ESPN’s Marc Stein has a pretty damning report on the way LeBron James interacted with Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt in the NBA Finals.
Stein, who sat right near the Cavs bench all series (you could see him on in the background on the live broadcast at times), says he saw LeBron “emasculate” Blatt in a variety of ways first hand.
In the worst example of the awkwardness between the two, Blatt had to erase a play off his whiteboard after LeBron was vigorously shaking his head while he was drawing it up.
Here’s Stein listing off the ways Blatt’s power was usurped by LeBron:
LeBron essentially calling timeouts and making substitutions. LeBron openly barking at Blatt after decisions he didn’t like. LeBron huddling frequently with [assistant coach Tyronn] Lue and so often looking at anyone other than Blatt.
There was LeBron, in one instance I witnessed from right behind the bench, shaking his head vociferously in protest after one play Blatt drew up in the third quarter of Game 5, amounting to the loudest nonverbal scolding you could imagine.
Which forced Blatt, in front of his whole team, to wipe the board clean and draw up something else.
LeBron and Blatt had an awkward relationship all year but the closest it came to revealing itself in the playoffs was in the Chicago Bulls series, when LeBron changed a Blatt play call and ended up making a buzzer beater.
It was almost as if the injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving took away the expectations for the Cavs, and the loss of those expectations abolished the need for a close examination of the LeBron-Blatt partnership. But it’s clear from the Stein report that even during a period where the Cavs objectively overperformed, things weren’t great between the two.
Other basketball insiders seem to be backing up Stein’s report. Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report says he tried to write an article about Blatt’s coaching, but the players wouldn’t give him credit individually:
Re: David Blatt. I intended to write a column giving him some credit during Finals. Every player I asked started w/ “The coaching staff…”
— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 18, 2015
Grantland’s Zach Lowe says there was speculation about the Cavs bringing in Tom Thibodeau:
There was buzz in Finals that Gilbert might have interest in Thibs, but CLE higher-ups insisted Gilbert might be Blatt’s biggest supporter
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) June 18, 2015
LeBron has unprecedented power within the Cavs organisation. He can opt out after this season, which gives he leverage to affect change when it comes to roster moves, free agents, and, of course, coaching.
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