Amico Report: For Cavs, Blatt is where it's at
Jun 22, 2014 at 2:34p ET
That's my feeling about the Cleveland Cavaliers' hiring of David Blatt as coach. Why not?
The man has won overseas -- a lot. He is clearly well-respected by his players, both near and far. He possesses a system that stresses ball movement, lots of touches for the right people, a fun style of play that should excite both players and fans.
So why not?
What else were the Cavs going to do? Who else would they have hired? Would you have been more excited with Vinny Del Negro? Or less?
Nothing wrong with Del Negro. He left the Los Angeles Clippers as one of just two coaches to have compiled a winning record with the franchise (Larry Brown was the other). But why not think out of the box if you're the Cavs? Why not David Blatt?
I can't think of one good reason.
One thing Cavs fans should keep in mind: This team is being run with a totally different mindset. The Danny Ferry and Chris Grant and Mike Brown regime of the previous decade is over. This team is now general manager David Griffin's -- and his philosophy on basketball seems quite different than that of his predecessors.
Griffin was once a Phoenix Suns guy. He spent the first 17 years of his career there. The Suns have always been one of the most polished, most professional, most transparent organizations in all of pro sports. And I'm not just saying that because I wrote for the team's website (back when Steve Kerr was Suns GM).
Truth is, I've covered the NBA for 20 years, and the Suns have always topped my list when it comes to general friendliness and being connected to their fans. The Suns aren't manufacturing passion. They're genuine.
Mostly, the Suns have always been a lot of fun on the floor. They've almost always been competitive. At least, they have been competitive more often than not in the past 20 years. They've never oversold the idea of "assets" or the like. They just try to win.
So the Cavs are a different organization under Griffin. It's like nothing this generation of Cavs fans has seen. Griffin won't talk about building the right culture -- he'll just do it. He won't boast or smirk or act like he invented basketball -- he'll just think out of the box a little.
And hey, why not? It's time for something new, something different, something that works for the Cavs. David Blatt just might be that guy.
More on Blatt
I don't really feel like looking up Blatt's accomplishments overseas at the moment, but just know this: The man wins.
It's true the NBA is a different animal, and hiring Blatt may be no different than hiring a college or D-League coach. Blatt will have to make similar adjustments. (In fact, it surprised me how many Cavs fans seemed to be against hiring Mike D'Antoni, another wildly successful overseas coach.)
Anyway, I can tell you this much about Blatt, and it's the honest-to-goodness truth: After about five minutes of listening to him talk a few years back, I felt like lacing up the sneakers and shooting 500 jumpers.
So he's a passionate basketball person -- and by all accounts, a smart X's-and-O's guy who can get his message across to the players.
Welcome to the Amico Report
For those unfamiliar with this particular weekly column, I'll take a quick break to explain:
It's a celebration of basketball. Nothing less, nothing more. I love the game. I don't know about other media members, but that's my stance. I'm not jaded, I'm not wishing I could write about the football or baseball instead. If I wasn't doing this, I'd want to be a scout or video coordinator or something at the NBA or college levels. (Believe it or not, I'm occasionally approached by NBA teams about doing all of the above.)
Anyway, I have other columns and reports that offer inside info and, um, "facts." This is for people who enjoy the game for pick-and-rolls, for good defense, for long-range J's ... for BASKETBALL.
As you'll see below, it's also a conversation. Not only will I post your emails, I really want them. So thanks for joining. Let's celebrate the greatest game ever invented.
Question: "I wanted to ask about the possibility of a LeBron return (to the Cavs). I have been saying it for the last 3 years but I saw something that really intrigued me. If you recall the kid running out on the floor during the Cavs game, some people from Akron I follow were talking about it right before and right after it happened. I started to follow him and the more he tweeted the more I thought he knew more. I think he was planted by LRMR. He has started a campaign, 'Come Home LeBron,' and has pics of himself in Miami with a championship ring on and pics holding a ESPY. I just thought it was really weird. Check out his profile: His name is James Blair."
Answer: Well, Shawn, I don't know much about any of that, but thanks for the heads up. And I will say this: I am from Akron. LeBron is from Akron. We were born in the same hospital. (Me about 103 years before him.) I returned home because it was a smart career move, and so should LeBron.
From Brad Elfring
Q: "Sam, thanks for the constant basketball articles and the access. Here is my question: I have no issues with you or anyone not liking or defending Chris Grant. But there has to be some sort of two-sided coverage. I for one don't think he is perfect, but I don't think he was the worst thing ever. Just a few things. He was able to get Kyrie through a very good trade with the LA Clippers (yes Dan Gilbert wrote the check), he fleeced Memphis for getting a lottery pick next year. He also drafted Kyrie when people were calling for Derrick Williams (a lot of my friends).
"Now drafting Dion who I love was a mistake. Two ball dominant guards just don't work. And re-hiring Mike Brown is just awful. I'm giving a pass on Bennett as of now, that draft just wasn't any good."
A: Dear Brad, great stuff and you bring up some valid points. First, I am tough on Grant because I think he ended up proving to be mostly full of beans. All the moves you mentioned have resulted in nothing, but as you said, I think Mike Brown had a lot more to do with that than Grant. Another coach called me on the day of the press conference to announce the re-hiring of Brown and said, "Chris Grant just got himself fired." He was right. But yes, I think Grant did some really good things. I also think Dan Gilbert did the right thing by letting Grant go. This franchise needed a change of culture (and coaches). Grant's fault or not, that's the bottom line.
From Chuck Benesh
Q: "Just wanted to drop you a quick note to tell you how much I enjoy your work. Many times nowadays I end up going quickly through Twitter just to find your posts! Love how you have so much interaction with everyone and answer questions with the chats and Twitter. It shows that you care about your job and your readers. I know you get frustrated with some of the people that comment on Twitter, but hopefully you will keep posting as much as ever- . Take the Carmelo Anthony loyalty thing for example. I am with you 100 percent on that one. There is no accountability anymore. If things don't go well, then 'cut bait and leave' seems to be the attitude. Definitely an ill of our society, but especially in professional sports, where entitlement reigns supreme. Anyway, I am hoping LeBron returns to Cleveland and as far as the No. 1 pick -- I think I change my mind every day between the three!"
A: Dear Chuck, best letter ever. Please write again.
From Mark Veal
Q: "Hey Sam, I enjoy reading your stuff. Big Hawks fan here in GA. What are you hearing on them? I think they are building around their first five, which includes Horford. I could see them dealing Lou Williams. But quite honestly I think they bring everyone back and add Evan Tuner as a signee."
A: Dear Mark, I love what the Hawks are doing! Coach Mike Budenholzer was a great get, and no one in the East plays more like the Spurs than the Hawks. I still say they would have beat the Pacers (and the Wizards) in the playoffs had Horford been healthy. Your Evan Turner suggestion is a good one. Turner was a poor fit in Indiana, but might work out well elsewhere. Mostly, I agree that the Hawks should just stay the same and grow together under Budenholzer. They're undoubtedly on the rise.
(Email your thoughts and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may not be able to respond or post, but I do read EVERY last one.)
-- I'm still shooting between 200-500 jumpers a day and playing full-court 5-on-5 three or four times a week. After like a decade off, it's been quite an interesting (and exhilarating) experience. I now hate the idea of not being able to play anymore. So I'm going to keep going while I'm still (barely) young enough, or at least until something bursts, pops or breaks. Wish me well, America.
-- After the NBA Draft and free agency, I'll be traveling to various playgrounds around the country and putting up shots. If there's one near you that has some tradition, or some cool fact behind it, let me know. I'll want to be there, take pics, add it to my catalog, write about it here, etc.
-- I actually did this a week after the NBA season, traveling to Indiana for a weekend to play on courts that were once occupied by Scott Skiles, Larry Bird and Rick Fox. I even got to hang with Indiana basketball legend and UCLA coach Steve Alford while there. (See my Twitter handle for proof.)
-- I promise to write about at least some stuff you actually care about in future Amico Report columns.
-- The next AR won't be out until after the draft. It's my favorite time of year! I'm still hoping to hear NBA commissioner Adam Silver say, "With the first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers select ... Sam Amico, a 5-foot-9 slow-footed guard from Northeastern Christian Junior College."
-- By the way, after the draft and free agency, there's summer league and yes, the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, featuring NBA players. So I won't be getting much time off this year, and frankly, I don't really need any.
-- OK, kids. Thanks for reading and have a great day. Talk to you next week.
Follow on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO