Report: No Cavaliers veterans liked David Blatt

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Cavaliers general manager David Griffin tried to pin David Blatt’s firing on lackluster results on the court.

That’s a tough case considering Blatt guided Cleveland’s to last year’s NBA Finals and a 30-11 start this season.

So, what was it?

LeBron James, despite his denials and public statements, has received plenty of blame for Blatt’s dismissal. But he apparently wasn’t the only Cavalier down on Blatt.

Far from it.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

This is my 14th year covering the NBA. Before I covered the NBA, I covered colleges for a while, where I covered several coaches who went on to be relatively big-time coaches.

And on every team and every coach I’ve ever covered, I’ve never seen a coach dynamic with a team like I saw with David Blatt.

And I don’t know the way he handled the Russian national team. I don’t know the way he handled his teams in Greece. I don’t know how he handled his teams in Israel, in Russia, in Italy, everywhere else he went.

All I know is what I saw, and I saw a guy who completely was unable to get even a modicum of respect from a majority of his players.

And I also saw star players and veteran players – not just LeBron, OK. We know LeBron had issues with him. But basically any player that had any sort of veteran status in the league, more than Joe Harris and Matthew Dellavedova – all the veterans didn’t like him, either. He wasn’t able to win over about anybody.

Blatt clearly had a problem with how he spoke to people. Despite being a first-time NBA coach, he insisted at pointing out his vast experience at every turn. He thought that would get him respect that wasn’t coming from NBA veterans.

That’s on him.

LeBron also could’ve done more for Blatt. Players’ follow the star’s lead, and LeBron set the tone of undercutting Blatt. Teammates noticed. (They also noticed how Blatt responded, further eroding the coach’s standing.)

Of course, LeBron wasn’t obligated to defend Blatt to his teammates. LeBron can make his own judgments. If he didn’t believe in Blatt, LeBron didn’t need to carry the coach’s water.

Blatt had to earn that respect. It wasn’t – and shouldn’t have been given – just because he held the title of head coach. Players are increasingly and correctly asserting their own worth. A coach is just part of a collective trying to win – not a supreme leader to be feared and worshipped. LeBron, one of the most accomplished players in the league, understand that more than most.

He won’t have to deal with another LeBron, but this is a good lesson for Blatt if he wants to continue coaching in the NBA. He needs to reevaluate how he builds trust with players.

All NBA teams could also learn from this. How well a coach and players get along matters only so much. The Cavaliers were incredibly successful under Blatt, who did an alright job managing the action on the court. As long as there isn’t an outright mutiny – and Blatt avoided that – players’ talent reigns supreme.

But eventually, personalities matter, and it seems the Cavs just got tired of dealing with Blatt’s.

Did Hornets GM tell Kobe Bryant on draft night, ‘We couldn’t have used you anyway,’ as Bryant claims?

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Kobe Bryant spent 16 days as a Charlotte Hornet.

Long enough to develop resentment for the Hornets.

Charlotte drafted Bryant No. 13 in 1996 to trade him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. Divac threatened to retire, but eventually relented on joining the Hornets. After the moratorium, Bryant went to Los Angeles, where he had a Hall of Fame career.

He hasn’t let go of draft night, though.

Bryant on the Knuckleheads podcast:

You get drafted, you get on the phone with the GM of the team that drafted you and all this stuff. So, I get on the phone with the Charlotte GM. He just tells me, “Hey, you know what’s going on.” Like, “Yeah. Yeah, yeah.” And you’ve got media in front of you and all that. And he goes, “Well, it’s a good thing we’re trading you, because we couldn’t have used you anyway.” You motherf. OK. OK. Alright. So, that’s what happened on draft night. So, I was already triggered. I was triggered. I was ready to go to the gym. Like f— the media. I don’t want to do any more interviews. I’m trying to – what are you telling me that for? I’m 17. What are you telling? OK. Alright.

The Hornets’ general manager was Bob Bass. He died last year, so he can’t tell his side of this story.

However, in previous tellings, Bryant said Charlotte coach Dave Cowens delivered that message. Cowens denied it.

Did Bryant forget whether he talked to the general manager or coach? Forget which position Cowens held? That’d be perfectly understandable decades later.

Or maybe both Bass and Cowens were on the call. Perhaps, Bryant initially thought Cowens said it and more recently learned it was Bass. That could explain Cowens’ denial.

But…

Stephen A. Smith of The Inquirer at the time:

On Wednesday, the Hornets took Bryant with the 13th pick of the NBA draft. Within minutes, there was talk of Bryant’s going to L.A. Dave Cowens, the Hornets’ new coach, was among those who raised the possibility, dismissing Bryant as “a kid” who would have a hard time playing for Charlotte.

That was a reasonable expectation. Bryant was just a teenager. Charlotte had veteran wings like Glen Rice and Dell Curry.

But Bryant was that special. He quickly became a contributor with the Lakers then developed into an all-time great.

In part because he fanned his competitive fire with perceived slights like this one.

Bryant is right: Who would say that to a 17-year-old? It just sounds cruel. Of course, Bryant would want to avenge being treated that way.

Here’s my guess: Someone from Charlotte – either Cowens or Bass – tried to comfort Bryant in a chaotic situation by saying the trade would work out for the best because the Hornets wouldn’t have played him much. It was supposed to be nice. Bryant took it as an insult.

But that’s just a guess. It was a private conversation many years ago. We’ll probably never know exactly what was said, let alone what was intended.

Report: Rockets signing Thabo Sefolosha

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The Rockets’ minicamp has produced a signing – Thabo Sefolosha.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This is surely for the minimum. It’s unclear how much is guaranteed.

Houston has just 10 players with guaranteed salaries, including Nene’s dud of a deal. So, there’s room for Sefolosha to make the regular-season roster.

Sefolosha should fit well in Houston. He’s a smart, versatile defender and can knock down corner 3s. James Harden and Russell Westbrook will allow Sefolosha to concentrate on his strengths in a limited role. The biggest question is how much the 35-year-old Sefolosha has left in the tank.

NBA to better define traveling rule, increase enforcement, explain rule to players, fans

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Gather and two steps.

That is how the NBA has defined the traveling rule for many years now. A player can take a step if he is in the process of “gathering” a dribble or pass, then has two steps. Players such as James Harden have stretched that to the limit, frustrating opponents and non-Rockets fans, but it’s legal.

Now the NBA is looking to better define that “gather” step, then crackdown on enforcement of the rule. With that will come an education program for everyone from players to fans. All of this was approved at the NBA’s Board of Governors’ meeting in New York on Friday.

“One of the most misunderstood rules in our game is how traveling is interpreted and appropriately called,” Byron Spruell, NBA President, League Operations, said in a statement. “Revising the language of certain areas of the rule is part of our three-pronged approach to address the uncertainty around traveling.  This approach also includes an enforcement plan to make traveling a point of emphasis for our officiating staff, along with an aggressive education plan to increase understanding of the rule by players, coaches, media and fans.”

That “aggressive education plan” should be interesting.

At the meeting, the owners also made gamblers everywhere happy by saying that starting lineups now need to be submitted by coaches 30 minutes prior to the start of the game. In past years that had been only 10 minutes (and road teams complained that was not evenly enforced between home and road teams all the time).

This is a good bit of transparency by the league, as have been some of the recent changes in requirements of announcing injuries. But make no mistake, this rule change is all about gambling.

Under new anti-tampering rules, Adam Silver empowered to suspend execs, take away picks, void contracts

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LeBron James publicly courted Anthony Davis. Many free agents seemingly struck deals before free agency even began. Kawhi Leonard‘s uncle/advisor reportedly sought prohibited extra benefits from teams.

The NBA finally reached its breaking point on tampering and circumvention.

After late apprehension, the league will enact stricter enforcement.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m not surprised this passed unanimously. NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted this to happen and wasn’t going to have owners vote unless he knew it’d pass. At that point, any protest-voting owners would just put themselves at odds with the commissioner. Not worth it.

We’ll see how long this crackdown lasts. I think that anonymous general manager represents many. If nobody is tampering, it’s fine not to tamper. But if some teams tamper, nobody wants to be at a disadvantage.

This could slowly creep back toward the old status quo. But if there’s a clear violator early, Silver will have an opportunity to send a message. We’ll see whether he takes it.

This should be less about which communication is or isn’t allowed. It’s about fairness.

That’s why it’s important the NBA has rules it will enforce and only rules it will enforce. That hasn’t been the case. If it is now, this will be a success.