After Blatt's Firing, There Are No More Excuses For LeBron In Cleveland

by Jarone Ashkenazi
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David Blatt was a surprising hire for the Cleveland Cavaliers on June 20, 2014, but he definitely surpassed any and all expectations while acting as the head coach.

In his first season, Blatt (and LeBron James) led the Cavs to an Eastern Conference title, their first since 2007. 

But after recording a 83-40 record and .675 winning percentage with the Cavs, Blatt was fired on last Friday.

Even though his second season was off to a great start, the Cavs were 30-11, and held the top seed in the Eastern Conference at the time, he was fired and replaced by top assistant Tyronn Lue.

General Manager David Griffin, cited "a lack of fit with our personnel and our vision” as the main reason for his firing.

Since the surprising decision, the theme of disconnectedness has been thrown out to explain the termination.

As for the sentiment from his own players? Well, LeBron was quoted saying that he was "surprised and caught off-guard" by the firing, but do we believe him?

Since his return to the Cavs in 2014, it has been widely reported that LeBron not only came back because he missed playing for his hometown, but because he’d have some say in team decisions.

Although Griffin has repeatedly denounced this fact and even went so far to say that it is "not fair" to say the team is taking directives from LeBron James, the perception is that James is practically running the franchise.

Since his return, whenever there is anything Cavs-related in the news, whether it be personnel or front office decisions, LeBron is either quoted or his demeanor questioned.

His star power -- both on and off the court -- has truly made him look like the king of the team, making coaches and the front office of the Cavs an after thought.

You can’t totally blame LeBron. In the current NBA model, elite players have the moxie and bravado that overshadows those of their coaches and sometimes front offices.

Take, for example, the infamous Kobe/Shaq/Phil Jackson dispute from over a decade ago.

Although General Manager Mitch Kupchak and head coach Phil Jackson were and are still revered in the NBA, the prevailing notion was that Kobe was running the show.

He was able to pull the strings and eventually push out Shaq so the Lakers could be HIS team.

But back to LeBron’s relationship, or lack thereof, with Blatt.

Blatt was hired prior to LeBron returning to the Cavs to develop a young team centered around Kyrie Irving and Cleveland's 2014 number one draft pick, Andrew Wiggins.

Well, when LeBron returned and orchestrated the Kevin Love trade along with the signings of other veterans, the whole complexity of the team changed.

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Blatt never stood a chance with LeBron, as James and his agent already were thinking to the future in trying to go after Mark Jackson.

The problem there, according to Wojnarowski, was that Jackson wanted to be the head coach and GM and the Cavs weren’t going to fire Griffin.

And that was just behind the scenes.

LeBron's total disregard for Blatt as a leader was evident as well on the court.

Not only did LeBron constantly wave off plays Blatt called for from the bench, he went so far as removing himself from a game without Blatt’s knowledge or approval, subsequently receiving a technical foul for doing so.

It wasn’t only LeBron who was shocked, or at least portrayed to be shocked, about the firing.

Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle, the president of the NBA Coaches Association, expressed shock and disappointment  over Blatt’s firing.

Ironically, Carlisle replaced an extremely successful coach in Avery Johnson following the Mavs first-round exit in the 2008 playoffs.

Johnson recorded a 194-70 record in three-plus seasons, a .735 winning percentage, which at the time was the best in NBA history, the Mavs fired Johnson and replaced him with Carlisle.

As for Blatt and his camp, according to David Aldridge, Blatt’s firing was “1,000 percent LeBron,” as one of the former Cavs coach's supporter said over the weekend.

There is no question that in the Cavs’ grand scheme of things, James carried, and carries, the hammer.

LeBron seems to be the puppeteer behind this charade pulling whatever strings he deems fit to get his way in his town.

Well for better or worse, LeBron now has a coach he wants at the helms.

He no longer has a scapegoat to blame for any future failures.