Former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The moment the final buzzer sounded at the Oracle Arena on Sunday night and the Cleveland Cavaliers captured their first NBA title is one that could end up defining the careers of the likes of LeBron James and Stephen Curry.
It also likely cemented the way in which the NBA career of a certain individual who was nowhere near the arena will be remembered.
Try as he may, David Blatt will forever be intrinsically connected with the end of Cleveland’s championship drought, but not in the way he had hoped.
Rather than being the coach who helped end the 52-year curse, Blatt will go down as the man who had to be moved aside in order for the Cavs to realize their dream.
There wasn’t one bad word uttered about Blatt in the aftermath of the champagne-soaked celebrations that followed Cleveland’s 93-89 victory in Game 7 of the Finals and 4-3 series win over the Golden State Warriors.
However, that had as much to do with the fact that his name was almost completely absent from the comments of anyone connected with the Cavs than it does with any sort of positive way he is perceived in the organization.
Not only did he not receive credit for the success, but he was essentially a major part of the adversity the Cavs coaches and players kept talking about.
The only one who actually uttered Blatt’s name and even said something positive about the American/Israeli coach was forward Tristan Thompson.
“I’m not going to say he was the right guy or what not,” said Thompson when asked about the impact of coach Tyronn Lue, who served as Blatt’s assistant before replacing him in January. “Coach Blatt did a great job. Last year we got to the Finals and were short.
That was a front office question and they did what they decided to do. Our job as players is to play and compete and win the ball game. Both coaches did a great job for me personally.”
Blatt was fired with the Cavs leading the East at 30-11, with GM David Griffin saying that “pretty good wasn’t good enough,” and that “there’s just a disconnect right now, a lack of spirit and disconnectedness I can’t accept.” He added somewhat damningly that “I feel like we won’t miss a whole lot, but we’ll gain a lot in areas that are critical to us.”
He also insisted that “LeBron doesn’t run this organization,” and that “this narrative that we’re somehow taking direction from him isn’t fair.”
That did nothing to change the perception that James was the one in charge of Blatt’s sacking, turning him into the Israeli public's newest enemy.
That feeling toward LeBron in Israel may well never change, although his remarkable play in the Finals means it is all but impossible to continue and nitpick at James as one of the league’s all-time great players.
LeBron is set to continue and dominate the league in the coming years, whether in Cleveland or elsewhere, but Blatt’s future in the NBA is shrouded in doubt.
His services will always remain in demand in Europe, as proven by the two-year deal with Turkish Euroleague club Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul that will earn him in the region of two million euros a season.
Blatt held interviews with four different NBA teams this summer, but was not offered a head-coaching position. He wasn’t interested in offers to work as an assistant coach, instead preferring to return to Europe.
Blatt, who was interviewed for the job of head coach by the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings, has said that he knows that returning to Europe will hurt his chances of receiving another opportunity in the NBA.
“I was in the USA in April and I had four interviews scheduled with NBA teams,” he told Sportando.com after speaking in Treviso, Italy, earlier this month at the Adidas Eurocamp, a pre-NBA Draft camp featuring top basketball players from around the world.
“But before that I had already talked with Dogus and their offer was very interesting for me. We reached an agreement and I said that I would join them if I didn’t find anything in NBA. The offers from the NBA weren’t interesting, so I decided to take the job with Dogus. I had also other options in Europe but Dogus was the best for me. They’re trying to build something special.”
When asked whether he felt that the treatment the Cavs gave him was unfair he said: “It doesn’t matter, it is what it is. My only regret is that I didn’t have the opportunity to play with a full roster in the Finals. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were injured and I didn’t have guys like Jefferson or Frye that could have contributed from the bench.That’s my only regret.”
Blatt has said that he will be fine even if he never coaches in the NBA again as that is something he has already marked off his checklist.
It remains to be seen if he will ever be offered another head coaching position in the NBA, but his decision to move to Turkey will certainly not help his cause.
Neither will the fact that the Cavs went on to win the championship.
Any hope that his firing would be remembered as a mistake ended with LeBron hoisting aloft the Larry O’Brien trophy. That lasting image may well have defined Blatt’s NBA career for good, a pedestrian definition that won’t change if he has already coached his final game in the best basketball league in the firstname.lastname@example.org