On Thursday night, the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat handily by a score of 114-88. With Kevin Love sidelined with a sore back, the Cavs got quality performances from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, who dropped 23 points in the victory. Yet despite these solid individual efforts, it was actually the boost from the Cleveland bench that proved to be the ultimate deciding factor in this contest. This is the sort of team-win that Cleveland needs if it’s going to stand any chance of capturing an NBA championship this season. And while this showing and its “anti-hero” ball will do enough to get the rest of the league’s attention, it’s nothing compared to the buzz that was generated with regard to who’s calling the shots in Cleveland.
When ESPN’s Brian Windhorst went on Bill Simmons’s B.S. Report on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Cleveland, he reported that the Cavs’ success isn’t because of coach David Blatt’s system, but rather because James is managing the offense himself. In a transcript of the podcast, provided by Deadspin, this is what Windhorst had to say: “The Princeton offense that David Blatt installed in the preseason, they just threw that out. What typically happens — and this has been happening for like three months now — is LeBron will take the ball, and LeBron will call the play. David Blatt will see what play LeBron calls, and he will repeat it to the team. That happens on a regular basis.”
It’s no surprise that this piece of information caused quite the commotion. Anything involving James usually does. But the fact is, this should be a non-issue. When it comes to discussing who’s calling the plays in Cleveland, there should only be one response: Who cares?
Since James’s return to Cleveland there has been constant curiosity surrounding the power structure in the Cavaliers organization. This “revelation” fell under that category so, of course, both coach and superstar commented on the matter. They each pretty much said the same thing: James is given plenty of freedom on the floor. Which makes total sense. He’s the best player on the planet, with an unbelievably high basketball IQ. He is a student of the game, and any smart coach would give him the freedom to feel out the game, and adjust accordingly. In fact, that’s what you call good coaching.
This isn’t like James’s first run in Cleveland where he was pretty much given the keys to the kingdom. And Blatt is no Mike Brown. This may be his first season in the NBA, but his history of success at the international level speaks for itself. The guy can coach. Therefore it shouldn’t matter whether the signals are coming from the floor or the bench. If it’s working, and the team’s winning, then that’s all anyone should really care about. Both of these things are happening in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers sit atop the Central Division with a 49-27 record and will most likely end up with the second seed in the East. They are eighth in the league in points per game (103.5), second in offensive rating, and are 8-2 in their last 10 games. There are few teams hotter in the NBA right now than the Cleveland Cavaliers. Anyone who has to face them come playoff time should be extremely worried. They certainly won’t be concerned with who’s out there calling the plays. They’ll be too busy trying to figure out how to stop them. In the end, isn’t that the point?
The only reason this play calling situation should bother anyone, especially Blatt, is if he cares more about his ego than he does about the Cavs winning. That doesn’t appear to be the case. In fact, it seems that everyone on this team is on the same page (Kevin Love?). It may have taken some time for it to happen, but the Cavaliers have maintained that building a championship contender would be a process. They’re sticking to that mindset, and they’re playing for each other. That’s why things are coming together. And that’s why no one should care who’s calling the plays in Cleveland.