Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
The Schmooze

Is LeBron James Coaching David Blatt — or Vice Versa?

The Eastern Semifinals Game 5 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls is a pivotal game for both teams – but it might be the biggest for Cleveland’s Jewish coach David Blatt.

Blatt, the American-Israeli former coach of Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv team, is taking heat for the way he handled the end of game 4, which his team stole on an improbable buzzer-beater shot from Lebron James. First, Blatt tried to call a timeout with a few seconds left, even though he was out of them (which would have resulted in technical foul shots and likely the game if the referees had noticed). Then he drew up a play that had Lebron James – one of the best players in the history of the game – throwing the ball in instead of taking the final shot.

“To be honest, the play that was drawn up, I scratched it,” James said after the game. “I just told coach, ‘Just give me the ball. We either going to go into overtime or I’ma win it for us.’ It was that simple.”

This essentially validated what many fans had been thinking the entire season: James, and not his rookie coach, runs the team.

It’s fair to blame Blatt for these late-game mistakes, but the level of criticism that he has faced all season is suspicious. Sure, he’s an outsider – even though he achieved success in the European league, the NBA is on a different level, and many questioned Cleveland’s decision to hire him in the first place.

However, it is also clear that Blatt has not been recognized for holding his team together throughout a turbulent season that saw Lebron get off to a rocky start in his second stint in his hometown and brought untimely injuries to the team’s two other star players, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.

Will tonight’s game be the important rebound Blatt needs to cement his standing? Or will the Israeli outsider remain stuck in rookie purgatory?

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.