INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Even after wins, and there were a bunch of them, the Cavaliers didn't celebrate. Loaded with talent, they lack chemistry and cohesion.
David Blatt took the fall.
The second-year coach, who guided the Cavs to the NBA Finals in 2015 and had them sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings, was fired Friday by General Manager David Griffin and replaced by associate head coach Tyronn Lue.
Griffin didn't think the title-chasing Cavs were acting like a championship team under Blatt, who was 83-40 in less than two seasons; he saw a team going in the wrong direction.
"Sometimes you can win games in this league in the regular season and get worse," he said at a hastily arranged news conference at the team's practice facility. "I'm in our locker room a lot, and I knew that there's just a disconnect there right now. There's a lack of spirit and connectedness that I just couldn't accept. And frankly, halfway through the season, I think we have the time to right the ship."
Griffin said he did not consult superstar LeBron James, who never seemed comfortable with Blatt in charge, or any of Cleveland's players.
"I'm not taking a poll," said Griffin, who released Blatt days after an embarrassing home loss to Golden State. "My job is to lead a franchise and to lead an organization to where it needs to go."
Griffin did meet with owner Dan Gilbert, who supported the move to fire his third coach in four seasons.
"I have learned that sometimes the hardest thing to do is also the right thing to do," Gilbert said.
Blatt's firing stunned Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, president of the National Basketball Coaches Association. "It's just a real shocker," he said. "… If you look at his record, this is bizarre."
Griffin dismissed the speculation that four-time league MVP James is a "coach killer."
"LeBron doesn't run this organization," Griffin said.