Since entering the NBA, David Blatt has received immense amounts of criticism. Right out of the gate, the Cavs crawled out to a 5-7 record through 12 games, the most bizarre loss coming to a depleted Knicks lineup on opening night, spoiling LeBron James’ homecoming.
However, it is important to note that while LeBron was in his first year with the Miami Heat in 2010, the team compiled a 9-8 record to begin the season, and eventually reached the NBA Finals. That being said, it is clear that both coaches have experienced difficulty dealing with LeBron and his mentalities through the beginning of their respective coaching careers. James openly commented on his first impression of Spoelstra admitting that he did not buy into Spoelstra well into his second season with the team. James is also well known for blatantly pushing David Blatt away from a referee he was arguing with during a 107-100 loss against the Phoenix Suns in early January.
With the provided evidence, it is clear to assume that both coaches faced massive criticism. However, I believe Spoelstra did a better job of actually coaching LeBron. LeBron went on the record and reflected on his four years in Miami:
“Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.”
Miami also provided LeBron with the mentorship of two superstars being Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. These two elite players provided LeBron with consistent fallback options, whom were able to take over and greatly contribute toward a game where he may not be playing his best. The two veterans helped LeBron develop his canny unselfish ways as well as his ability to single-handedly take over late in crucial games.
With the help of Spoelstra and the aging Dwayne Wade, LeBron changed the Heat from a Dwayne Wade led team into his team by the time his stint in Miami was over. Upon leaving Miami, LeBron emphasized the bond that formed between Spoelstra and himself. There is no doubt that Miami helped shape LeBron into leader on and off the court that LeBron is today. Miami allowed LeBron to have the weight of a “must have championship” lifted off of his shoulders, and sure enough, he managed to win two in his four years there. Coaching hall of famers such as LeBron, Wade, Ray Allen, and possibly Chris Bosh during the Heat’s Big Three era, Spoelstra admits that he had to change his coaching philosophy.
“That experience definitely motivated me to become a better coach and for our staff to become better and more equipped that hopefully, if we ever got in that situation again, that we would have learned from that painful experience,” Spoelstra said. “I use that all the time all year long with our team. Experience is the best teacher.”
LeBron is using the experience in Miami to help ease David Blatt into a first year experience for himself, coaching in the NBA. After their 5-7 start, the Cavs struggles stretched until January, when they were 19-20 after a six-game losing streak. Sensing his team was reeling and thinking too much on the losses, Blatt decided to surprise them by cancelling practice and doing something else instead:
Thanks to a huge surge in the final months, Cleveland stormed up in the win column to finish with a record of 53-29. Blatt has done a great job coaching the Cavs through two rounds of the playoffs, despite almost costing the Cavs Game 4 by attempting to call a timeout when he had none remaining.
“He’s catching heat because he’s coaching me, that’s all that is,” said James after Blatt started receiving criticism for the incident between Games 4 and 5.
Now in the East Finals for the fifth year in a row, sixth time out of the last seven, and seven times out of the last nine, James will be looked at to guide the Cavs through the tough Hawks team that grabbed three of the four regular season games between the two. LeBron’s leadership on the court surely has developed from his time in Miami, and he has taken what he learned back to Cleveland in hopes of completing his lifetime goal of bringing a championship to Cleveland.