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.

Luka Doncic with 42-point triple-double, sticks dagger in Spurs for Mavericks win

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Luka Doncic is having a “we’ve got to talk about this guy as a possible MVP” kind of season so far.

The latest addition to the resume: A 42 point, 11 rebounds, 12 assist triple-double to lead the Mavericks past the Spurs. That includes sticking the dagger in the Spurs late.

Dallas won 117-110 and improves to 8-5 on the season.

The 42 points is a career-high for Doncic, and he is the first player in Dallas history to record a 40-point triple-double. This is Doncic’s sixth triple-double of the season.

And he’s still just 20 years old.

Here’s the full list of NBA players who have had 40-point triple-doubles at the age of 20 or younger:

LeBron James
Luka Doncic

That’s it — and that’s some impressive company for Doncic.

Kings’ Buddy Hield fined $25,000 for kicking ball into stands in celebration

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This was a $25,000 celebration by Buddy Hield.

Sacramento led by one in the final seconds against Boston Sunday, but the Celtics had a final shot and Marcus Smart‘s attempt at a game-winning floater hung on the rim seemingly forever… then fell off. The ball was tipped out to mid-court and — as you can see in this video — Heild kicks the ball into the stands as part of the celebration.

Kicking or throwing the ball into the stands is a standing $25,000 fine, and the league came down with that on Hield on Monday. It was not a surprise.

Hield was the reason Sacramento won the game, scoring 35 points to lead the Kings, including going 7-of-12 from three. He’d likely make that trade for the win again.

Kawhi Leonard out vs. Thunder Monday night, third straight game due to knee bruise

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This isn’t load management. This is a bruised knee.

The first Clipper game with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George sharing the court will have to wait as Leonard is going to miss his third straight game with a knee contusion Monday night against the Thunder. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN broke the news.

The Clippers are going to be cautious with bringing Leonard back from this, thinking long term with his health, as they should. Los Angeles is playing for games in May and June, not games in November.

This means tonight the Clippers will be the Paul George show again — in two games he has scored 70 points in 44 minutes. This will be George’s first game against the Thunder since he demanded a trade out of the city last summer, landing him on the Clippers with Leonard.

Kevin Love tries to ignore trade rumors, ‘let the chips fall where they may’

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Cleveland Cavaliers GM said he has no interest in trading Kevin Love.

You can count the number of people around the league who believe him on one hand. There’s a good chance Love is still on the Cavaliers at the end of this season, but that’s more about him being in the first year of a four-year, $120 million contract extension than it is Cleveland’s willingness to trade him (or interest from other teams, if money was not an issue). The Cavaliers are rebuilding, and if they can get young players and picks for Love, they have to consider it.

With Portland off to a slow start, and Love growing up in the Pacific Northwest, that rumor has floated around. There are others. Love is just trying to ignore them and play ball, he told Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times.

“I know there’s talk about me possibly being the missing piece somewhere,” Love said. “There’s been constant chatter since I signed that I could be traded. It’s one of those things where I’m going to keep doing right by the team, by Cleveland and by the organization. If my number is called, so be it, but I’m going to stay true to my commitment and let the chips fall where they may.”

Love, who has been open in recent years about his struggles with anxiety and mental health, said dealing with the trade rumors that constantly swirl around him can be a challenge on that front.

“A big aspect of mental health is just staying in the present but it’s so hard,” he said. “You have to try to not get too far ahead of yourself or get worked up. You can get that anxious feeling or fear for the future, but you have to try to stay focused on getting better and let things work out the way they should.”

Kevin Love has played well to start the season, averaging 18.3 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, shooting a respectable 34.7 percent from three. He could help a lot of teams, particularly ones in the West who want to be in the mix for a ring but who look at the Lakers and Clippers and think, “we have to get better fast.”

The rumors around Love are just going to get louder the closer and closer we get to the trade deadline. Love will have to do a lot of work to tune all that out.