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.