What is the takeaway from David Blatt’s shocking dismissal as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers?
A few things, all of them related to the Cavs being weak-minded. (Hey, you make a move like that, and you open a window into dysfunction junction.)
1. The East is now a lot more wide open than people might have realized. Exhibit A was the Cavs’ mail-it-in effort in Saturday night’s home loss to the Chicago Bulls, with new coach Tyronn Lue explaining afterward that his players were in bad shape, unable to execute an up-tempo offense while using their fatigue as excuses to ask out of the game. And the fans booed them off the court. Not that the Cavs are fat and lazy, but there is a hunger factor at play — and any better-than-decent East team that can outrun, outhustle and outcrave the Cavs in a playoff series should not be dismissed.
2. Blatt’s act fell flat in the Cleveland locker room, where histrionics and disingenuous pandering were not warmly received. Matter of fact, you can extrapolate that statement out and have it deal with Blatt’s personality in general. He rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, he often came off as a phony, and he is now Exhibit A of how what works motivationally in Europe does not translate to the NBA.
3. LeBron James runs the Cavs, no matter what owner Dan Gilbert and GM David Griffin and James himself and agent Rich Paul might say publicly. Let’s not forget why the Cavs have Kevin Love on their team: because LeBron wanted that trade to be made. So even though Love showed some signs of life over the past seven days, when all is said and done, Love-for-Andrew Wiggins will go down as a fleecing by the late Flip Saunders. Furthermore, it would not surprise me if Love finishes this season in a Boston uniform. If the Cavs could turn him into Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, David Lee and Brooklyn’s No. 1 pick, they’d be crazy not to do it.
4. The MVP race just lost a contender. We are still of the belief that LeBron James is the best player on the planet, but as always when talking about MVP, the operative word is valuable. Was it valuable for LeBron to undercut his coach to such a degree that a change was needed when they were 30-11? Subterfuge does not equal value.
5. The trade deadline just got a heck of a lot more interesting. Aside from the aforementioned Love scenario (and don’t think for a minute that Danny Ainge wouldn’t load up the wheelbarrow to get Love), there is now an opportunity for one of the East pretenders to make a move that can put them in contention with the Cavs this season. If I’m Pat Riley in Miami, I start kicking around the idea of bringing in Rudy Gay. If I’m Kevin Pritchard in Indiana, maybe I hold my nose and call the Suns to inquire about Markieff Morris. If I am Masai Ujiri in Toronto, maybe I take a gamble on going after Kevin Martin with the belief that the Cavs couldn’t defend a lineup of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Martin and DeMarre Carroll all on the floor at the same time. Or maybe I just hire Blatt as an assistant coach.
Which brings us to the MVP rankings, which once again are an exercise in making a case for “Who is No. 2?” Props to Tyson Chandler for his Lazarus act the past couple of days, but he ain’t making the list.
1. Stephen Curry, Warriors. Made the longest shot of his career — a 48-footer at the halftime buzzer — and had an even longer shot, from near the opposite foul line, waved off because it came just after the first-quarter buzzer in Friday night’s takedown of Indiana as Golden State improved to 20-0 at home, Steve Kerr returned to the bench and Curry posted his second triple-double of the season and seventh career. He now has 204 3-pointers in 452 attempts, and his .451 percentage trails only J.J. Redick, Kawhi Leonard and Jared Dudley. His scoring average is back above 30 ppg, too. LAST EDITION: No. 1.
2. DeMarcus Cousins, Kings. Crashing the rankings with a bullet now that he has gone for 30 or more points in eight of the past 11 games, including a career-high 48 Saturday night against Indiana as the Kings won their fifth in a row. We should all pray to the basketball gods that these guys maintain their hold on the eighth seed in the West, because a Warriors-Kings first-round series would be one for the ages. Just think: If Timofey Mozgov could post four double-doubles in six games against the Warriors in last year’s Finals, what type of havoc could Cousins wreak? He is my pick for MVP of the All-Star Game. LAST EDITION: NR.
3. Kawhi Leonard, Spurs. This is where it starts to get tricky in terms of rankings. You can make a case that Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Draymond Green all deserve to be in the No. 3 spot. But you know what? The Spurs have won 13 games in a row, folks, 20 of 21 over a longer stretch and 35 of 39 since they were 3-2 after a loss to the Wizards in Game No. 5 of the season. And the game we have waited all season for is coming Monday night, when San Antonio plays at Golden State. Take the Spurs and the points, along with the over. This guy will score between 20-29. LAST EDITION: No. 3.
4. Kevin Durant, Thunder. I generally stay away from advanced analytics because I am a dinosaur, but I also am adept enough to realize that there are some advanced stats that are quite entertaining. One such category is points per shot, which is a nifty measure of efficiency because it takes into account the value of having a prolific 3-point shooter or a guy who is almost automatic on 2-pointers (like DeAndre Jordan, who averages a league-leading 1.97 PPS.) Durant is fourth at 1.47, trailing only Jordan, Dwight Howard and Curry. Oh, and he’s trending toward a 50-40-90 season, too. LAST EDITION: No. 4.
5. DeMar DeRozan, Raptors. Hangs onto the No. 5 spot by virtue of scoring 30, 34 and 33 in his last three games as the Raptors have extended their winning streak to seven. They play six in a row on the road heading into the All-Star Game, where the wrong Raptor will be starting. No disrespect to Kyle Lowry, who forms one half of the East’s best backcourt, but this fella is going to be the reason why they do or don’t get past the Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals — provided Lue can get the Cavs into good enough shape to make it that far. LAST EDITION: No. 5.
NEXT FIVE: Draymond Green, Warriors; Chris Paul, Clippers; LeBron James, Cavs; Russell Westbrook, Thunder; Jimmy Butler, Bulls.
Chris Sheridan, publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com, is an official MVP voter. Follow him on Twitter.