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Rumors: Cleveland Cavaliers’ Implosion Pending?

The Cleveland Cavaliers seem to be teetering on an implosion…



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Blatt losing his team?

There is a growing level of worry within the Cleveland Cavaliers organization about first-year coach David Blatt and his ability to reach the team, according to league sources.

Sources told that there is rising concern in team circles about the level of response that Blatt is getting on the floor, with Blatt himself acknowledging that the Cavaliers “lost our energy and we lost our competitiveness” in Sunday night’s embarrassing home loss to Detroit.

The Cavs would prefer not to be forced into evaluating their new coach just 30 games into Blatt’s NBA career, cognizant that the job has quickly evolved into a much different one — after LeBron James stunningly decided in July to return to his home-state team in free agency — than it was when Blatt was hired from Israeli power Maccabi Tel Aviv in June with no NBA experience.

But the Cavs’ effort level, especially defensively, is eroding noticeably, raising the volume of questions about just how much the locker room is listening to the 55-year-old Boston native, who has enjoyed tremendous international success but began this season as a relative unknown to NBA players.

Via Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN

While it didn’t get talked about a lot when LeBron James made his decision to return to Cleveland, one of the byproducts of that was Blatt’s job security reducing drastically. He had some leeway, per say, beforehand. The Cavaliers were coming off of draft No. 1 overall for the third time in the last four years and knew that it was going to take some time to develop the team into the true contender they coveted.

Then James came, and his arrival was followed up by the acquisition of Kevin Love. That made Blatt’s job become the most pressure-filled in the league. While there are other coaches who are expected to win a championship this year, none of them are as likely to be fired like Blatt would if they fell drastically short. This is the downside of being a coach whose credentials have all been established overseas. Back with Maccabi Tel Aviv Blatt was nearing sainthood and had the security to weather bad stretches like this. In the NBA, he’s basically a rookie who could end up being first in the scapegoat line, just ahead of Kevin Love – who we’ll talk more about shortly.

Truthfully, Blatt deserves the season to prove himself. This team is going to be judged by whether they win a championship, so it’d be extremely unfair to dismiss Blatt before he even gets a chance to play a playoff game or have enough time to really get a grasp for how to coach this team. After all, coaching superstars is the toughest job for a NBA head coach. Blatt went from having a young team that he would have had the full attention of to a star-studded team led by guys who have had success in the league and think they know what it takes already. That’s a big adjustment for Blatt, but a fourth coach in three seasons is not the right move for the Cavaliers. They need to be a little bit patient. Championship contenders are rarely formed overnight and dismissing Blatt would create more work for the team in a short amount of time than they need on their plates right now. However, the report below is enough to send a fear into the front office that could spark panic moves.

LeBron open to leaving Cleveland?

If you’re waiting for a ringing endorsement from James on behalf of Blatt, it’s not happening. It’s much too soon.

“He’s our coach, I mean, what other coach do we have?” James said.

There is immense pressure to keep The King happy.

James, who turns 30 today, has no intention of compromising his prime years playing for a sputtering organization. He can opt out of his contract at the end of the season and become a free agent.

Given the massive scrutiny he would endure if he departed Cleveland a second time, if his hand is forced, I’m told he won’t hesitate to make the appropriate business decision if it means bolting.

via Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group .

All offseason James and his camp did a great job of easing the nerves that come with his signing of a short-term deal that allowed him to become a free agent this offseason. They said it was just so he can ensure that he earns the most allowed with a pending increase in the cap coming soon. However, it was hard not to think that it could really be a quick exit method for James if he didn’t like the way things were going.

So far, it’s safe to say he doesn’t like the way things are going. James seems to have underestimated how badly his four years away in Miami impacted the championship culture he helped establish during his first stint with the franchise.

This is a scary offseason for James to potentially head into free agency with the open market as nearly half the league could have the cap space to sign him to a max deal, and the other half would move mountains if they felt they had a legitimate shot at him.

The Cavaliers have to walk the fine line of catering to James and making sure that he’s still happy while still operating in the best interest of the franchise. James may be the premiere player in the league when he’s fully engaged and active, but he’s not the general manager. David Griffin and company have to have the confidence to do what they need to, even if it may not be a James-approved move, if it gives the team a better chance to compete for a championship this year.

It’s long been assumed that there was no way James would break Cleveland’s heart again. But, he’s a business man and he’s in it to win championships. If the team comes up drastically short, he may be able to justify moving to himself again, believing that he can win all his detractors back as he’s did before.

Love on the block?

via Twitter

As mentioned above, if Blatt is scapegoat No. 1, Love is a very close No. 2. The All-Star power forward came in with much excitement and hype, but has proven to be an awkward fit alongside James and Kyrie Irving. Love’s defensive deficiencies have also been exposed at a level they never were in Minnesota, where he was always able to overshadow them with his offensive production. However, with his touches down, he’s become a liability nearly as often as he is not.

From a talent standpoint alone, Love would be too good to give up. It’s not easy to find a volume rebounding stretch four like him, but he’s proving to be a really bad fit on these defensively-challenged Cavaliers team and he’s likely going to be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end as well. He has a player option for next season, which he has long stated he plans to decline in order to test the market and sign a new long-term deal.

His desire to test the open market was seemingly taken care of when he got traded to a contender in the Cavaliers, but there’s already been rumors that both parties are open to a quick break up. Love, like James, will have a line of teams trying to pry him away this offseason if he does indeed hit the open market on a down note with the Cavaliers. He doesn’t have as much keeping him in Cleveland as James does, and could justify leaving much easier. The Cavaliers do have his Bird rights, so they could help facilitate a sign-and-trade deal, but if they think they’re going to lose him – or don’t want to keep him long-term – flipping him at the deadline for some defensive-minded role players who they need more than someone with his incredible set of offensive skills. That would ensure they get some value in return, but that seems like a worst-case scenario move for the Cavaliers that won’t become likely unless their struggles drag into February.

Cavaliers interested in Kenyon Martin

The Cavaliers also have some interest in Martin, a source said. Cleveland, however, is not in a rush to replace injured forward-center Anderson Varejao, who was recently lost for the season because of a torn Achilles’ tendon. If the Cavaliers do decide to open a roster spot to replace Varejao, either guard A.J. Price, forward Louis Amundson or center Alex Kirk is expected to be waived, a source said. Martin, who has averaged 12.5 points and 6.9 rebounds in a 14-year career, recently expressed interest in playing for Cleveland after Varejao was injured.

via Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports.

This is really what the Cavaliers are hoping for, that they can make a couple of small moves that will give them the energy and defensive boost they need to get back on track. Martin is a veteran who always plays with a chip on his shoulder and will definitely bring up the intensity level if he were to join the club. He played last season with the New York Knicks, averaging 4.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 19.8 minutes a night. He only played in 32 games, though, and is five seasons removed from the last season he was able to play more than 60 games in.

The Milwaukee Bucks, coached by Martin’s former teammate and good friend Jason Kidd, are also trying to bring him in, but he would serve as more of a mentor and leader on that team. With the Cavaliers he could have the chance to see more time on the floor, and compete at a higher level than the Bucks have the potential to play at.

The Cavaliers are equipped with a couple of sizeable extensions that they can easily fit Martin into, but as Spears points out – they’d have to create a roster spot for him first. They have also been mentioned in association with several other veteran big man through the trade market, including Kosta Koufos, Timofey Mozgov, Robert Sacre and several others.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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