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What The Firing Of David Blatt Doesn't Mean For the Cavaliers

On Friday I received a text from a friend saying that the Cavs had fired head coach David Blatt. I thought he was kidding. I guess it's pointless now to tell you that he wasn't. Blatt was fired and Tyronn Lue was promoted.

Okay.

There's lots of talk about how the players didn't respect Blatt, about how he had lost the locker room, and about how they much prefer Lue.

After the Cavs got blown out by the Golden State Warriors on Monday, panic set in as people wondered if he had what it takes to be the coach. Apparently, Cavs general manager David Griffin decided he didn't. And that Lue did. And a change was made.

So what does this mean now for the Cavaliers? Will they right the ship? Can they improve a team that, with half of the season played, has only lost 11 games?
It's not wins that worry Griffin, as he himself pointed out on Friday: "There are 50 teams since 2000-01 with winning percentages of .700 and only eight won championships." According to various reports, the team was fractured and Griffin knows they won't win a championship that way. He feels that the team was disconnected, and he thinks Lue will restore that connection. But he forgot one thing. The team's biggest asset is its biggest hurdle: Superstar LeBron James.

James is as close to uncoachable as a superstar player can be. He wants the ball in his hands, but he doesn't want to manage an offense unless he wants to. Who the coach is will never matter. Often he seems to want to stand there dribbling, surveying the land, then making the passes or taking the shots that he thinks will work, like a game of pick up. Problem is, with nobody sure what he's really looking for, they end up stopping in their tracks and he has to drive to the basket or take a fall-away jumper with the shot clock expiring. 

Everyone has always wanted to compare James to Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson, but I would compare him to Kobe Bryant: He does what he wants, regardless of anyone else. Kobe had Phil Jackson on the sidelines and they won three straight NBA Championships, but Bryant found the Triangle Offense to be too boring, despite the rings. He wanted to do it his way. He would eventually get his wish.

It lead to a messy feud with fellow champion Shaquille O'Neal and head coaching legend Phil Jackson. But Bryant was the game's best player at the time and he got his wish. O'Neal was traded and Jackson's contract expired without renewal.

Jackson was eventually brought back, and he, Kobe and the Lakers would go on to win two more titles, but it took them 4 trips and 8 years to get them.

None of this is an indicator of how things will go with James. Maybe he'll win four straight. Maybe he'll never win another. The comparison isn't to predict James' future, but to highlight a single point: This coaching change isn't going to make much difference for one simple reason: LeBron James will always do what LeBron James wants to do.

He doesn't clash with his teammates the way Kobe did, but, much like Bryant, he is only as coachable as he wants to be. He will demand the ball anytime he wants to control the offense, and who's going to tell him no? And when the ball is in his hands, the game ceases to be as much of a team sport.

Dribble, dribble, dribble. Players don't know whether to run around and get open, or create space for an isolation play. And you're never going to beat a team like San Antonio or Golden State that way. Championship series are all about the team.

LeBron James is all about himself. Not that he's selfish. He just thinks that he knows more than anyone else in the arena. If he wants to run an isolation play, he's going to, despite what everyone else thinks. Everyone knows that isolation ball is never going to win a championship, James will even tell you that himself, but he is never going to give it up.

I'm not calling for doom. He's LeBron-freaking-James. He's got the strength, talent and will to overcome odds. Did you watch him in the 2014-2015 NBA Finals?! Of course, by that time, he was the Cavs. Everyone else was hurt. So, yes, he can make the Cavs champions, but he certainly makes it harder by his unwillingness to listen to anyone except himself.

And I have no idea how Lue is going to succeed where other coaches have failed.

With David Blatt, the excuse was that he had never coached in the NBA and was in over his head. Now the head coach is a former player and has been an NBA assistant under some excellent coaches.

But how long until we get the excuse that, "Yeah, but he's never been an NBA head coach before."

I want to be wrong here. I have been so many times in the past. And I want the Cavs to win it all. I think the chances are good that they will, eventually. But I don't think it'll be this year. The Spurs and Warriors are both good teams, while the Cavaliers are a good roster.

I hope this works out and the Cavs go on a tear and bring the city a much-coveted championship five months from now. But I don't think so. Not unless they get lucky and the Western Conference sends to the Finals a competitor that is also nothing more than a good roster. (See: Oklahoma City)

But the chances are that if the Cavs reach the Finals, which they should, they will be facing San Antonio or Golden State. And if they do, I believe that James will go into the offseason runner-up once more. He'll sulk, Lue's coaching will be questioned, and we'll be doing this all over again.

Maybe this change will mean a re-energized Cavs team that can walk all over anybody. But I don't think so. I think it'll be the same team, but with the fingers being pointed at a different coach.

I don't think this change is going to make much of a difference.
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