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Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt is in motion — just like he wants his offense to be

Jul 18, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — David Blatt doesn’t sit much.

That’s one of the first things you notice when you watch him on the sidelines of a game — he’s in motion.

Like he wants his offense to be.

NBA rookie Blatt will coach the Cleveland Cavaliers next fall — a team now flush with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and some very interesting young talent, not to mention skyrocketing expectations — yet he remains a mystery to many. He comes with the reputation of being an offensive genius, but there is no frame of reference with him. Blatt, an American who played at Princeton, spent the last few decades overseas, becoming one of the top coaches on that continent — he just led Maccabi Tel Aviv to an upset EuroLeague title win. He is the first coach to make the leap straight to head NBA coach from there. He is unique.

How is all that going to translate to the NBA?

We are just starting to see that at Summer League. Among the things you can learn watching him courtside in Las Vegas is he’s often moving. Summer League coaches tend to be planted in their chairs more than you see during the regular season. Not Blatt. He stands and paces, usually with his hands in his jean pockets. And he’s talking. To his players, his coaches, and nobody in particular.

“Andrew roll (off that pick). Go set another one.”

“Come through. Come through.”

“Use the screen.”

“Will (Cherry), one side, run it away from Jo (Harris, the other guard on the court).”

He implores his guys to get out and run at every opportunity, even off opponent makes.

Blatt leaps into a low defensive crouch with his arms extended to urge Steven Gray to get in a better defensive position late in a tight game. He talks to his guys more about defense than offense.

And he’s often talking to the bench, trying to teach the guys sitting there (or muttering things to his assistant coaches). At one point on a play where he likes what Anthony Bennet did setting a pick, Blatt walks down the bench and explains what he likes to the other bigs sitting there.

What you learn watching him is he an old-school coach in the meaningful sense — he likes teaching the game. He likes learning about the game. Talk to him a couple times and you see he’s a student of the game.

“All coaches should learn from other coaches, because as John Wooden says ‘it’s what you learn after you know everything that counts,’” Blatt said Thursday. “So I like to listen to guys like coach (Larry) Brown and many others.”

But what does all that mean for the Cavaliers offense?

There will be some Princeton in his offense — move the ball and keep moving off the ball — but what you can expect to see is an up tempo offense that is more about reading what the defense givez and trying to exploit it.

“I kind of want to see what the rest of my team is going to look like but right now, without question, we have some really good and intelligent players,” Blatt told ProBasketballTalk. “That will allow us to be a lot more read oriented then specific play oriented.”

That said, Blatt doesn’t have the answers on exactly what the offense and Cavaliers will look like because he is still figuring it all out. That’s what the summer is for.

“I have a big job to figure out the best way for us to play and utilize the many, many possibilities that are now at our disposal,” Blatt said earlier in the week. “I said the other day our set of limitations has changed and raised exponentially. There are a lot of possibilities and factors to be considered in building a team with guys that really want to play and want to play right.”

Has he consulted LeBron yet? Not yet, but they have texted.

“Everybody keeps asking if I’ve talked to LeBron. LeBron and I are going to talk a lot. Believe me,” Blatt said.

What Blatt does understand that there is a different rhythm to coaching in the NBA compared to Europe and he needs to get used to it, which is why he took on coaching the Summer League team when most coaches leave that to an assistant (fellow rookie coach Steve Kerr did the same thing).

“You’ve probably paid attention, I’ve blown enough situations in terms of timeouts and things like that,” Blatt said of his Summer League performance. “You know that’s why I wanted to do Summer League, I’m coming from a different set of rules and in some ways a different kind of basketball and the best thing I can do is immerse myself in that and take my hits, so to speak, make mistakes and get the knowledge from the coaches I need. It’s not things that are earth shattering, just knowing the rules and knowing what does and doesn’t go. So I’m really glad I had this experience, it helped me a lot.”

Blatt is polished and smooth with the media, flashes a good sense of humor and seems to being enjoying himself. He’s likable, the kind of guy you’d want to hang out and have a beer with.

But I don’t know how long he’d sit there. Blatt is a guy with a huge job this summer to put together systems to maximize what should be one of the East’s best teams.

Plus, he’s not a guy that sits much.

  1. titansbro - Jul 18, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Wow, a rookie head coach from Euro leagues finally gets a chance to coach in the NBA with what should have been a mediocre team at best & boom the best player on the planet decides he’s coming back. Jackpot! Although, that probably means that if something goes wrong he gets shown the door with the quickness. And he will have no say on personnel, LeBron is the new GM. I mean, Blatt has already said Wiggins will not be traded, but then LeBron calls up K-Love & all of sudden Wiggins is in play?

    • therealhtj - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:34 AM

      Yup. Now he’s got to answer to the LRMR crew and Lebron’s mom too.

    • zoomy123 - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      The Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love trade rumors have been debunked almost as fast as they were started…by Minnesota:

      Minnesota is in dire straits right now and they know it. Spreading false rumors is a sign of desperation.

      • titansbro - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:45 AM

        I hope they don’t give up Wiggins, mostly because I think if they play it right they can get Love without giving up Wiggins. Flip Saunders should have taken the Boston offer before the draft, that’s probably the best one he’s gonna get, except that Boston has already signed both picks & can no longer trade them.

      • zoomy123 - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:58 AM

        I agree. Cleveland should only trade Wiggins if it’s absolutely necessary to get K-Love. Cleveland has all the leverage because the market for Love has pretty much dried up with all potential suitors either moving on or not having the assets that Flip wants.

      • Kurt Helin - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:27 PM

        Cleveland does not have leverage — Minny still has the asset everyone wants and crap offers will be there in February. And he’s got crap offers from teams that can’t sign Love, he can send him anywhere for less. Lowball and you lose.

    • antistratfordian - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      Blatt didn’t say “Wiggins will not be traded.” He said that as far as he knew, from what management had told him previously, was that Wiggins was not going anywhere. But obviously things can change.

      There are no negatives to coaching LeBron if you’re a bad coach because he’s only going to make you look better than you are.

  2. stayhigh_247 - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:08 AM

    Cleveland fans are gonna have fun the next few years.

    • phillycannon - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:35 AM

      Fun with pick and rolls…..yea thats fun.

    • jeffkx - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:04 AM

      Yeah it’s pretty funny. After four years of horrid basketball Cavs fans are now worried about what the team will look like in 5 or 6 years after LeBron retires if we trade Wiggins for Love. It’s maddening.

  3. haaaaasoooooo - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    This is what Miami’s offense lacked. Wade was a lot less SLASH the last few yrs. Lebron will be averaging double digits assists in a motion offense!

  4. jaydm84 - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:41 AM

    Well, LeBron will be calling the shots in Cleveland so we will never know how good/bad this guy would be. It’s not like anyone has ever succeeded in Cleveland ever, at anything.

    • asimonetti88 - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:28 AM

      Drew Carey had a pretty successful TV show in Cleveland

      • titansbro - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:42 AM

        Mimi was the real star of that show.

      • jimeejohnson - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:00 PM

        Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s doing well in Cleveland.

    • antistratfordian - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      Jim Brown was pretty good.

    • campcouch - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:21 PM

      I dunno,George Steinbrenner did alright,then bought the Yankees,Dolan bought the Knicks,you’ve probably eaten some of Chef Boiardi’s food, seen a Terrance Howard film,managed to squeeze one president out,Don Shula, ooh Jerry Siegel gave us Superman, even Cy young spent a bit of his youth in Cleveland. There are a few who succeeded and shared with the world.

  5. irvness21 - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    i wanna see what his offense looks like. all the hype they are putting on him is making me want to tune in. Its still up to the players to execute and buy in though. Does he run a modified Princeton offense??

    • ProBasketballPundit - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:13 PM

      Zach Lowe interviewed Blatt for Grantland. He talked a little about his princeton offense. Sounds like he tries to design the offense around the talent. Good Q&A

  6. blantoncollier - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    One thing is certain After three years of Byron Scott standing on the sideline with his arms folded. And Mike Brown forgetting about offense yet again. The Cavs are going to have a commitment to offense. AND Defense. Blatt seems like a blast of fresh air.

  7. ironyisadeadscene - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    Spolestra 2.0

    • handsomerob86 - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      Wow that was totally off. Spolstra was a video guy who got bumped up. Blatt has rings from overseas and like 30 years of experience and is widely regarded as a great ingenuitive coach. Has anyone ever called Spoelstra ingenuitive? If anything, I think having Blatt probably made Lebron more likely to pick Cleveland. Blatt won’t be perfect, but he seems likely to be better than Spoelstra.

      • antistratfordian - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:45 PM

        Is ‘ingenuitive’ even a word? In any case, yes, there have been people who have called Speolstra ingenious. His ‘position-less basketball’ (pace and space) won 2 rings. How many coaches out there have the stones and smarts to keep starting Shane Battier at Power Forward and win? How many coaches can figure out how to win without both rebounding and shot blocking? It’s almost unheard of. But Spo was committed to his philosophy come hell or high water.

        It wasn’t all LeBron.

  8. dluxxx - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    I’ll be interested to see if he can get Love to buy in to playing defense. Love’s gone through what, 4 coaches now? He’ll be on his 5th? Yeah, none of them could get him to play D, I doubt Blatt will either.

  9. beach305 - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    Sounds exactly like Miami offense.

  10. mungman69 - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    I think that Blatt “givez” the Cavs a unique perspective. Sure Lebron will be the coach on the floor but these guys will work together.

  11. harshedmellow - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    Yep. Which ain’t a bad thing.

    The Wiggins/Love crossroad needs to be chosen ASAP though. Talk about two different paths, two different teams… I go back and forth. Love’s production is undeniable… but so is the fact that he’s not a 19 year old athletic superfreak!

    I must admit I’ve only marveled at Love’s stat lines and really don’t know his game on a gut level. Obviously he can shoot, and snarf up boards. I have to think he’d be a beast with a legit PG and then oh by the way one of the most unselfish superstars to ever play the game! That said, Lebron with a19 year old superfreak wing could be ridiculous too.

    Crazy days in Cleveland! My team, the Blazers, pretty much held pat… minimal drama there to yack about, haha…

    • antistratfordian - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:47 PM

      Yes, lots of board snarfing. I’ve decided that either Wiggins or Love is going to be a good deal, so win-win.

  12. antistratfordian - Jul 18, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    I like this Blatt fella. We’ll see what happens.

  13. jasper36 - Jul 18, 2014 at 5:48 PM

    Top 5 Coach in the NBA I don’t know what took him so long to come over. He will change the the way Basketball is played in Cleveland.

  14. dinofrank60 - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:36 PM

    Then the Cavs should remake their roster, because they have too many players who are, or more importantly, think they are too talented to be limited. That’s an easier sell when you have good, solid players who don’t worry about how good they are. (See: Spurs) Somebody has to do the dirty work, which is what Blatt wants, and Blatt may not get it with his younger players.

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