Hand Over the Keys

When LeBron James was signed over a year ago there weren’t any real mixed emotions. People that had burned jerseys and an owner that had written a letter of complaint had decided to forgive and forget and an entire city rejoiced as its prodigal son had returned (though James is really from Akron). Besides being the best player in the world without question (Sorry Steph), the Cleveland Cavaliers automatically got their ticket to the NBA Finals for years to come.

In a league that is dominated by superstars and teams with the bankroll to make something happen, it takes 2 great players to make it happen in the Eastern Conference. Having a cast of misfits and/or role players usually is enough to make things work. Having 5 solid starters and one or two guys that can help out off the bench is probably going to make you a top 3 or 4 team overall in the East. And thus, with the acquisition of Kevin Love and a few friends from the Miami Heat and other places, the Cavs went back to the Finals for the first time since LeBron.

But it takes a coach to get things going as well, and while Erik Spoelstra was good at shutting the fuck up and letting Dwyane Wade and James do everything for the team (including in the huddles), the guy the Cavs got for the first experiment wasn’t quite the same. David Blatt was an experienced international coach with Maccabi Tel Aviv  in the Israeli League and Euroleague winning championships on the reg. He coached the Russian National team to respectability and was revered in the coaching community everywhere (including the U.S.). But was this guy going to step in as a “rookie” in the NBA and take Cleveland all the way?

Well, the city of Cleveland isn’t great at picking head coaches (see: Browns history dating back to the original Browns/every Indians manager not named Mike Hargrove) and Blatt actually came in right before the Cavs had officially signed James. So the coach was there for a different group of players. More importantly, he was there for a young group of guys that he could mold into a different kind of team for the future, not to win in the NBA Finals in Year One. And when James came in and brought his friends along it became a different situation for all involved.

Unfortunately, the Cavaliers (and to a lesser extent, the city of Cleveland) have given LeBron the kind of autonomy that would have made Fidel Castro blush. And for good reason. They can’t afford to lose their golden child. It’s not like the sun is still shining and the beach is a minute away (like in Miami). You don’t just move on from that kind of loss. So LeBron James has a say in things. And no matter what the Cavs have said about the firing of David Blatt, James had a role in this call.

And while that makes some sense in the short-term, in sets up every future star for the rest of forever to have the kind of leverage that no player should have in regards to the direction of a franchise. Michael Jordan had smart people in his organization. Kobe Bryant (and Shaquille O’Neal, I guess) had a well-established group of people in his organization. Who does Cleveland have? Maybe having the best of everything from the top to the bottom is the way to do things. Instead of giving your star player freedom and responsibility to construct the team, how about you just let him play the game and you take care of the rest?!

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