For all you people who are on my back all the time about coaches not mattering much in the NBA, have you been watching the NBA Finals?
The Cleveland Cavaliers fired Coach David Blatt during the season and I thought it might be good for them. Blatt seemed out of his element in the NBA in terms of communicating with his players. And they didn't seem to respect him.
But the problem for the Cavs is that they replaced Blatt with Tyronn Lue. No offense here to Lue, who someday might make a pretty solid NBA coach, but this is his first try at a head-coaching job and this is no time for on-the-job training.
And so far in this series he’s seriously overmatched. My goodness, Cleveland appears clueless.
The Cavs showed no respect for the coaching profession when they brought in back-to-back coaches with no previous experience running an NBA team – particularly one expected to contend for a world championship.
Folks, it’s not that easy. Coaching at this level is a flat-out near impossibility. Seriously. You’ve got to keep 12 ego-driven, sometimes selfish basketball players happy while asking them – forcing them in some cases – to do a lot of things that they probably don’t want to do.
Like pass to open teammates and, in general, play unselfishly. And like playing defense with inspiration and desperation.
I’ve always judged NBA coaches by how well their teams defend. Guarding people one-on-one at the NBA level is impossible. And just telling these guys to stay between their man and the basket is not enough.
And saying after a game, as Lue did Sunday, “They were tougher than us” is really no excuse and not something to build a game plan on.
Team concepts are required to play championship-level NBA defense. Systems must be in place so players know where the help is, which ways to force the people they’re guarding and how to rotate to open shooters after double-teams. They must defend pick and rolls everywhere on the court and be able to guard the three-point line with fervor while clogging up the middle.
This isn’t easy stuff. But at least you can attempt it.
One of the teams in the NBA Finals is doing a pretty good job of all those things. The other team, Cleveland, is doing almost none of these things while looking bewildered when trying to attack the Golden State defense.
People are going to blame LeBron James but the real problem is, instead of trying to appease James with the coaching hire, they should go get someone with genuine coaching experience to handle this crew.
Cleveland is still sticking to the old-line NBA philosophy of depending too heavily on its stars in isolation instead of moving the ball and moving bodies – using offensive sets to manufacture easier shots for all of the players.
They’ve never figured out how to use Kevin Love in Cleveland, making me wonder if anyone there has ever see him at the high post, where he can use his incomparable passing skills and reliable shooting touch. He’s no Draymond Green on defense, but in a role where he can showcase all he can do, he can out-Draymond on offense.
But I’m seeing no imagination there. A lot of the same old isolations and afterward, a lot of people urging LeBron to come out and try to score 50 in the next game.
That could actually work for a game or two, if the Cavs get lucky, but it’s not a seven-game solution.
My advice to Cleveland is go to school on the video from the first two games – learn from the Warriors and the way they play.
If it’s not already too late.