There's a lot going on with the Cleveland Cavaliers right now. They've alternated flashes of brilliance and basura. And LeBron James is not playing like LeBron James. Today, Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein dropped the news that players may have already tuned out rookie head coach David Blatt:
Sources told ESPN.com that there is rising concern in team circles about the level of response that Blatt is getting on the floor, with Blatt himself acknowledging that the Cavaliers "lost our energy and we lost our competitiveness" in Sunday night's embarrassing home loss to Detroit.
The Cavs would prefer not to be forced into evaluating their new coach just 30 games into Blatt's NBA career, cognizant that the job has quickly evolved into a much different one — after James stunningly decided in July to return to his home-state team in free agency — than it was when Blatt was hired from Israeli power Maccabi Tel Aviv in June with no NBA experience.
But the Cavs' effort level, especially defensively, is eroding noticeably, raising the volume of questions about just how much the locker room is listening to the 55-year-old Boston native, who has enjoyed tremendous international success but began this season as a relative unknown to NBA players.
LeBron hasn't exactly been in full support of Blatt, telling ESPN's Dave McMenamin, "Yeah, I mean, he's our coach, what other coach do we have?" when asked if he thought Blatt was right for the team. James also demurred when asked if his endorsement would put Blatt on solid ground:
"Well, listen, man, I don't pay no bills around here. Listen, man, I play. I'm happy with who we have at our helm," James said. "He's our coach, but to make it a feud between me and Blatt or the team and Blatt is just to sell. It's just to sell and get people to read it and put something on the bottom of the ticker. That's all it is."
A touch of perspective here — when LeBron's Heat team started 9-8, there were similar rumblings about Erik Spoelstra, as well as the infamous bump Spo received from LeBron during a loss in Dallas. The difference is the Heat gave full institutional support to Spoelstra — Pat Riley didn't want to coach again, and Spoelstra was well-regarded in the two years he coached prior to LeBron's arrival. He'd also been with the team since the mid-90s.
If you're wondering if Blatt is feeling the pressure, in the midst of answering questions about his job security today, he came down with a nosebleed.
Photo via AP