If you’ve been following the Cavaliers offseason so far, you’ve most likely been sleeping on a bed of nails waiting for coaches to be named and prospects to be speculated. It has been nauseating how much news has been thrown our way, but all of that is starting to come to a close. Who will the Cavs workout before the draft? Who will they select with the No. 1 pick? Will they make a deal for Kevin Love? Carmelo Anthony? How plausible is a LeBron James return? How does the news regarding Embiid’s and Parker’s workouts affect what the Cavs will do with the No. 1 pick?
This list used to be longer before the Cavaliers pulled the trigger on bringing in former Maccabi Tel Aviv head coach David Blatt, ending the team’s exhaustive offseason search.
The Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers were the only coach-less teams heading into last week, but now the Cavaliers have a winner in Blatt and a hard-nosed associate head coach in Tyronn Lue. After failing to earn the head coaching job, Lue still decided to join on with the Cavs as an assistant. Things are finally starting to come to form with the Cavaliers despite the handful of question marks that existed before this week. So how should we feel about all of this?
Last year was much different. By the weekend following the Cavaliers’ final game of the 2012-13 season, the team had already brought in Mike Brown to interview for a job that he once held a few years prior. It only took a couple of days for the Cavs to decide, without interviewing any other candidates, that Brown deserved to have a second chance. April 24, 2013 was when the five-year, $20-million deal was finalized, a testament to how quickly Cleveland’s old front office regime wanted to answer questions that the fans and organization needed answered. The Chris Grant administration that came to the decision to hire Brown and also opted not to workout last year’s No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett is now gone, leaving David Griffin to lead the tedious task of landing the right leader and selecting the right superstar. Cleveland wanted to hire a coach before the draft on June 26, but they stayed patient, interviewed a handful of candidates and were obviously blown away by the professionalism and determination of Blatt. But they also hired a coach with some fire in his belly; something that has clearly been lacking from Cleveland’s sideline over the past three seasons. Some sort of storm needs to be brewing on the Cavaliers’ bench, and Blatt fits Cleveland’s head coach wish list mold that Brown obviously couldn’t live up to.
Blatt has lived up to the reputation of being one of the best game planners and roster managers, something that Brown struggled with immensely. I mentioned that Blatt was a winner earlier in this piece, but that might be a bit of an understatement. The Israeli head coach took home the triple crown of international basketball this past season, winning the Euroleague, Israeli-League and State Cup. And he did it with his best scorer averaging 12.2 points over the 2013-14 campaign. Although Blatt will be working with a higher caliber of talent with the Cavaliers, he will be able to get his team motivated to sacrifice individual glory and focus on achieving greatness together. Whether this is done with or without the addition of a free agent superstar doesn’t matter. Blatt is seasoned, Blatt is proven and Blatt is finally ready for the NBA level. It’s no fluke what he has done with Maccabi Tel Aviv recently, and his bronze medal winning work with the Russian national team should not go unnoticed either. He’s very much familiar with American basketball culture, and I’m glad that the Cavs finally took an offseason to research what the future could hold with a guy like Blatt in the head coaching position. I’m confident we’ll see him in this role for some time, because this was no five-day decision aimed at giving an old friend a second chance.
Blatt will be able to handle the Cavaliers roster, a much harder task this upcoming season, and is notoriously known for running balanced offenses with multiple contributors. Some call this teamwork and the reason that the San Antonio Spurs won the 2014 NBA Finals, but it’s becoming more evident in the NBA that the men suited up on the sideline mean as much as the men in jerseys on the court.
What should make Cavalier followers pleased with the hiring begins with Blatt’s success. He wins, no matter where he goes. He’s won with different teams and different styles of players, something that will prove valuable when he’s coaching a roster that hasn’t been able to mesh just yet. Brown was a one-trick pony with his defensive mindset, but Blatt has proven to be a multi-faceted coach, meaning that his defensive strategies are just as important to him as his aggressive and fast-paced offense. Griffin, who saw Blatt as the frontrunner to land the head coaching job from the start, had this to say about the experienced international coach:
He has an uncanny ability to adapt his system to maximize the talents of his teams year after year. That is why I am very confident he will make a smooth transition to the NBA. There is a great opportunity to accelerate the progress of moving our team and franchise to the higher level of play we all believe we are capable of achieving.
In a city where it’s hard to tell fans to be patient on decisions that tend to causes a plethora of head scratches, it seems to be paying off for the Cavaliers so far this offseason.