After LeBron James ended Game 4 in such dramatic fashion, the Internet mob — which is increasingly including established reporters — turned their impulsive head on Cavs coach David Blatt. A string of stories about his job security percolated to the surface, like Grendel bubbling to the flotsam resting on top of his murky lair looking for his dinner as Beowulf defend’s the castle. In that analogy, LeBron James is Beowulf and Grendel’s mother.
NBC wondered “how safe” Blatt is as coach of the Cavs. That came after postulating whether David Blatt would return as coach of the Cavs next season. Sports Illustrated wrote “there’s no denying who controls the Cavs now.” Even the New York Times, in their haughty, Grey Lady sort of way, mentioned the scrutiny he’s now under. The estimable Will Leitch wrote that coaches are superficial cogs in the system, and NBA teams don’t really need them.
While Will makes some great points, he’s buying into the ubiquitous theme of this Cavs season; namely, that the Cavs are LeBron’s team, and any time they lose, it’s because someone else failed to live up to position on the team. Cleveland only struggled with a healthy Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving because LeBron was on sabbatical and David Blatt can’t coach. That’s been the narrative throughout Blatt’s rookie season as coach. It comes with the territory, as LeBron notes above.
David Blatt almost cost the Cavs Game 4 by trying to call a timeout when the Cavs didn’t have any. Tyrone Lue, who earlier this season was supposedly calling timeouts and running plays literally and figuratively behind David Blatt’s back, pulled him back so LeBron could personify HERO Ball. Let’s turn that bone-headed decision with the stress of the playoffs into a referendum on Blatt’s entire tenure at the helm of the Cavs. No, really, that’s totally fair (if there was a sarcasm font, we’d include it instead of this parenthetical).
This is when you say it comes with the territory and roll your eyes while smacking a piece of gum and tweeting out a hot new mix tape you really just copped from a Sasha Frere-Jones tweet.
Blatt’s almost Chris Webber is indictment No. 1, but most people are ignoring one pretty important caveat to that brain fart:
But when Blatt called for LeBron to inbounds the ball on the game’s final possession, LeBron resisted and instead made history. That’s indictment No. 2, even though Jimmy Chitwood did the same thing at the end of Hoosiers and there hasn’t ever been a more tyrannical coach than Norman Dale.
Yes, that’s a fictitious movie about a small school’s real-life run through the Indiana high school basketball tournament, but the same precepts apply: sometimes a player overrules the coach and it works. Often, the opposite happens. What if LeBron had inbounded the ball and gotten it back to sink the game-winning shot, like Blatt may have drawn up (yes, we know there was only 0.8 seconds left)? What if another player had done so? There are a lot of what if’s to the end of Game 4 (What if the Cavs hadn’t squandered three timeouts to throw the ball in from the sideline? What if LeBron hadn’t aggressively tried to split the double-team he encountered at mid-court? What if ad infinitum).