Monday, December 11, 2017
Sports

First-place Cavs fire Blatt as coach

CLEVELAND — Even after wins — and there were a bunch — the Cavaliers didn't celebrate. Everything was too easy for them, way too easy.

Loaded with talent, they're lacking chemistry and cohesion. They're a championship roster without championship heart.

In something of a shocker, David Blatt took the fall.

The second-year coach, who guided Cleveland to the NBA Finals in 2015 and sat atop the Eastern Conference standings this season, was fired Friday by general manager David Griffin.

Griffin didn't think the title-chasing Cavaliers were handling prosperity and expectations well, or acting like a championship team under Blatt, who was 83-40 in less than two seasons. Griffin saw a team going in the wrong direction.

"Sometimes you can win games in this league in the regular season and get worse," Griffin said at a hastily arranged news conference at the team's practice facility. "We were regressing over a period of time. 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.

"I know that sounds crazy when we're sitting with a 30-11 record. I understand that. But we were 30-11 with a schedule that was reasonably easy. And I'm judging a lot more than wins and losses."

Griffin said he did not consult superstar LeBron James, who never seemed comfortable with Blatt in charge, or any other player.

"This is my decision, this is our basketball staff's decision," said Griffin, who released Blatt four days after Cleveland's embarrassing 132-98 home loss to Golden State, which defeated the Cavs last summer in the Finals. "I'm not taking a poll; 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.

"Over the course of my business career, 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 National Basketball Coaches Association.

"It's just a real shocker," Carlisle said. "The ironic thing about all this is that he adjusted and adapted to the NBA game, in my opinion, much quicker than any of us ever could have adjusted and adapted to the European game. He did a tremendous job just from a strategic standpoint. If you look at his record, this is bizarre."

Blatt was immediately replaced — and not on an interim basis — by Tyronn Lue, formerly his top assistant. Lue, hired shortly after Blatt came to Cleveland and who was the highest-paid assistant in the league, will make his debut tonight at home against the Bulls. Griffin said the team is discussing a contract with Lue.

"He has the pulse of our team," Griffin said.

As social networks hummed with speculation and opinion about James' role in Blatt's removal, Griffin dismissed the notion that the four-time league MVP is a "coach killer."

"LeBron doesn't run this organization," Griffin said. "LeBron is about this organization. This narrative that somehow we're taking direction from him, it's just not fair."

Blatt's rapport with James was a running saga last season as the Cavs got off to a disappointing 19-20 start. However, the two seemed to work through their differences, and the Cavs won the East title before losing to the Warriors in the Finals, where they played without injured All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

In other Cavaliers news, guard J.R. Smith was cleared of all wrongdoing and the New York Police Department and district attorney's office have closed their investigation, Smith's attorney said. Smith, 30, was accused of choking a 19-year-old high school student outside a nightclub around 4 a.m. in November. He was never arrested and the teen told police Smith ignored their photo request.

Kerr back on bench

OAKLAND, Calif. — Steve Kerr had butterflies for his long-awaited season debut coaching the defending NBA champions.

He was back on the Warriors' bench Friday night after a long leave of absence dating to the first week of training camp in October as he recovered from complications following two back surgeries.

"I've been waiting for this for a long time … I really missed the routine," Kerr said. "It feels like the first game of the season, which it is for me. Fortunately our team's in a pretty good groove and hopefully we can keep going."

Trade: Josh Smith was traded back to the Rockets from the Clippers. Smith finished last season with Houston before signing with the Clippers in the offseason. Houston also got the draft rights to forward/center Sergei Lishouk and cash considerations; Los Angeles got the draft rights to forward Maarty Leunen.

Game highlights: Kemba Walker had 40 points and nine assists and Spencer Hawes hit a go-ahead 3-poiner with 17 seconds left in overtime to rally the visiting Hornets past the Magic, 120-116. Victor Oladipo scored 29 for Orlando, which has lost five straight and nine of 10. … DeAndre Jordan had 20 points on 7-for-7 shooting and Chris Paul had 16 points, 13 assists and six rebounds as the visiting Clippers routed the Knicks 116-88. … Isaiah Thomas scored 22 and the host Celtics held off a rally to beat the Bulls 110-101. Boston led by 15 at the half before seeing the lead drop all the way to a point in the fourth quarter.

Hornets 120, Magic 116, OT

CHARLOTTE (120): Hairston 3-5 0-0 7, Williams 3-11 5-5 11, Hawes 7-14 1-1 16, Walker 14-28 10-12 40, Lin 2-6 2-2 7, Kaminsky 2-9 0-0 5, Hansbrough 3-7 0-0 6, Lamb 0-1 0-0 0, Roberts 4-5 2-2 11, Daniels 7-15 0-0 17. Totals 45-101 20-22 120.

ORLANDO (116): Harris 9-14 4-5 22, Gordon 4-4 1-3 10, Vucevic 6-17 3-3 15, Payton 4-14 1-1 11, Oladipo 11-19 2-2 29, Frye 1-2 2-2 5, Fournier 6-14 2-2 15, Napier 2-2 0-0 5, Hezonja 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 2-5 0-1 4, Nicholson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 45-91 15-19 116.

Charlotte 30 25 24 30 11— 120

Orlando 35 26 33 15 7— 116

3-Point GoalsCharlotte 10-27 (Daniels 3-5, Walker 2-7, Kaminsky 1-1, Hairston 1-2, Roberts 1-2, Lin 1-2, Hawes 1-4, Williams 0-4), Orlando 11-23 (Oladipo 5-8, Payton 2-3, Napier 1-1, Gordon 1-1, Frye 1-1, Fournier 1-5, Harris 0-4). Fouled OutGordon. ReboundsCharlotte 52 (Williams 14), Orlando 56 (Vucevic 12). AssistsCharlotte 23 (Walker 9), Orlando 31 (Payton 10). Total FoulsCharlotte 19, Orlando 25. TechnicalsOrlando defensive three second. A18,083 (18,500)

Clippers 116, Knicks 88

L.A. CLIPPERS (116): Pierce 5-10 0-0 13, Mbah a Moute 2-2 0-0 4, Jordan 7-7 6-12 20, Paul 6-15 2-2 16, Redick 3-6 0-0 7, Johnson 5-5 0-0 14, Crawford 4-9 4-4 13, Rivers 2-8 1-2 6, Aldrich 4-6 4-4 12, Prigioni 3-4 0-0 7, Stephenson 0-2 0-0 0, Wilcox 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 43-76 17-24 116.

NEW YORK (88): Anthony 4-12 7-8 16, Porzingis 4-17 3-4 13, Lopez 3-11 0-0 6, Calderon 2-5 0-0 4, Afflalo 1-5 3-3 5, Williams 4-9 1-1 9, Galloway 5-7 0-0 10, Grant 4-6 4-4 13, O'Quinn 2-3 0-0 4, Seraphin 3-7 0-0 6, Vujacic 0-0 0-0 0, Amundson 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 33-85 18-20 88.

L.A. Clippers 31 24 31 30— 116

New York 24 21 19 24— 88

3-Point GoalsL.A. Clippers 13-23 (Johnson 4-4, Pierce 3-6, Paul 2-4, Crawford 1-2, Prigioni 1-2, Redick 1-2, Rivers 1-3), New York 4-18 (Porzingis 2-6, Grant 1-2, Anthony 1-3, Afflalo 0-1, Calderon 0-1, Galloway 0-2, Williams 0-3). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsL.A. Clippers 48 (Jordan 8), New York 46 (Porzingis 8). AssistsL.A. Clippers 27 (Paul 13), New York 24 (Grant 8). Total FoulsL.A. Clippers 17, New York 22. TechnicalsJordan, Pierce, L.A. Clippers defensive three second, Lopez 2. Ejected— Lopez. A19,812 (19,763).

Celtics 110, Bulls 101

CHICAGO (101): Snell 1-1 0-0 2, Gibson 3-6 3-4 9, Gasol 7-13 4-4 18, Rose 10-21 4-4 27, Butler 10-20 8-8 28, Mirotic 1-7 3-4 5, McDermott 0-1 0-0 0, Moore 0-2 0-0 0, Portis 4-12 0-2 8, Brooks 2-6 0-0 4. Totals 38-89 22-26 101.

BOSTON (110): Crowder 3-10 0-0 7, Olynyk 5-11 1-1 12, Sullinger 8-19 2-2 18, Thomas 7-15 5-8 22, Bradley 8-14 3-4 21, Jerebko 2-2 0-0 5, Smart 3-12 2-2 8, Turner 4-7 2-2 10, Zeller 3-6 1-2 7. Totals 43-96 16-21 110.

Chicago 23 26 33 19— 101

Boston 34 30 26 20— 110

3-Point GoalsChicago 3-13 (Rose 3-4, McDermott 0-1, Mirotic 0-2, Brooks 0-3, Butler 0-3), Boston 8-23 (Thomas 3-7, Bradley 2-4, Jerebko 1-1, Olynyk 1-1, Crowder 1-2, Sullinger 0-1, Turner 0-2, Smart 0-5). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsChicago 58 (Butler 14), Boston 55 (Sullinger 12). AssistsChicago 11 (Gasol, Rose, Butler 3), Boston 26 (Turner, Thomas, Sullinger 5). Total FoulsChicago 19, Boston 22. TechnicalsBoston defensive three second. A18,624 (18,624).

Jazz 108, Nets 86

UTAH (108): Hayward 8-12 2-2 21, Lyles 4-9 1-2 10, Gobert 5-10 0-0 10, Neto 5-6 0-0 10, Hood 4-10 7-7 16, Booker 6-10 0-0 13, C.Johnson 1-1 1-2 3, Burke 4-7 2-2 12, Withey 4-5 0-0 8, Ingles 1-2 0-0 3, Pleiss 1-2 0-0 2, O'Brien 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 43-75 13-15 108.

BROOKLYN (86): J.Johnson 3-6 0-0 8, Young 5-10 0-2 10, Lopez 4-8 0-0 8, Sloan 0-4 2-2 2, Ellington 4-11 2-2 11, Reed 4-9 4-6 12, Bogdanovic 5-9 2-2 14, Brown 0-0 4-4 4, Larkin 1-5 0-0 2, Bargnani 3-7 0-0 6, Robinson 0-1 0-0 0, Karasev 4-5 0-0 9. Totals 33-75 14-18 86.

Utah 22 26 37 23— 108

Brooklyn 23 17 17 29— 86

3-Point GoalsUtah 9-16 (Hayward 3-4, Burke 2-3, Booker 1-1, Hood 1-2, Lyles 1-2, Ingles 1-2, Neto 0-1, Pleiss 0-1), Brooklyn 6-16 (J.Johnson 2-3, Bogdanovic 2-4, Karasev 1-2, Ellington 1-4, Larkin 0-1, Bargnani 0-1, Young 0-1). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsUtah 49 (Booker 10), Brooklyn 31 (J.Johnson 5). AssistsUtah 28 (Hayward 9), Brooklyn 24 (Sloan 6). Total FoulsUtah 20, Brooklyn 15. A12,809 (17,732).

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