The 2016 NBA All-Star Game is within reach but David Blatt would be far from Toronto following his dismissal and subsequent replace on the Valentine Day game by Tyronne Lue. Yes it didn’t work in Cleveland and surely wouldn’t have worked in the hyper competitive cut throat world of the modern NBA. Well an open minded look at the current events of the world points to an absence of a trait called patience.
To have it is, a virtue and like so many things that are not appreciated in the modern world but were appreciated in an era not too long ago, patience is on the run out of sports. Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson’s went three trophy less seasons before annexing the 1990 FA Cup in his last contract year. I find it hard to believe a big club, no , a big institution of Manchester United’s magnitude will watch a coach go almost four years without claiming silverware.
Back to the NBA, a steep climb in pressure compelled the top brass of Eastern Conference powerhouse Cavaliers to dismiss coach David Blatt following a 30 point demolishing at the hands of Golden State Warriors. For the reference sake, the Cavs were leading the Conference-and are still on top- with a 30 win 11 loss record and had won 83 and lost 40 games respectively during his one and half year reign.
Shock waves, sad and almost depressing remarks from fellow coaches greeted the sack which upon introspection, be it self induced or not, had a tinch of dejavu.
Avery Johnson, formerly of the Dallas Mavericks got dismissed after recording 194 wins and 70 losses including post season games in three and a half years. His crime? getting dumped out of the the playoffs in the first round in consecutive years including a Golden State team that was coached by the man Johnson replaced, Don Nelson.
The 2006 NBA Coach of the Year sack was two seasons removed from guiding the Mavericks to its’ first ever NBA Finals appearance in 2006. In the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves wallowing in the basement with far more losses than wins. It will lose its superstar Guard Kobe Bryant after this season to retirement and most likely will lose its’ coach Byron Scott. Having the most successful coach to get fired in the middle of a season on the free market is too tempting to pass over.
Though Blatt’s offensive strategy is just like that of Scott, they are different in how they dole out instructions from the sidelines. Both Scott and Blatt run the Princeton offense which basically involves a lot of passing and movement around the three-point arc in order to create mismatches that can be exploited and that is where the similarity stops. Byron is a man out of time with the current nuances of the NBA which values three-point shooting and frenetic tempo.
Byron’s disdain for the three point shot but has ultimately willed into the demands of team executives and fans alike. Blatt does not not have any problem with his teams flying the ball. A quick eye test shows the many times Blatt’s offense stagnates due to over relying on side passes that eventually cripples the offensive flow of his teams.
This is one of the by effects of operating the Princeton offense-lots of isolation sets which behoves “star” players to launch heavily contested shots with the clock running down. According to basketballreference.com Cleveland Cavaliers attempted the second most three-point shots in the regular season having flown the ball 2253 times from deep. Byron oversaw his Lakers fly the ball 1546 times from deep to rank 25th in the league.
However, Blatt has demonstrated on several occasions he is a shrewd offensive strategist who can get creative with the board which compelled Cavs General Manager David Griffin to reel him in. He went further to lay down Blatt’s credentials; “David Blatt is going to bring some of the most innovative approaches found in professional basketball anywhere on the globe”.
Russell and Randle have been the worst culprits of Scott’s “old school” way of coaching as both players have been removed from the starting unit and placed on the bench which is extremely odd considering the Lakers sub par talent which makes it difficult to understand his measures.
Conversely, Blatt has demonstrated the ability to work with young players which is ultimately the main thinking behind his appointment prior to LeBron’s decision to come home. His ability to bring out the best in players will be needed to prep up the confidence of LA’s young guns who have had their confidence shattered at certain points during this season due to Scott’s grotesque ways. Per 2004 Utah Jazz NBA All-Star Andrei Kirilenko who played under Blatt in 2007, “He gives everybody a chance to feel that he is very important and the result of the team depends on each player. That actually helps players to feel confident.”
Former Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies Point Guard Jeremy Pargo, Blatt is a “great coach”. “Blatt understands emotions of players, their different attitudes, and knows how to get it all into one. Those are ingredients one needs to be a successful coach in the NBA.” Pargo won two titles with Maccabi Tel Aviv under Blatt.
The Lakers should pursue Blatt because of his unique ability to win wherever he finds himself be it in mainland or its annex-Israel. He is a four time winner of Israeli Coach of the Year, Russian Super League Coach of the Year and 2007 Italian League Champion. His best performance on the sideline came with inter country competitions. He led Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Euroleague title for the sixth time in the team’s history in 2014, the Russian national team to win gold at Eurobasket 2007 and bronze at the London Olympics in 2012 respectively. He failed to win the NBA after getting to the final on his first attempt at the Larry O’Brien. Byron on the other hand, has walked the line of many successful players who turn out to be mediocre or simply bad coaches. In the words of Griffin, “Time and time again, from Russia to Israel and several other prominent head coaching jobs in between, David has done one thing: ‘win.’
Early on in his coaching career, Scott successfully led “small” teams New Jersey now Brooklyn Nets and New Orleans Hornets now Pelicans to great heights. With a young Jason Collins and Jason Kidd New Jersey made back to back appearances at the 2001 and 2002 Finals respectively; guided Chris Paul to the 2008-2009 Western Conference Semi-final and recorded the Hornets first ever winning season. However, Byron has been on a downward spiral having overseen the Cavs longest losing streak in team history with 26 straight losses and never had a winning season. The Cavs ranked in the last five places in defensive efficiency in his three year tenure.
The Lakers on pace to have one of the worst records in the league which will give the team a high probability to land a top three position on the draft board. Should the team win more matches and end up without a surefire top three position, the pick will go to the Philadelphia Sixers.
That gives Lakers another chance to add a top talent to their impressive young trio of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. Byron has shown many times he is just not cut out for the job of developing talents for the future. On many occasions, he has openly criticized his youngsters in public rather than having their backs and affording them the chance to play through mistakes rather than yank them from the court late in fourth quarters.
As the Lakers prepare for the next step of rebuilding towards contention, finding the right coach remains a crucial piece that the team can not afford to err but in David Blatt, a keeper lies in wait.