As David Blatt's Cleveland Cavaliers prepare to take on the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA's Eastern Conference finals, the former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach cannot seem to shake rumors surrounding his impending dismissal.
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On Saturday, leading NBA columnist Ric Bucher reported that the Cavs are prepared to fire Blatt, no matter how the team fares during the playoffs.
Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert attempted to crush the rumors, immediately tweeting a denial while saying that "the parade of silliness never ends."
The question of Blatt's job security has lingered in the air seemingly since he accepted the position last summer, largely due to the astronimically high expectations surrounding the team following NBA MVP LeBron James' return to Cleveland, along with the addition of All-Star forward Kevin Love and the continuing emergence of All-Star guard Kyrie Irving.
The new-look Cavs failed to mesh at the beginning of the season, and Blatt was largely blamed for the slow. James, considered to be one of the greatest players in league history, did not help Blatt's cause, offering endorsements of the coach's performance that could be considered tacit, at best.
Cleveland managed to recover after a massive mid-season roster shake-up, earning the number two seed in the Eastern Conference. The criticism surrounding Blatt never quite dissipated though, with several stories emerging on the team's lack of respect for the coach - one report even claimed that assistant coach Tyronn Lue (who was the runner-up to Blatt in Cleveland's coaching search) would call timeouts from the bench, acting as a de facto head coach.
After Cleveland swept the Boston Celtics in the first round, the simmering tensions regarding Blatt's job performance once again came to a boil in round two, when Blatt almost cost Cleveland game four by attempting to call a time-out when the team did not have one. If the officials saw Blatt, the Cavs would have been given a technical foul, effectively costing Cleveland a game that would have all but ended their season.
Cleveland's opponent, Atlanta, lacks the star-power of Cleveland's roster yet finished the season with a conference-best 60-22 record. Thanks to his efforts, Head Coach Mike Budenholzer was named the NBA's Coach of the Year.
The Hawks defeated the Cavs three times in their four regular season matchups, winning the final three games by an average of more than 15 points. Despite this, Cleveland remains 5-2 favorites to win the NBA championship, while Atlanta lags behind as 8-1 favorites.
Game One of the best-of-seven series tips off Wednesday at 8:30 P.M. eastern time in Atlanta.