The firing of Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt was probably the most shocking news of the NBA regular season to date. Blatt was only in his second year with the team and he was only two games away from winning an NBA Championship without two of his three best players in his rookie year campaign.
However, the news that the Cavaliers decided to hire their top assistant coach, Tyronn Lue, to a multi-year deal, rather than search for another coach was just as eye opening as the Blatt firing.
Cleveland general manager David Griffin was quoted saying the following in a ESPN article written by Dave McMenamin: "What I see is that we need to build a collective spirit, a strength of spirit, a collective will," Griffin said. "Elite teams always have that, and you see it everywhere. To be truly elite, we have to buy into a set of values and principles that we believe in. That becomes our identity. I have never seen a locker room not be as connected after wins as they need to be. We've only been galvanized when expectations were not high.”
Griffin’s opinion is not surprising. The team chemistry is split right down the middle. Frankly the team is very cliquey.
For example: Why does LeBron James always post pictures on Instagram with the same set of teammates? Why does Kevin Love never seem to fit in? Why is the team morale not where it should be at this point in the season?
All of these questions should be aimed at the leader of the squad, LeBron James. The four-time MVP has repeatedly said that he is the old head of the franchise that wants to lead his team by example. However, there seems to be a lot of turmoil that even he does not even seem to have control over.
James has said multiple times that he found out about Blatt’s release on Friday just like everyone else. Is this really believable, though? Is the average fan supposed to buy that Griffin went behind James’ back and fired the head coach? There is no way that would ever happen. James’ paycheck may say player, but he is also the unspoken recruiter, general manager, owner and agent of the Cleveland Cavaliers. There is no way he did not know.
So, if James did know, why Lue? Why not wait for a better coaching candidate with more experience? It is very peculiar that they would sign Lue to a long-term deal if James was not on board. I think it is an accurate statement that if LeBron wants you gone, you are gone.
All that can be said at this point is that hopefully LeBron made the right decision. He has made bad decisions, pun intended, in the past. Lue may have been the highest paid assistant coach in the league, but does that mean he is ready to coach the world’s best player? The best thing going for Lue is the fact that he has a great relationship with the players, something Blatt never seemed to have. Lue also has played under great coaches including, Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers and Stan Van Gundy.
Bottom line, Blatt was fired despite having the best record in the Eastern Conference, something that is unheard of in sports. He was perhaps in over his head due to the fact that he has never coached in the NBA, so he never earned the respect of the players. My only question is whether or not Lue will get that same respect. Just because you are LeBron’s buddy does not make you the best fit for head coach. Only time will tell.
Eddie Leonard is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.