The power dynamic in the NBA is clear — star players have far more leverage than coaches. And part of the reason LeBron James took his star back to Cleveland was to be able to leverage that power in a way he never could in Miami.
That’s not to say LeBron was directly behind Cavaliers coach David Blatt being fired and Tyronn Lue being hired Friday; however, it wouldn’t have happened if LeBron wasn’t good with the move.
Part of Blatt’s problem was that power dynamic — he feared LeBron, according to Brendan Haywood, the journeyman NBA big man who was a member of the Cavaliers last season. Here is what Haywood said to Justine Termine and Eddie Johnson on Sirius XM’s NBA channel (as transcribed by Steve Aschburner at NBA.com).
“Coach Blatt was very hesitant to challenge LeBron James,” Haywood said. “It was one of those situations where, being a rookie coach, and LeBron being bigger than life, it was a little too much for him. I remember we had James Jones [talk] to Coach about how, ‘Hey, you can’t just skip over when LeBron James makes a mistake in the film room.’ Because we all see it.
“And we’re like, ‘Hey, you didn’t say anything about that. You’re going to correct when Matthew Dellavedova‘s not in the right spot. You’re going to say something when Tristan Thompson‘s not in the right spot. Well, we see a fast break and LeBron didn’t get back on defense or there’s a rotation and he’s supposed to be there, and you just keep rolling the film and the whole room is quiet.’ We see that as players. That’s when … as a player, you start to lose respect for a coach.
“Slowly but surely, that respect started chipping away where he would kind of be scared to correct LeBron in film sessions. When he would call every foul for LeBron in practice. Those type of things add up. Guys are like, ‘C’mon man, are you scared of him?’”
With that, Blatt lost the team, according to Haywood.
Add to that the players — starting with LeBron and running through the entire roster — love Tyronn Lue, the new head coach. He was the guy that players went to with concerns, not Blatt. This move is going to be popular in the locker room; something Haywood alludes to.
The question is not do the players like it, but rather can Lue not only draw up better schemes to involve Kevin Love or put other players in positions to succeed, but can he get LeBron and the other players to buy into those schemes? And for a win-now team, how fast can he do it? (Because you don’t fire a coach of a 30-11 team mid-season unless you’re thinking about a guy who can win right now.)
We’ll start to get that answer Saturday night when the Bulls take on the Cavaliers.