In recent years, LeBron James has made it abundantly clear that all he cares about is the postseason. He’s not trying to win 73 games or 72 games or even 60 games. He just wants to get to the postseason healthy and with his team in position to make a run at a title.
But even this is ridiculous. The Cavs (27-18) have lost 10 of 14 and gave up 148 points to Oklahoma City on Saturday. The Cavs D has left much to be desired this season, but 148 points? Really?
But if you’re looking to blame someone for that performance, don’t blame Ty Lue. Blame the players.
“Ty Lue is not to blame for his team getting hit with 148 points in a home game (that’s) nationally televised,” former Cavs coach David Blatt said on Taz & The Moose. “Come on, man. He’s got three former MVPs on his team. He’s got an experienced, championship-caliber group. If those guys don’t come to play, if those guys don’t have the pride and the belief in one another to get out there and perform at the level that they need to perform at – Ty Lue is not the problem. Let me tell you that straight up.”
Then who is the problem? If it’s not Lue, who is it?
“Well, that group is the problem,” Blatt said. “They need to step up, man. Come on. We as coaches are responsible for everything. That’s true. I know that, I’ve lived that every day and have throughout my entire career. But there’s a certain point and time where the members of that team have got to step up and fly right. I know they’re being coached. I know that group. Hell, I brought almost all of those coaches that are a part of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ staff there. I know them all personally. I know what kind of people they are. I know what kind of good work they do. So I think it’s time for the players to step up and do their part. That’s what I think.”
Blatt coached the Cavaliers in 2014-15 and led them to the NBA Finals. He was fired in January 2016 even though the Cavs, then 30-11, had the best record in the East.
Now coaching in Turkey, Blatt does not know why there has been so much drama in Cleveland this year. The incident with Kevin Love – several Cavaliers reportedly questioned the legitimacy of the illness that caused Love to leave Saturday’s game – is simply the latest example.
“From the looks of it from the outside – and I’m very much on the outside – when things happen and when there’s noise like that, then obviously something is going on,” Blatt said. “I can’t speak to what actually happened or what the motivations were behind whatever went on. I can just tell you that right now, in general, when you notice what you notice from a team as good as the Cavs – where there’s a lot of stuff going on and there’s a lot of rumblings – then probably things are happening. It’s important that those guys get together and talk it out and even call one another out if necessary and sort of refocus and rededicate themselves to the task at hand.”
Statically, LeBron James – with averages of 26.8 points, 8.7 assists, 7.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game – is having another MVP-caliber season. But doesn’t he need to step up, lead, and take control of a team in turmoil?
“I don’t believe that he’s not stepping up, No. 1,” Blatt said, “and I don’t believe that things are not being said or that guys are not trying to cover all the bases with each other. But sometimes there comes a point in seasons – or even in a number of seasons – where guys get a little agitated or tired of being with each other or around one another or don’t always have the same ideas as one another – or as Coach Lue even said, maybe different guys have agendas and things like that. You got to find a way to face the music and to figure it out together. If not, you rise and you fall together, and they’re just going to go have to go through that and figure it out because they’re certainly good enough to do that.”
But why does so much drama seem to always follow James? Why is he always the center of attention – and not always for good reasons?
“Well, because he’s the best player in the world and he’s the most visible and the most talked about and the most noticeable and the most famous of anyone – and for good reason,” Blatt said. “He’s the greatest player in the game for the past 10 years, so that comes with the territory and it’s not an easy thing to carry that, to be honest with you. On the other hand, if that’s your lot, then you got to carry it in the best possible way. I think by and large, if you look at his career, he’s certainly done that. But there are times where it’s going to come hard and it’s going to be tough and he’s not always going to come out in the best light. It’s not possible – not as much as he’s scrutinized, not as much as he’s followed, and not as much is demanded of him.”
Still, it seems James is often his own worst enemy. Michael Jordan didn’t have this much drama in his career, did he?
“Trust me, it’s a different world,” Blatt said. “It’s a different world now, guys. Every facial expression, every comment (is scrutinized). If you make the wrong facial expression, if you say the wrong thing, if you have one small improper action – even the most minute thing – it’s everywhere all over the place for as long as it’s online. Every single thing that happens is taken and amplified and spread throughout the world. You can’t do anything anywhere without somebody noticing and making a federal case of it.”
Take James’ response about Lue’s job security, for example. When asked about the possibility of Lue being fired, James said, “I would hope not but really don’t know.”
Some people found that response tepid. Some thought it was a veiled shot.
“I don’t think that Bron took a veiled shot at him at all,” Blatt said. “I don’t believe that at all. Again, that’s how it is. Somebody throws something out there and then people run with it and it becomes something that it was never intended to be. So no, I don’t think that was a veiled shot at all. I don’t think he was saying that at all. I think the opposite’s true. I think he was defending him. That’s the the way I interpreted it. That’s the world we live in.”
Either way, the Cavs need to find answers – and fast. As Blatt cautioned, though, it’s still only January.
“There are a lot of telltale signs that are not as positive as you’d like to see them if you’re a Cavaliers fan,” he said, “but it’s still early in the day and things can turn around. This is why I said what I said about a 148-point game. That’s one singular game. One singular game is not a coach. One season is. One full season is, no question. But a 148-point game in a home game (that’s) nationally televised? Hey, man, that’s on the guys to come to play and lay it out there. I know that staff is good enough and they’re working hard enough and they have a system and a plan for playing that, if guys buy into it, they’re going to be awfully good.”