Details regarding the true reasoning behind David Blatt's firing from the Cleveland Cavaliers have remained scarce over the past week, but a new report suggests his dismissal was influenced heavily by the players' impressions of him.
According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst on the TrueHoop Podcast (h/t Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk), LeBron James and Cleveland's veteran players did not like or respect Blatt as their head coach:
All I know is what I saw, and I saw a guy who completely was unable to get even a modicum of respect from a majority of his players.
And I also saw star players and veteran players—not just LeBron, OK. We know LeBron had issues with him. But basically any player that had any sort of veteran status in the league, more than Joe Harris and Matthew Dellavedova—all the veterans didn't like him, either. He wasn't able to win over about anybody.
Despite leading the Cavs to the NBA Finals last season and starting 30-11 this season, Blatt was terminated in favor of assistant Tyronn Lue, who has since been elevated to the head coach position.
LeBron's status as the NBA's biggest superstar led to plenty of speculation that he directly influenced Blatt's ouster, but he insisted that wasn't the case, per ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin:
It sucks. But what can I do about it? I've never, in my time since I picked up a basketball, ever undermined a coach, ever disrespected a coach. You ask any of my little league coaches, my high school coaches, coaches I've played for in tournaments, camps, my NBA coaches. I've always respected what they wanted to do. And I'm not the owner of a team, I'm not the GM of a team. I'm the player of a team.
General manager David Griffin agreed, taking full responsibility for the decision, according to McMenamin.
While James may not have asked for Blatt's firing or been notified about the move beforehand, Windhorst clearly feels as though his feelings—as well as those of many of his teammates—about Blatt directly influenced the change.
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The Cavaliers are 2-1 since Lue took over the reins, and they hold a 2.5-game lead for first place in the Eastern Conference.
They continue to be the favorites to reach the NBA Finals once again despite the chaos, and it is clear that Griffin is banking on the dynamic of the locker room completely changing with Lue's ascension.
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