Blatt Needs to Learn to Protect His Star

All year, Cleveland Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt has railed against being called a rookie coach.

While it is true that he has a tremendous amount of experience as a head coach on the international scene, certainly more than his counterpart on the Golden State bench, he is a novice in knowing the way of the NBA.

This has nothing to do with his ability to coach players, devise scheme, and put his squad in the best position to win.  While we can all debate how much LeBron James has to do with the Cavs’ success, and it is plenty, Blatt changed the style of play for the wine and gold enough that they can be competitive in this series despite the loss of all-stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Where Blatt needs to learn about the NBA ways is in protecting his superstar player.

He needs to speak out about how the officials are referring the best player in the game, LeBron James.

In last night’s 104-91 loss in Game 5, James shot just nine free throws, and one of those came as the result of a defensive three-second call in first half.

That means he shot one less free throw than Draymond Green, who took nine shots for the game, of which six were inside the three-point line.

By contrast, James took 26 field goal attempts inside the arc, and apparently was only fouled on four of those attempts judging by the number of free throws.

We think even the most even-handed professional basketball fan would think that is ridiculous.

The next time Blatt speaks to the media, he needs to mention that he has the sport’s best player, and that player is attacking the rim pretty much on a consistent basis, and he is simply not getting the calls.

Phil Jackson did this as an art form, both when he coached Michael Jordan and also when he had Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.  He cleverly pointed out that his guys got the short end of the officiating stick, especially when they lost a game.

Steve Kerr even did the same prior to Game 4, when he mentioned certain things being “legal”, and that he wasn’t aware of those things.  Kerr, of course, played for Jackson with the Bulls.

For the entire series, the Cavaliers, a team that has slowed the pace and tried to jam the ball to the basket, have shot just 12 more tosses from the charity stripe than the Warriors, who everyone would agree are a perimeter based team.

Based on the styles of play, it wouldn’t be surprising if Cleveland shot 5-10 more freebies than Golden State on a per night basis.

The insulting thing is how James hasn’t been able to get to the line.  Even some veterans NBA writers and observers, including ABC/ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, have commented on how James isn’t getting the whistles usually associated with great players.

He won’t mention it, because it would be out of character for James.  But his coach needs to have his back, and he needs to make the comment prior to tomorrow night’s game because the Cavs either win or go home.

You might say it is gamesmanship, and it might be.  It also may be the truth.  We all see the replays and there is no doubt LeBron James is getting hit on a number of his shot attempts.

He shouldn’t be penalized for his size and skill set.

JK

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