Today the Cleveland Cavaliers fired their head coach. The same head coach that took his injury depleted team to the finals. What an idiotic decision.
Or is it…
As I have detailed, David Blatt never installed an offense, he never figured out how to use Kevin Love correctly, struggled to utilize Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving defensively, and never changed his defensive system following the massive degradation of Timofey Mozgov. In the press conference today, Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin noted that Blatt could not excite the players into playing basketball, and moreover, the team did not perform well under pressure.
Moreover, Peter Vecsey and Steve Kyler have noted that Blatt wanted to get rid of Kevin Love and that the Cavs made this decision because Blatt, in part, was not getting the most out of Love, respectively. This re-enforces articles I referred to earlier. Blatt was not getting the most out of his all-star Power Forward.
Additionally, Chris Haynes wrote a masterful article today detailing how Blatt played favorites, and overall, had entirely lost his locker-room. In said article, Haynes notes that “Word circulated to cleveland.com that Blatt had trouble drawing up plays out of timeouts. He would freeze up and waste precious seconds, one player said. He would even draw up plays for players who weren’t in the game, another player said.” Consequently, to a certain degree, this firing should not come as a surprise. Or should it?
Avoiding the traditional NBA gossip, Blatt happened to be a very good coach. Ignoring all of his impressive European accolades, the Israeli happened to be a winning NBA coach. Blatt had an 83-4 (67%) win record in the regular season, took his team to an NBA Finals, as well as having the fourth best offensive rating, defensive rating, and net rating this season. Those numbers are in no way reflective of a coach who was struggling or should be fired. In fact, they are numbers that have been respected by many elite coaches in today’s NBA. Regardless of anyone’s opinion, firing this type of coach midseason does seem rash.
Overall, though, as David Griffin noted, “Pretty good is not what we’re here for … I’m not leaving an unprecedented team payroll to chance.” Ultimately, the Cavs’ management believed that Cleveland’s utter lack of effort against Portland and Golden State, the team’s 1-5 record against San Antonio, Golden State, Toronto, and Chicago, and in-fighting within the locker room was reflective of David Blatt. Therefore, by making a move, David Griffin and co. view their team has an improved chance to win against the best teams in the association.
So who is Tyronn Lue and does this decision really give the Cavaliers a better chance to win the title? Let’s begin with the first question.
Lue was originally a first round pick in 1998. As a player, Lue played under Phil Jackson, Doug Collins, Doc Rivers, Jeff Van Gundy, and Stan Van Gundy. Following his career as a player, where Lue was known for his tenacious defense, he worked as an assistant coach under Doc Rivers from 2009-2014. After a prolonged coaching search, Lue lost out on the Cavs’ head coach position to David Blatt. Nonetheless, Dan Gilbert and David Griffen hired Lue as the most expensive assistant coach in the NBA, where he quickly became a player favorite.
So can we expect the Cavs to be any better or play any differently under Tyronn Lue than they did under David Blatt? The short answer is it is too early to tell. An article in the International Journal of Sport Finance notes that only the best coaches have an impact on player performance (since 1977, the only two with a notable improvement record are Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich). Therefore, to a certain degree, it seems unlikely Tyronn Lue will have a more positive impact on his player’s than David Blatt did.
But, what the article does not take into consideration, is how a coach’s negative view in the locker-room effects true team wins. Thus, the Cavaliers must believe that Tyronn Lue’s positive support amongst the players will result in more excitement and better performance in the face of pressure, which is something David Griffen noted was missing this year. Will it work? Everyone will have to wait and see in order to find out.