Miami Heat Minority Owner Says LeBron James Wanted Erik Spoelstra Fired

David Pick@@IAmDPickInternational Hoops InsiderJanuary 27, 2016

Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) walks past coach Erik Spoelstra after James was charged with an offensive foul against the Washington Wizards during the first half of an NBA  basketball game, Monday, March 10, 2014, in Miami. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
J Pat Carter/Associated Press

Tuesday evening on an Israeli sports talk radio show hosted by Ofira Asayag on ONE.co.il's 102FM, Miami Heat minority owner Raanan Katz and I appeared as panelists to discuss the Cleveland Cavaliers' firing of head coach David Blatt last week. Blatt's former assistant coach, Alon Stein, was also on the show.

Katz used to be a shareholder of Maccabi Tel Aviv when Blatt coached there years ago, in addition to his role as a minority owner of the Heat. During the radio interview, Katz revealed a bomb of a story—that LeBron James "made it clear" he wanted Erik Spoelstra fired during his tenure with Miami.  

Several reports from Miami-based reporters—including tweets from Dan LeBatard and Ethan Skolnick—have challenged Katz's allegations, citing Katz's loose connection to front office decision-making processes.  

Below are Katz's full comments from Tuesday's radio appearance: 

On the relationship between Blatt and James:

"I spoke to David Blatt while he was here in Miami when the Heat played the Cleveland Cavaliers. I could tell the situation wasn't 100 percent working. I thought LeBron James had enough brains to make it work, though.

"David Blatt's main problem was LeBron's attitude. I sat court-side during all the games Cleveland played in Miami, I was a few feet away from the Cavaliers' bench, and I heard everything. There was no dialogue between Blatt and LeBron. Blatt would talk to Timofey Mozgov and the other guys. LeBron takes advantage of being an NBA superstar, and he needs to realize that it won't work. Everyone saw how the Golden State Warriors beat LeBron and the Cavaliers a week ago. He has to understand that to win, the entire team has to be in sync."

On Blatt's performance in Cleveland:

"Blatt did a great job in Cleveland. He did everything he could, but he realized he couldn't tell LeBron James what to do. Perhaps the Cavaliers need a general manager that carries more weight in the organization."

On why James left Miami for Cleveland:

"With the Miami Heat, LeBron Jamesbefore and after his four seasons when his contract was up with the team—hinted in every way possible he wanted to dump head coach Erik Spoelstra. At one point, [Heat president] Pat Riley called LeBron into his office and said that no one will tell him how to run the organization. Riley told James that Spoelstra is his guy and that firing Spoelstra is out of the question. That was the main reason LeBron returned to Cleveland."

On James influencing Miami's front-office decisions:

"LeBron screwed us badly; we weren't prepared for his departure from the Miami Heat. We made the wrong decisions because of LeBron Jameshe told us to draft a point guard [Shabazz Napier] who didn't meet the expectations, but we chose him because that's what LeBron wanted." 

In a follow-up interview, Katz emphasized he did not say James had Blatt fired, just that he's reading between the lines.

"I didn't hear what LeBron and Griffin spoke of, but you can read between the lines," he said.


David Pick is Bleacher Report's international basketball writer. He has covered overseas hoops and American players abroad since 2010. Follow him on Twitter @IAmDPick.