It has been said that basketball is to sports as jazz is to music.
The game has structure, but the players improvise, and they have to in order to be successful at it.
That’s why we think it is funny when we hear the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t running the offense that coach David Blatt wants to run.
The wine and gold are getting more confident with Blatt’s system, which is designed to move the ball without a lot of dribbling, because we are seeing the passing game more and more each game. But the players still go back to one-on-one play from time to time.
Of course, that may be the coach’s compromise to the players, especially guys like LeBron James and Kyrie Irving who can probably break down the player guarding them at any point in the game.
Coaches want the players to be players, not robots. So, if a play is designed and the player sees someone open under the basket, good coaches want the man with the ball to make the right basketball play.
That was in evidence in the Cavs’ win over the Clippers a couple of weeks ago late in the game.
Blatt designed an inbound play late in overtime, with James as the inbounder. Apparently, the play was to get the ball to Kyrie Irving around the three-point line, so if someone was to be fouled, it would be the team’s best free throw shooter.
However, James saw Tristan Thompson break to the hoop, uncovered. So, we made the correct read and fired it to Thompson for a dunk, while being fouled. That’s what coaches want, break the play, especially if it leads to an easy hoop.
No coach wants to run set plays every time down the floor. It’s one way to get the players to carry a grudge against the guy in charge.
Of course, there are coaches who are control freaks and want to micro-manage everything their team does, but usually those coaches have a very short shelf life.
Most coaches probably don’t even want to call plays, because that would mean a lot of transition baskets, and their players would know where the ball should go and when it should move.
Take Wednesday’s win over Portland, which extended the Cavaliers’ winning streak to eight games. Irving was really the only player who had things going for Cleveland, and the coach and his teammates recognized that and got him the basketball.
The result was a 55 point night for the former first overall pick, and a win for the Cavs.
The previous game, only James and Irving were hitting shots vs. Detroit, so they carried the load.
To be sure, that wasn’t the coach’s design going into the game, but everyone adapted, and it led to a victory.
Blatt doesn’t want his team to have to depend on huge nights by his two all-stars to win every night, but right now, a few players are struggling to make shots (yes, Kevin Love is in a bit of a slump), so James and Irving are carrying the load. There is nothing wrong with that.
Tonight, perhaps J.R. Smith might get it going or Love can get hot, or Timofey Mozgov will be able to score inside, and the players will depend and feed off of them. That’s the kind of sport basketball is.
Early in the year, there was too much one on one play and too many players looking for their shots, and the offense struggled. That seems to be changing.
That means the Cavs are playing as a team, and selfishness is disappearing.
That’s a good thing and it could mean better things are yet to come.