Why David Blatt's future is bright even though the Cavs lost
Here are four reasons why the Cleveland coach should hold his head high.
Such is the nature of the win-at-all-costs NBA that, even in the wake of an improbable run in the league’s Finals, despite missing two of the team’s three best players, there could even be questions about Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt’s job security. Blatt has always met such questions with a shrug and an air of acceptance. Part of coaching in the NBA is scrutiny, and Blatt’s outlook on scrutiny hasn’t changed: So be it.
He certainly was not in a woe-is-me state of mind after the series, which ended in a Golden State Warriors victory. “I'm proud of everybody in our organization today,” he said. “It’s tough, tough to lose. It’s tougher to be over. Not every story has a happy ending. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad story. This was not. This was a good story.”
One thing for sure emerged: Blatt is among the best coaches in the world. He proved that when he coached his Israeli team to victory in last year's Euroleague championship. The Cavaliers should not make a change with their head coach, because Blatt is now a sought-after commodity in the NBA.
In fact, there are four reasons Blatt and the Cavs should have a bright future together.
1. Blatt was tactically brilliant in the Finals.
He has not gotten enough credit, but the reason Cleveland was able to establish a 2-1 lead in the series was because of the defensive schemes Blatt’s Cavs established in the first three games, which slowed the pace of the game and forced Golden State into a lineup change with star Stephen Curry struggling to find space. “They were impressive that way,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “They definitely did some things that had us off our rhythm.”
2. He’s gotten on the same page with LeBron James.
Blatt is James’ fifth coach in the NBA, and as James has said, every coach-player relationship takes time to build. Blatt has acknowledged that there were rough spots early, but by the second half of the season, the Cavaliers were in sync. “It was a challenging but oh-so-rewarding and beneficial chance that I was given to work with the best player in the world,” Blatt said, “and he competed for us. He led the team, and he made every attempt to make this work. And I give him a lot of credit for that.”
3. The Cavaliers roster has been straightened out.
One of the most important moves of the season came back in January when Blatt urged his team’s front office to acquire big man Timofey Mozgov from Denver. Blatt had coached Mozgov with the Russian national team and knew he could provide the size and defense Cleveland lacked. It worked out – the Cavs’ strong finish and terrific postseason run was fueled, in part, by Mozgov’s defensive impact. “He is a coach everyone should like to play for,” Mozgov said. “He is very smart and he knows the game as much as any coach I ever have known.”
4. Cleveland should be the best team in the league – when healthy.
After acquiring Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith at midseason, the Cavaliers sank to 19-20 in the standings, but bounced back with a great stretch run, finishing 34-9 in the regular season and going 14-6 in the playoffs. With a full season together, and the return from injury of Irving and Love, the Cavaliers could have a stocked roster next season, and Blatt should find himself back in the Finals. “We never asked for sympathy when they went down,” Blatt said. “We played our hearts out. The Warriors were better. Those guys will get healthy, and we’ll come back after it next season.”
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