Analysis, News

Is the Lionel Hollins Firing In Tune With the David Blatt Dismissal?

In a move that shocked the NBA world as of this writing, the Cleveland Cavaliers fired David Blatt despite a 30-11 record. Couple that with 11 wins out of 13 games which includes a 91-78 rout of the Nets on Wednesday. After the Cavaliers caught a beatdown that had the TNT crew laughing, and saying it was a “Malcolm X” whipping that shouldn’t be on Martin Luther King day, no one could have walked into the Barclays Center knowing that David Blatt had one more game to coach the Cavaliers before being dismissed.

The Brooklyn Nets fired Lionel Hollins and reassigned Billy King in a “reset” of a situation that showed that the franchise was going down the tubes. It is common knowledge that the Brooklyn Nets are in a state of dysfunction and chaos. The Nets are ranked 14th in the Eastern Conference and could be considered the worst team overall in the NBA. The only team with a worse record in the conference in the Philadelphia 76ers, but they have a ton of draft picks to look forward to, while the Nets don’t even have that luxury. The team has been reported by Forbes as having the least engaged fans in the NBA. They have no star and are considered boring.

But what about the Cleveland Cavaliers? Cleveland are the defending Eastern Conference champions. The Cleveland Cavaliers took the Golden State Warriors to six games before falling, despite injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Now the Cavaliers are 30-11 this season and sit atop the Eastern Conference as the number one seed.

We look at two coaches here, being Lionel Hollins sitting at the bottom of the scrap heap and David Blatt, who was sitting in the penthouse, so to speak. How do two coaches in two totally different places with franchises in two different winning situations end up in the same place: unemployed?

Let’s break down the aspects, shall we?

1.) The description of the two coaches’ personalities.

The NBA coach is not all about X’s and O’s anymore. When David Blatt was fired by Cleveland, everyone seemingly prefaced this firing with “He was a very nice guy but he was in over his head.” Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin started the press conference thanking Blatt for his hard work and dedication to the franchise.

When Lionel Hollins was fired, Mikhail Prokhorov mentioned him like you would just because “it’s the right thing to do”. After it was done, Prokhorov spent the rest of the press conference showering Billy King, the guy he just basically fired, with compliments. I mean, he even called King his friend.

By the time Hollins was fired, you couldn’t find a player in the locker room that had a positive thing to say about Lionel Hollins. Hollins was reported as condescending and cold with his coaching style. He is considered old school and is set in his ways. The Brooklyn Nets had to know this after his firing at Memphis. Lionel Hollins’s coaching style wore on the players and the communication was getting close to non existent during basketball games. There were times that his lead assistant, Paul Westphal, had to get involved. The disconnect was evident and no hidden secret to anyone. The dysfunction and infighting basically got summed up when Sergey Karasev, who is the 25th man on the bench, has to distance himself from his father’s comments about Hollins’s coaching his son and Sergey’s desire to be traded. The energy in the locker room was bad. The change had to be made. Even though Lionel Hollins was in a bad position from the start, he was in a numbers game. You can’t fire the players.

By the time David Blatt was fired, you couldn’t find a player (that wanted to stay in LeBron James’s circle) that respected David Blatt and his coaching style. While Hollins was blunt and “harping on issues”, like Thaddeus Young said after the Nets’ coaching change, Blatt was reportedly “intimidated” when holding the stars accountable, especially LeBron James. The players, led by LeBron James, bypassed Blatt and went to Tyronn Lue for guidance and coaching. David Griffin said in his press conference that he did not like the energy in the locker room. Ergo, David Blatt had to go.

2.) The “Golden State effect” and both coaches’ inability to adjust.

The NBA is all about small ball, and the World Champion Golden State Warriors made it vogue. David Blatt basically got fired on Martin Luther King day, getting blown out at home on national television. Lionel Hollins got fired for thinking the Memphis Grizzlies relocated to New York.

David Blatt was fired because the Cavaliers believe he can’t coach this team to beat Golden State or the San Antonio Spurs with the personnel that was given to him. What’s equally damning is that he has three superstars in Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and LeBron James. With a team that has the second-highest payroll in NBA history, (Guess who’s number one? If you guessed the Brooklyn Nets… gold star for you!) NBA title or bust is the scenario.

Lionel Hollins was fired because he just didn’t adjust, period. He allowed Jarrett Jack free reign to do what he wanted. He built a very slow offense around a pretty good center in Brook Lopez getting franchise money. He placed Joe Johnson on clean-up duty, running him into the ground while taking him out of the offense totally. The team was not working the way Hollins was running it. He defiantly did it his way and with no talent or assets for the future.

3.) Both of these scenarios were no-win situations.

David Blatt’s scenario was blown out of the water because of one man… LeBron James. If the Cleveland Cavaliers waited two weeks later to hire a coach, Tyronn Lue would be in the head coach spot about 18 months earlier. But David Blatt was brought in on a rebuilding mode for the franchise. No one knew that James was coming back to Cleveland at the time. Tyronn Lue was going to be groomed to take over the job anyway. If everyone takes a step back and takes a close look, Lue was the guy that the Cavaliers always wanted. Blatt was a stop gap. When LeBron James showed up, the respect level was never there and David Blatt was left out in the ocean with no boat. James was the stopwatch to Blatt’s firing. We just didn’t know when.

Lionel Hollins’s scenario was blown out of the water because of one man… Billy King. If Billy King wasn’t so quick to clean up the Jason Kidd fiasco and in a rush to hire a coach, Lionel Hollins wouldn’t have been coaching. No coach has a chance of succeeding when they don’t meet the owner face to face before coming aboard. The franchise as we know it was in an ugly state when Hollins took over. Remember, Hollins guided the Nets to a playoff berth with Deron Williams all but gone and a team on the decline. Now this year, he was left with a team that gutted to get the franchise under the salary cap. With the frustration of no support from the front office, he gave up and the rest is history.

What have we learned here? It doesn’t matter if you are at the top of the NBA or at the bottom, like it or not, the players have power. If a coach does not get the players to buy into the system, you have no chance.