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Kentucky’s Calipari calls David Blatt right guy to coach Cavaliers

Aug 21, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

David Blatt David Blatt

There’s a lot of questions surrounding David Blatt as the Cavaliers coach, mostly because a lot of people don’t know much about him and what they do know — brilliant offensive mind, won big in Europe — doesn’t impress them. They say he doesn’t have NBA coaching experience (even though he’s been a head coach in Europe for more than a decade, which is more than you can say for Derek Fisher or Steve Kerr). We can tell you that his offensive sets from Vegas will look very good with the talent the Cavaliers will have this fall, but we also know that LeBron James‘ agent also picked up Mark Jackson as a client and that’s an omimous cloud.

Now Kentucky’s John Calipari has come to Blatt’s defense.

We told you Calipari said he was never that close to coaching the Cavaliers despite the rumors. Now in an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio Calipari sung Blatt’s praises as a coach.

“David Blatt can really coach,” Calipari told Frank Isola and Malik Rose during an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio. “He’s a better choice than me to coach that team. I coached against him. I’m not sitting here just saying it. I coached against him in FIBA basketball. I watched him coach Russia, the guy can coach, OK? Those players, all they want is respect. If they respect you as a coach they’re going to play like crazy….

“It’s going to be scary seeing how good Kyrie (Irving) is when now you gotta defer a little bit with this; how good Love is,” Calipari said. “We haven’t even seen how good those two are going to be. And it’s kinda like when Michael would grab guys and all of a sudden you saw Scottie (Pippen) how good he could be or (Dennis) Rodman. … All of them, all of them. That’s what LeBron will do. It’s crazy what’s going to go on in Cleveland.”

What else was Calipari going to say?

He’s right though. Blatt can coach. Whether he can get LeBron and company to fully buy in remains to be seen, but he can coach.

I see two key challenges for the Cavaliers this season:

1) Defense. They are not going to be a bad defensive team, but will they be good enough? With Kevin Love (once traded this weekend) getting heavy minutes at the four you’ve got Anderson Varejao at the five — a pretty good pick-and-roll defender but not a rim protector. The Cavaliers lack that.

2) Adjustment time. New players. New coach with a new system. I see this a little like LeBron’s first year in Miami where they got all the way to the Finals on talent but had not yet found the system and cohesion that let them win titles. Kyrie Irving is a great shooter off the bounce but his catch-and-shoot numbers need to improve around LeBron. Love will need to find his spaces. The team needs to find an identity. All of that takes time.

Will the notoriously impatient Dan Gilbert give him time?

Meanwhile Chicago has an identity and talent (if Derrick Rose can just stay healthy) and the West is still loaded.

  1. tomtravis76 - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    LeBron will decide at the end of the season, if Blatt stays. LeBron is the real GM.

  2. ProBasketballPundit - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    “It’s going to be scary seeing how good Kyrie (Irving) is when now you gotta defer a little bit with this; how good Love is,” Calipari said. “We haven’t even seen how good those two are going to be. And it’s kinda like when Michael would grab guys and all of a sudden you saw Scottie (Pippen) how good he could be or (Dennis) Rodman. … All of them, all of them. That’s what LeBron will do. It’s crazy what’s going to go on in Cleveland.”

    What the bleep is he talking about? Does that make sense to anybody else?

    • redbaronx - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:00 PM

      @PBT – Basically Calipari is saying that now that Love and Irving aren’t the “main gun” on their team, they can defer to LeBron and it should accelerate Love and Irving’s development and the result will be interesting to see.

      I’ve never been a big LeBron fan, but I’m excited to see how Cleveland will develop this season. Not that I think they’ll win a ring this year, but I am 24 out of 26 in predicting NBA champions, and for the first time in a while, I feel like can’t make a prediction and Cleveland is a POSSIBLE contender depending on Irving’s development. The only thing I’m fairly certain of is that there will be a new NBA champ this season (I don’t think the Spurs are winning again. I think age will finally be a factor this year.)

      • ProBasketballPundit - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:13 PM

        If you’re telling the truth you have to admit that Dallas was one of the two you didn’t see coming.

      • redbaronx - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:19 PM

        @PBT – No. The two that I didn’t get was 1988 (I picked Detroit to win that year. Lakers won) and 2005 I picked Detroit to repeat (Spurs won that year)

        I don’t have much luck with Detroit….

      • redbaronx - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:24 PM

        @PBT – Added response. Now that I think about it, I always pick the team that I think is the better TEAM from a chemistry standpoint. I didn’t think LeBron was going to win his first year in Miami and I did pick Dallas that year.

        But again now that I think about it, I also picked the Spurs to win last year when Miami won. So actually I’m 24 out of 27. Three misplaced bets.

  3. antistratfordian - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:42 PM

    I don’t see it as anything like LeBron’s first year in Miami. Are we all forgetting about the major obstacles that the Heat had?

    No pecking order issues
    No overlapping game issues
    No “The world hates us and it sucks but let’s try to embrace it even though it makes us cry at night” issues
    No “You want me to be the bad guy? I’ll be the bad guy (but I really don’t want to be the bad guy)” issues for LeBron
    No “I’ve never lived away from home before – everything is scary and I feel all alone” issues for LeBron

    Personally, I think Cleveland should mesh well right out of the gate and roll.

    Also, you know, Gasol may not mesh well in Chicago. Rose may not play as well on a team with twin towers clogging the paint. If that was a LeBron team people would be saying that spacing is going to be a major issue.

    • ProBasketballPundit - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:16 PM

      You make some pretty great points. Dwyane Wade had serious issues letting LeBron run the team in 2010. In fact he didn’t let go until he got hurt in the 2012 playoffs and had to.

      Boston meshed immediately when their big 3 came together, I think it could be a similar thing here. Of course they may need to make a lot of progress defensively from what we’ve seen of Love and Tristan Thompson in the past.

      • antistratfordian - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:38 PM

        “Of course they may need to make a lot of progress defensively from what we’ve seen of Love and Tristan Thompson in the past.”

        Well, you know – defense is in the eye of the beholder.

        For every person and metric that says that a certain player isn’t a good defender, there is another person and another metric that says the opposite.

        Thompson is a good example. Kevin Pelton and Bradford Doolittle were both high on Thompson’s defense in 2013 saying:

        “His metrics were solid on the defensive end, even though Cleveland was better with him off the floor. Thompson’s block rate suggested potential as a help defender and, according to mySynergySports, he posted the fifth-best per-play mark in the league against post-ups.”

        …and they gave him a +2 skill rating for defense (scale goes from -5 to +5).

        They gave Kevin Love a +3 skill rating for defense which put him in the 79th to 87th percentile.

  4. seasickcecil - Aug 21, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    Although the NBA is by far the easiest league to pick a champion 24-27 is still pretty darn good!

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