Lebron James’ major motion picture debut may have been a comedy, health but that doesn’t mean he’s lost his flair for drama. On Friday, sickness the saga continued when the Cleveland Cavaliers fired head coach David Blatt after being flanked and then obliterated by the Western Conference’s two top teams. From one angle, pilule you could chalk it up to close not being good enough for the Cleveland front office who saw the writing on the wall for the Cavs to come out of the East again only to lose to the Warriors, Spurs or Thunder in 6 games. But there’s always more to the story, and in this case, much more, in the form of an Adrian Wojnarowski story alleging that Lebron and company have had a version of this succession plan in place since day 1. Woj, the master NBA Insider, purported that David Blatt never stood a chance against Lebron’s camp, who had moved on this season from their first choice in former Golden State head coach Mark Jackson, and had been clamoring for the promotion of assistant coach Tyronn Lue for months. On Friday, Team James got their wish, when news of Blatt’s firing broke at 3:08 pm and Lue was quickly contracted to a multi-year deal reported at 3:17.
No one will argue that Blatt made mistakes and likely wasn’t the right person for a job that quickly went from developing a young talented roster over time to managing superstar personalities under win-now expectations as soon as Lebron decided to take his talents back to Northeast Ohio. But with Blatt’s 30-11 record and the Cavs firmly atop the Eastern Conference, how much of a difference will a coaching change make? And is there any evidence that Tyronn Lue can coach, and implement a new system with the current roster given only months until the playoffs?
Luckily for Bulls fans, these questions didn’t bother Cavs management, and we only had to sweat a few minutes imagining facing a Thibs coached Cleveland team at least four times a year. It seemed all too perfect for Thibs for a moment since Lebron has consistently supported him over the years based on his time with Team USA, and lauded the tough Bulls defenses he had to face (yet easily destroyed) in the playoffs as far back as his first year in Miami. While Lebron in a Thibs defense is a scary thought, maybe Thibs didn’t see the stars aligning in Cleveland where he would have had to manage two superstars covering up an awkward feud, a volatile ownership, and a point guard yet to play a full season in his entire career. I think he’s seen that movie before.
However, it’s possible that a lack of the real coaching you would get from Thibs is part of why we never saw that 3rd, 4th or 5th promised championship from Lebron in Miami, or in his first stint in Cleveland, or even last season. Lebron has always relied on his talent, of which he has a lot, and never really benefited from real coaching. Dating back to Little Dru’s Dad at St. Vincent-St. Mary to Mike Brown to Erik Spoelstra to David Blatt, he’s always been somewhat of a player-coach. And maybe that’s what’s lacking in Northeast Ohio, where nothing is given and everything is earned. But Tyronn Lue has been given the opportunity, and what comes next is, yet again, really up to the King.