Seemingly all season, the relationship between LeBron James and his coach, David Blatt, has been under scrutiny, which culminated in a “shame-on-you” column from ESPN’s Marc Stein. If everyone agrees (and I’m sure Stein does, too) that LeBron is one of the very smartest players in the NBA, it stands to reason that whoever coaches him has a responsibility to involve him in decision-making. So, did Stein miss the mark with his piece castigating LeBron after the Finals concluded?
According to GM David Griffin, he did.
“LeBron himself said he thinks Coach [David Blatt] has done a hell of a job,” Griffin said Thursday — via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin — in his joint press conference with the Cavs coach. “So, if you want to use his actual words, that’s what the man said.”
Blatt himself said as much at the same press conference.
“You know, people sometimes judge things on a game or on a period of time, and they forget that we’re in there working together and striving to make the utmost of our team and of our situation day-to-day… The most important thing for me in working with LeBron and in working with all of the players is finding out what works, what helps them, what makes them tick, what gives them the kind of confidence and the kind of direction and the kind of partnership that’s needed to make this a successful team.
“I think it’s important that he feels empowered and at the same time that he knows that he’s very much a part of this team. And I think he’s exhibited that, and always put the team’s success beyond his. Now if he has felt that he has what to say and wants to impose his will in terms of influencing in a positive way on those around him, that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing for all, and I certainly encourage that and certainly respected the fact that LeBron’s heart was in the right place.”
Blatt’s right on the money here, and he doesn’t waste one breath denying the facts in Stein’s report. Nowhere is it written that the head coach must be a dictatorial force making every decision for a team. It may be the traditional image, but it’s to Blatt’s credit that he’s left his ego aside and embraced LeBron as a collaborator. The exact level of each’s involvement in coaching decisions isn’t for us to know, but no one seriously believes that Blatt is simply a figurehead. A player, especially one of LeBron’s caliber, should be allowed to disagree with a coach without being labeled a discontent.
Like Griffin said at the presser, “If you’re going purely on basketball achievements [and] what exactly this team left on the table, given what we had… I just don’t know what we’re really critiquing at this point anymore.”
Exactly. This team took one of the best teams in league history, the Golden State Warriors, to six games in the NBA Finals while covered in bandages. It’s fair to say that the LeBron-Blatt partnership has worked so far.