When Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin says that LeBron James, their star player, “the best player in basketball,” wasn’t consulted when making the decision to fire their head coach, David Blatt, and promote associate head coach Tyronn Lue, the rhetoric of politics comes to mind, like Hillary Clinton talking about the America that we’re going to build together, as if she’s had no hand in building the America that we currently have, Sarah Palin blaming President Barack Obama for her son’s domestic violence arrest and his inability to adjust to civilian life after military combat—combat brought forth by Republican members of Palin’s own political party—or Donald Trump, but chronicling him would extend this passage way too much.
Blatt’s dismissal last Friday was the third firing of an NBA coach this season, although his release from Cleveland is different than the first two—Kevin McHale (the Houston Rockets) in mid-November and Lionel Hollins (the Brooklyn Nets) earlier this month. Their downfall? Mounting losses. Blatt’s? Politics.
Blatt, 30-11, fired midway into the season after 41 games, had his team in first place atop the Eastern Conference and ranked third overall in the NBA. In one and a half seasons, his record was 83-40 and he’d taken Cleveland to the NBA championship. However, Blatt, hired before James made his decision to take his talents back to Cleveland, didn’t seem to have James’ respect. Maybe it continued with Cleveland’s hiring of Lue and Lue’s title of assistant head coach.
By the championship finals, it appeared at times that James would waive off Blatt’s substitutions, deciding himself when to check in and out of games. Cleveland lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games and lost all-star Kyrie Irving early in that series due to injury. Amazingly, Blatt wasn’t dismissed after the end of last season amid speculation.
Now Blatt, undoubtedly out of favor with James, losing to Golden State again on “King Day” in Cleveland by 34 points, will have his name added to the list of available candidates considered to coach teams such as the Brooklyn Nets, now 12-34, next to last in the Eastern Conference, once they’ve chosen a general manager. Unless there’s a remarkable turnaround, interim head coach Tony Brown, 2-7 since replacing Hollins, won’t be head coach after this season. But give Brown much credit for keeping the team positive, particularly in Sunday’s 116-106 snowstorm victory over the top-ranked Oklahoma Thunder and taking the Miami Heat to the final minute of their 102-98 loss Tuesday.
“The effort absolutely was there,” said the Nets’ leading scorer, center Brook Lopez. “If we play like that every night, we’ll be alright. No question.”