasn’t done, he had one more buzzer-beater in him at the end of the third.

Westbrook wasn’t the only guy in the building draining half-courters — for the second-straight game a Laker fan knocked down a half-court shot, this time to win $25,000.

It was a good night all around for the Lakers and their fans at home against the shorthanded Trail Blazers. They got 31 points from LeBron James, plus 27 points and 12 boards from Anthony Davis. Austin Reaves added in 22, and the Lakers took control in the third and cruised in for a needed win.

NBA plans for 2023-24 include in-season tournament (if approved)

2022 NBA Finals - NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Press Conference
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The NBA is planning for the inaugural version of its in-season tournament – should it become reality – to begin early next season, according to a memo sent to teams.

If the tournament is approved, 80 regular-season games for each team would be announced in August, with two more games set to be scheduled depending on which eight teams make the tournament’s knockout stage. Those games would be added in-season to the schedule.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has pushed for the past several years for the in-season event to be added. Talks have gone on about it since at least 2016, and in 2019 the league even created a proposal in which teams would play eight divisional games in the group stage, followed by quarterfinals for the top eight clubs and then semifinals and finals at a neutral site in December.

That evidently remains the footprint. Teams, in Wednesday’s memo, were told to plan for tournament quarterfinal games in early December 2023 – again, the caveat being that the event has yet to be approved.

“It’s something that I remain excited about,” Silver said in September. “I think it continues to be an opportunity within the current footprint of our season to create some more meaningful games, games of consequence, during an otherwise long regular season. … I think fans might really ultimately enjoy another competition during the season, some sort of cup competition. Certainly not rising to the level of the Larry O’Brien Trophy, yet something else significant to play for.”

Silver has often compared the notion of an in-season tournament to what is commonly seen in European soccer.

“It’s all about fan interest,” Denver coach Michael Malone said Wednesday night. “I know they do this a lot in soccer around the world, these in-season tournaments. I don’t know how it’s going to work, the details of it. But if it’s good for the game and the league supports it, obviously all 30 teams and all 30 head coaches will be on board as well. ”

The scheduling process for next season starts with teams telling the league what dates their home arena is available. The NBA wants that list by Dec. 9; the process continues for the next several months.

Wednesday’s memo included clarity on several key dates for the 2023-24 season. Training camps will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 3 for most teams, except those participating in overseas preseason games; they can open camp on Saturday, Sept. 30.

The season begins Oct. 24 and ends April 14, 2024. The play-in tournament will be April 16-19, 2024, and that means that season’s playoffs would begin on April 20.