Not So Hot in Cleveland: David Blatt Gets Fired

In the wake of the surprise firing of David Blatt and the promotion of Ty Lue to Head Coach by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jim Bearor and Evan Sally give their rapid reactions to the news; how we got to this point and how LeBron and Cavs will go forward.


Tyronn Lue (right) will get the chance to pilot LeBron’s Cavs to a championship, while David Blatt gets left behind. (Getty Images)

Evan Sally

The timing of David Blatt getting fired in January, the year after a NBA Finals appearance and compiling a 30-11 record this season, is very surprising.

The decision to fire David Blatt is not.

I’ve always thought there was an uneasy tension that existed with the Cavs due to how quickly this current incarnation of the team came together. David Blatt was hired to be the coach of a young team, building around budding star Kyrie Irving with dreams of making the playoffs. When LeBron decided to return home and the Cavs acquired Kevin Love, Blatt’s mandate got flipped on his head. Gone was any chance to grow into the job, gone was any chance to patiently develop young players. David Blatt was now expected to be a championship level head coach. Because of this odd arrangement, questions abounded from the beginning about Blatt’s level of competency to take on this kind of challenge. Coaching a star laden team with win now expectations is a challenge for any coach, let alone someone coaching in the NBA for the first time. It seemed like he handled it in stride, it seemed like he relished the opportunity, and I’m sure he did. But I’m also sure some parts of him were worried about being thrown into the storm that is coaching a LeBron James-led team.

When the Cavs started last year 19-20, it seemed like that storm was going to swallow him up. Rumors circulated that Blatt’s head was on the chopping block. However, when Cleveland proceeded to go on a tear that landed them in the NBA Finals, it seemed that Blatt had been given a stay of execution. Even more so it seemed that he was a pretty good coach. But issues remained. Like how whenever the Cavs would struggle they would instantly revert back to playing iso-ball as opposed to running Blatt’s offense. Or that seemed that then assistant coach Ty Lue commanded more respect than Blatt did in the huddle. Or the sense you got that LeBron never totally trusted him. Their 34 point loss to Golden State reopened all of those old wounds.  A loss this bad, regardless of it just being a game in January, to a team you NEED to beat win a title forces you to take a look at the ugly truth, that perhaps this team isn’t good enough.

Unfortunately for David Blatt he was the easiest piece to change on the chessboard for the Cavs, and therefore became the fall guy. I’m not sure firing Blatt and promoting Ty Lue to head coach will solve their Golden State problem. But it gives us a clear look into what’s going in the mind of LeBron, GM David Griffin and the Cavs organization; they know something is wrong and that something had to be done to try to fix it.

– Jim Bearor

You’re right, if you’re familiar with LeBron James and the Cavaliers, this shouldn’t come as a shock. I can’t say I wasn’t surprised when I saw Woj’s tweet though. This is a huge change to make halfway through the season, especially considering they have the best record in the East and are positioned well to end up in the Finals again. The news of Blatt’s firing and Lue’s multi year contract broke in such rapid succession that I didn’t even have the chance to get excited about a potential Tom Thibodeau signing.

I totally agree with your final point. While we’re still trying to process what this coaching change means, and all the ways it could help or hinder the team, the Cavs are past that. This had the feel of a decision that has been in the works for some time, and that’s why I’m having trouble comprehending how LeBron and the rest of the team were left in the dark about this. Sure the gears have probably been in motion for some time now, and if you’re part of the organization, I’m sure you got the gist of what was about to happen, but this comes off as very abrupt from an outsider’s perspective.

Abrupt isn’t necessarily a bad thing — this team was in need of a shakeup of some sort. Sure, they’ll probably roll through the Eastern Conference Playoffs without much trouble, but  it’s clear that Cleveland isn’t on the same level as San Antonio or Golden State, and they’re the measuring stick since the Cavs are clearly a championship-or-bust team. Good for Cleveland for taking initiative and making a move that they believe might get them over the jump, whether it works out or not. I hate when teams are too hesitant to make a change because they’ve experienced some degree of success (cough cough Clippers). Knee-jerk reactions seem to work more in the NBA than in the other major sports for whatever reason. Remember when Mark Jackson got fired?

David Blatt had been with the team for less than two years, but I doubt much would have changed if he was given more time. You made a good point that he was thrown into the mix at a tough time, where he didn’t have much time to acclimate himself. It was breakneck intensity right off that bat, and that’s what you have to expect when your roster looks like this.  Time is of the essence, and there are no guarantees how long this talented-but-clunky group will remain intact. This is about as “win now” as it gets, and I admire the ballsy decision to make a change.

I’ve heard Ty Lue’s word carries a little more weight among players and maybe that will make the difference. For better or worse, the chemistry is about to shift a little on this team. I can’t imagine a scenario where this roster falls flat on its face early in the playoffs and everyone goes their separate ways, but maybe that’s the floor for the Cavaliers.  I guess the point I’m trying to make is that it’s reasonable to believe we’ve already seen the ceiling of this team with Blatt at the helm, so why not shake things up, promote a familiar face that the players respect, and hope that’s enough to bump them up into the top tier with the Spurs and Warriors.

evan– Evan Sally (@Evan_Sally)

JimBearor– Jim Bearor (@JimBearor)


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