These NBA Finals marks the first year since the beginning of the “The Association” that two first year coaches will face off. With David Blatt and Steve Kerr leading the Cavaliers and Warriors respectively to the Finals, it is safe to assume that both coaches adapted to their new venues rather quickly. Despite both coaches encountering significant speed bumps along the way, it is evident that Blatt encountered more turbulence on his journey. The team was in disarray midway through the season, compiling a disturbing record of 19-20 and LeBron experiencing his first significant injury. Blatt was faced with the insurmountable task of keeping 3 superstars happy, along with the rest of the team.
Right out of the gate, Cleveland fans and the rest of the NBA world were wondering if David Blatt’s success was only applicable in Europe. During a span where the Cavs lost 10 out of 12 games, general manager David Griffin came to Blatt’s defense, making a public statement expressing his opinion on the team’s coach. Griffin stated that Blatt “is the coach and will be the coach”, and also went on to say that he expected the newly formed Cavs roster to be a “work in progress.”
Owner of the Cavaliers Dan Gilbert weighed in on the Cavs slow start as well by saying,
“I think it’s natural when a team has such high expectations, under .500 halfway through the season, they’re going to go after a brand new coach. So I don’t think it was so much him as it was the situation. You have to go by some of his body of work. This guy won 17 of 21 seasons. He won championships in four or five different countries and brought the Russians to the Olympic medal round. When we did checks on him, we must have talked to 70 or 80 people, literally. We couldn’t find somebody to say a bad word. There’s something about him. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but there’s something about him. “
Blatt became aware of the Cavs’ roster lacking the support of role players, a defensive presence and a sharpshooter in particular. He got both when the Cavs traded for J.R. Smith, Timofey Mozgov, and Iman Shumpert. These three new players fit into the Cavs roster lock and key and team chemistry was immediately noticeable. After January 15, with the three newly acquired additions to the roster, Blatt and the Cavaliers compiled an NBA best 34-9 record to close off the year, securing the two-seed in the Eastern Conference.
Blatt then went onto sweep the Boston Celtics in his first playoff series while losing superstar Kevin Love in Game 4 to a shoulder injury. Love’s injury marked the second significant blow to the Cavaliers frontcourt after teammate Anderson Varejao suffered the torn Achilles back in the game before Christmas.
“It really didn’t,” Gilbert told NEOMG of Blatt. “I don’t care what the expectations were, especially after we changed coaches twice in two years. This was a guy with a long-term record of success. You have to at least give a season, maybe more than just one. I think it would have destabilized the entire franchise and it would have been bad.”
Blatt was forced to insert the raw and inexperienced big man Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup and the move did wonders for the Cavaliers. Thompson quickly established his role as a rim protector and one of the NBA’s best offensive rebounders. With his contract expiring at the end of this season, Double T. gave many reasons to justify his raise in pay, one that LeBron James endorses as well.
After accomplishing a 4-2 series win vs the Chicago Bulls and an incredible sweep vs the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals, Blatt is faced with compiling four more wins against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals to secure his first NBA Championship. With Blatt’s first season in the NBA being filled with ups and downs like no other, what better way to cap off an amazing journey than with a ring?