There are a lot of whispers about the fish-out-of-water aspect of rookie Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt. Insiders believe that Blatt will soon get canned if the Cavs don’t sharpen up. The fish-out-of-water story becomes baptism-by-fire when you consider that Blatt had never played in or coached an NBA game (even as an assistant) when LeBron James announced he was “coming home” to Cleveland. That raised the pressure level about a hundredfold. Recently King LeBron James has been making what are perceived as passive-aggressive digs at Blatt (“What other coach do we have?”).
Through it all, Blatt has been hard at work trying to create chemistry on a team that’s really brand new and trying (sometimes not too hard) to gel. The Cavs (18-13) were without James on his birthday on December 30 in Atlanta and they played a hell of a game. The Hawks are 23-8 overall and 14-3 at home and they had a hard time pulling away from Cleveland. (Eventually they did, winning 109-101.) Like the Lakers when Kobe rested in LA, many of the Cavaliers players–notably Kyrie Irving–played free and hard and kept pushing Cleveland back into contention on a night when it would have been easy for them to lay down. No James. Forward Kevin Love went out with an injury and didn’t return. Still the Cavs fought and Blatt drove them, meeting Irving numerous times on the court for hard double hand slaps–displaying a real connection with his point guard that Blatt lacks with the King of the team. The Cavs lost but David Blatt coached a very good road game with two of his stars unavailable. He should get the chance to coach more of them.