They call him the King, but after LeBron James’ comments at the press conference Sunday following his game-winning buzzer-beater to tie up the Cleveland Cavaliers’ series with the Chicago Bulls at two games apiece, perhaps he should have a new title: coach. When asked about the play Cavaliers coach David Blatt had drawn up for the final shot, James revealed he was not supposed to be the recipient.
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“To be honest, the play that was drawn up … I scratched it. And I told coach, just give me the ball. We’re either going to go to overtime or I’m going to win it for us. It was that simple.” He was then asked if he was supposed to inbound the ball on the original play, and James replied, “I was. I was supposed to take the ball out. I told coach there’s no way I’m taking the ball out unless I can shoot it over the backboard and it go in. So have somebody else take the ball out and give me the ball and everybody get out of the way.”
What those few words did was show the world that LeBron James is the de facto coach of the team, and he had no problem letting everyone know it. In a room filled with media and cameras, the savvy James pantsed his coach, knowing how things would look once the quote got out.
LeBron had not always appeared to be on the same page with Blatt throughout the season. Though he has a lot of experience coaching overseas, Blatt is in his first season in the NBA, and LeBron might prefer a coach with a better understanding of how the game is played stateside.
You have to question how Blatt would draw up a play where LeBron is not the focal point. More damning is having him throw in the ball. With just 1.5 seconds left in regulation, he might never have touched the ball once it left his hand, and in that situation, you want your best player taking the shot.
Blatt was also fortunate he didn’t get called for a technical when he tried to call for a timeout the Cavaliers didn’t have with 8.4 seconds left after Derrick Rose tied the game at 84. He stepped on the court and tried to get the officials attention after the basket, and assistant coach Tyronn Lue had to pull him back from making a critical mistake.
Having a rookie coach with a team that is ready to win now is not always the best formula, and fortunately for Blatt, LeBron took over the reins from him. And luckily for LeBron, he made the shot when he called his own number.
The bigger question is how this bodes for Blatt’s future. In reality, LeBron is the coach of the team, and the general manager too for that matter—remember, he’s the one who pushed for the Kevin Love trade. If he wants to make a change, he will. Anything less than a third ring will likely be just cause to make Blatt the former Cleveland Cavaliers coach.