Prominent sports writer Marc Stein has strongly criticized basketball great LeBron James for "emasculating" Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt during the recent NBA Finals.
Blatt, an American-Israeli who previously coached Maccabi Tel Aviv, made it to the finals in his rookie coaching season in the NBA but lost the finals to the Golden State Warriors 4-2.
"James essentially called timeouts and made substitutions," Stein wrote on the ESPN website. "He openly barked at Blatt after decisions he didn't like. He huddled frequently with [assistant coach Tyronn] Lue, often looking at anyone other than Blatt.
"There was James, in one instance I witnessed from right behind the bench, shaking his head vociferously in protest after one play Blatt drew up in the third quarter of Game 5, amounting to the loudest nonverbal scolding you could imagine -- which forced Blatt, in front of his whole team, to wipe the board clean and draw up something else."
Stein did not withhold praise for James, who he said "had staffers from the 67-win Warriors almost quaking at night in fear of the havoc he was wreaking, such was his genius in controlling tempo and carrying a skeleton of a roster to a 2-1 lead that actually made you think the Cavs could win."
But, he added, James "is too brilliant as a basketball player, too truly great, to behave the way he did toward David Blatt during the NBA Finals."
"How can James publicly laud his own leadership, as he so often does, when setting that sort of tone?
That said, Blatt was also "by no means faultless," Stein wrote. He faulted the coach for failing to earn buy-in from the players, not making optimal use of his players and not "finding better schemes to disrupt Andre Iguodala in the series of his life."
But none of that "makes any of this stuff palatable," Stein said.
"The charade can't continue," Stein concludes. "This isn’t about whether Blatt deserves to be brought back for a second season, because he obviously does after going so far in the playoffs -- and with Cleveland improving its defense so drastically along the way in the post-season -- in spite of all the injuries."
It's all about James, wrote Stein. "If he can't bring himself to back Blatt with more gusto going forward," he should go to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and tell him to hire "someone he's prepared to support."
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