If I’m David Blatt, I go home tonight, pour myself a giant glass of vodka and cuss out the world in one of the four languages I speak. I have my wife lock away my cell phone so I don’t have to return a call and make the mistake of saying something stupid. I have her steal every remote from every TV we have so I don’t have to watch any of the talking heads blather on about the bullshit of culture, fit and every other stupid thing they want to blame my firing on.
I then pass out, wake up the next day hung over and start laughing my ass off because my life just got a million times better.
Blatt was fired as the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, despite having the best winning percentage of any coach in franchise history and having led the team to a 30-11 record this season. He not only had the team at the top of NBA East this season, but he had the team in the NBA Finals last year.
If you look at that set of information, you probably are thinking, “What the hell is going on here?”
If you know anything about Cleveland and sports, you probably are thinking, “Yep. Typical Cleveland.”
The buzz around the “insiders” and the “people close to the team” was that Blatt wasn’t connecting with the team as well as he should have. There was also a sense that associate coach Tyronn Lue was better liked and more woven into the team chemistry. Whether that is true or not, no one will really ever know unless LeBron writes a “tell-all” one day.
So, in other words, don’t hold your breath.
What is true, however, is that Blatt never had a chance with this team.
When he was hired, it was with a young team that was looking to grow. The selection of Blatt in 2014 was set up with the idea that the team would have Kyrie Irving set to a long-term deal, first-rounder Andrew Wiggins learning the ropes and a medley of young, raw kids who needed someone to teach them.
Then, LeBron James made his announcement. He was coming back to Cleveland.
Suddenly, the Cavs were in “win now” mode, with the young kids getting shipped all over the place to make room for high-priced veteran talent. Gone was the idea of “Let’s all learn the NBA together” and in was the idea of “LeBron’s prime is going south like a gallon of milk in the sun, so let’s hustle on this!”
And with that approach came the insanity and lack of fairness.
When the team succeeded, hey, of course they’re great! They’ve got LeBron. It’s not like the coach did anything…
When the team slipped, hey, what is wrong with that Blatt guy, fucking up and costing us games?
So even after his team dismantled an excellent Clippers squad on Thursday and even though the team had won 11 of its last 13 games, Blatt got the ax. In his press conference, GM David Griffin gave almost no discernable metric for his decision, instead talking about “fit” and “vibe,” like he was selling shitty Hondas and Pontiacs.
So, if I’m Blatt, I’m going home, getting drunk and then sleeping it off, knowing I signed a 3-year, $10 million deal that Dan Gilbert is going to have to finish paying off.
Then, I start laughing my ass off.
Blatt was and is a hell of a good coach, as 20 years of Euroleague ball and a season and a half of Cavs ball proved. If anyone could win with LeBron just by showing up, LeBron would have a lot more rings and Erik Spoelstra wouldn’t be 2-2 in his NBA-Finals appearances.
Still, every single move he made was scrutinized within an inch of its life. Every armchair coach in the world was thinking, “Shit, anyone can win with that team!” of course forgetting that EVERYONE has said that about EVERY team LeBron has ever played for.
If you want to know how good of a coach Blatt actually was, just look at last year’s Finals. He lost his all-star point guard (Kyrie Irving) in the first game and that was after he lost his starting forward earlier in the playoffs (Kevin Love).
With no real hope against a Golden State Warriors team that is now on course to out-pace Jordan’s best Bulls team, Blatt patched together a lineup based on defense and grit. Although the team lost 4-2 in the series, the Cavs were in at least two of those lost games and could have easily been up 3-0 in the Finals, had LeBron not gagged on the last shot of regulation in Game 1.
The Cavs have only made the finals twice and the only coach to get them a win was Blatt. And that was AFTER his lineup of stars was depleted and he was giving heavy rotational minutes to an unknown Australian dude named Matthew Dellavedova and point-guard time to an injured Iman Shumpert.
So this year, the team runs out and wins nearly 75 percent of its games at the break, even as injured players are just starting to make their way back into the lineup. Shumpert, Irving, Love and starting center Timofey Mozgov all either had surgery or were coming off of major injuries at the start of the year.
At this pace, they were going to win around 61 games, putting this season tied with the second-best record in franchise history.
Now, Blatt gets to go home and watch this team, knowing that unless the Cavs win the title this year and do better than 30-11 down the stretch, everyone on Earth will think he got treated unfairly. He’ll have his pick of teams to coach in the NBA that aren’t named the Cavs, the Spurs, the Warriors, the Thunder or the Clippers. A solid young team with a need for a strong hand at the helm could do a lot worse than Blatt.
Or, he can sit on his ass and make about $3.5 million next year, wait for the Euroleague to come calling again and go back where people love him. Or back to Israel, where his Tel Aviv teams were incredible and his family has strong roots.
If the Cavs do pick up the intensity and win it all this year, with that strong sense of purpose that Griffin kept yammering about, Blatt still wins.
The team’s lack of effort and focus is not an indictment of Blatt, but rather of the players. In an era where the NBA is known as a “player’s league,” this collection of $110 million in talent was somehow crippled by one guy on the bench? C’mon…
These guys couldn’t get it up or keep it up with the idea of becoming gods in a town that so desperately wants a championship, the fans there would literally sacrifice virgins for it?
Holy shit, that’s pathetic.
So, if I’m David Blatt, I’ve already released my polite and courteous statement, thanking everybody, so I head to my man-cave, hide out and watch what happens next. I don’t rock the boat or throw anyone under the bus. I don’t publically say or do anything that might hurt my chances of landing some place that gives me a real chance next time.
I let the chips fall where they may this season.
Because no matter what, I’m the winner.