LeBron James and David Blatt don’t see eye to eye. At least, that’s the message everyone seemed to be selling last season.
It made for some good page views and talk radio ratings, but it wasn’t entirely based on reality.
That’s not to say it was always smooth sailing for James and Blatt. James was in his first season of his second stint with the Cavaliers. Blatt was in his first season as an NBA coach after a couple decades overseas.
James sometimes looked old. Blatt’s rotations sometimes looked clunky. The Cavs sometimes looked disorganized in stumbling to a 19-20 start.
The longtime star and first-time coach weren’t quite sure what to make of each other. Blatt had never coached a talent like James. James had never played for a coach quite like Blatt.
Were they totally comfortable with each other? No. Was it the miserable mess so many made it out to be? Not at all.
In January, Cavs GM David Griffin shored up the roster with a couple of crafty trades — bringing in J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert (from New York), and Timofey Mozgov (from Denver). Soon after, James returned from two weeks off with a back and knee strain.
The Cavs immediately took flight. James began to understand what his coach wanted, and why he wanted it. He had faith it would work. And Blatt began to better understand how to manage James.
Despite injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the Cavs reached the Finals — in their first year as a program, in their first year with James and Blatt.
That tends to make men believe in one another. It tends to bring people together.
In the end, the coach and his brightest star had each other’s back. And they almost pulled it off, before the healthier Warriors emerged with a 4-2 series victory and the championship.
Now, there are no more adjustments.
James and Blatt, and most everyone else, are in their second season together. They know what to expect — from each other while playing and coaching, from each other in the locker room, from each other when talking with the media.
There are few surprises, there are virtually no awkward moments.
“I think whenever you work with someone over a year, over time, you understand them,” Cavs big man Tristan Thompson explained. “You know, the first year you might have times where one might not say something to the other, just because it’s new. You might hesitate sometimes, but as you get older, you build a relationship, build chemistry. The understanding is there.”
And best of all, because of this, the media is basically leaving James and Blatt, and their relationship, alone. You can’t even drum up controversy these days.
The Cavs are winning (11-3 entering Wednesday’s game at Toronto), they’re playing hard and smart, moving the ball and defending.
Sure, they have their slip-ups, but that has nothing to do with the status of James and Blatt. It has everything to do with the fact professional athletes are also humans. No NBA team has ever finished 82-0. No NBA team ever will.
Read: Things are going about as well as could be expected, maybe better, for a Cavs team that remains without the injured Irving and Shumpert (and now the injured Mozgov for a bit, too).
James often credits Blatt. Blatt often credits James.
“He does his job as great as any coach can do in this league,” James said of Blatt last week.
Together, they’re doing as a great of a job as they can as the men in charge of these Cavs. Together, without hesitation, LeBron James and David Blatt are moving this team forward.