Cool or Drool: Cavaliers Give Championship Ring to David Blatt

Dan Bisno, Columnist

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Cleveland Cavaliers fans are still enjoying the high from the end of the city’s 52-year championship drought. But one crucial member of the championship run still cannot quite stomach the win: former Head Coach David Blatt.

The Cavs, pretending that Blatt is not still fuming at the sight of anything with the word Cleveland on it, just announced that they will give him a championship ring at the end of October — less than one year after firing him in one of the most bizarre coaching changes in NBA history.

Blatt was brought on as the head coach for the 2014–15 season after the Cavaliers suffered a disappointing 33–49 record fronted by point guard Kyrie Irving. Shortly after Blatt was hired, the Cavaliers announced the shocking return of LeBron James and signed star forward Kevin Love. Blatt suddenly went from coaching a rookie squad to a team with the highest expectations in the league.

While the NBA was largely unfamiliar with Blatt, Israeli and European leagues knew him as a coach with a 20-plus year resume and a long list of championships. While James publicly endorsed Blatt’s hiring, the two often butted heads, signaling significant internal issues. Players tended to defer to James rather than Blatt on play calls. Cavaliers fans will also recall Blatt’s blunder in the second round of the 2015 playoffs when he tried to call a late-game timeout against the Chicago Bulls without realizing the team had used all three allotted to the fourth quarter. Tyronn Lue, then the assistant coach, physically pulled Blatt away to prevent a penalty.

Only a few months into the following season, Lue took Blatt’s spot as the Cavaliers head coach. In his first ever head coaching gig, Lue guided the team to an impressive 83–40 record and an NBA title.

Blatt was left unemployed and his ousting caused discomfort in the NBA. Fellow coaches wondered whether winning still ensures job security.

What happens to a coach that led a team halfway to an NBA Championship, mentored the best basketball player in the world as a first-year NBA coach and left without any harsh words against the organization? He gets a ring?

Well, that’s for the team to decide.

Sometime in the next two months, Blatt will open up a long-awaited package containing a shiny gold ring with the Cleveland skyline on its side and Roman numerals “LII” in its outer face, representing the city’s 52-year championship drought. Is the ring a token of appreciation or a reminder of the time he spent winning in Cleveland before being backstabbed by General Manager David Griffin and the front office? Let’s not forget that Blatt recently explained in an interview that he was too upset to even watch the last few games of the NBA finals.

Blatt will return to coaching the Darüsşafaka Doğuş, a Turkish basketball team for the next few years.

Lue, on the other hand, just received a $35-million windfall from a five-year contract after winning the finals. Lue and the Cavaliers will also be visiting the White House as part of a tradition started by Andrew Johnson in 1865, in which American sports champions are invited to visit the president. President Obama, a big NBA fan, personally called Lue to congratulate and invite him to the White House.

Meanwhile, Blatt will still be figuring out if he should sell his ring or put it in a safety deposit box while simultaneously holding back tears as he scrolls through the photo album of Obama, J.R. Smith and Matthew Dellavedova all smiling together. Blatt might even ask himself, “Are they smiling at me?”

All in all, it is a touchy subject. Blatt has remained incredibly composed throughout his dismissal, and it only makes sense that Cleveland should reward him for his contribution. After all, he did collect the first 30 wins that led to the championship. While it would feel wrong not to commemorate him during the ring ceremony on Oct. 25, there is no doubt that the ring will embody pain and resentment for Blatt despite the appreciation for the veteran coach. While it is an uncomfortable situation, the Cavaliers earn a “cool” for recognizing Blatt as a crucial role-player and leader in their 2016 NBA championship.

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