Cleveland: After taking hits for days over his perceived role in David Blatt’s firing and the belief he is a coach killer, LeBron James fired back Wednesday.
James said he has always supported his head coach, dating back to childhood, and he insists he has never undermined any of his coaches.
“People get it so misconstrued because I’m a smart basketball player and I’ve voiced my opinion about certain things,” James said. “What do you guys want me to do? Turn my brain off because I have a huge basketball IQ? If that’s what they want me to do, I’m not going to do it because I’ve got so much to give to the game.”
The Cavaliers have been under fire for days. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, the president of the coaches association, called Blatt’s firing an embarrassment. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich took a shot at Cavs General Manager David Griffin after the Spurs were pounded by the Warriors on Monday.
“I’m just glad my general manager wasn’t in the locker room,” Popovich quipped, “because it might have gotten me fired.”
In announcing the firing, Griffin said he didn’t have to consult with players because he’s always in the locker room and already had all the information he needed.
While James has taken the brunt of the criticism over the decision, the sharpest came from Heat limited partner Raanan Katz, who told an Israeli radio station that James tried to get Erik Spoelstra fired while the two were together in Miami.
James said he never met Katz during his four years there.
“I have no idea who that is,” James said. “I don't even know if a lot of guys that actually played ever met him. I was there for four years and I never met him. … I don’t think he was involved in any of the conversations that goes on with the personnel of the team or the coaching staff or anything. But it’s easy to say that at this point.”
James asked what was Katz’s objective for speaking out. Told he was previously a shareholder in Maccabi Tel Aviv, where Blatt previously coached, James nodded.
“There you go,” James said. “There’s a direct correlation right there. Makes sense.”
Katz has since backed off his remarks, telling the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “That was my opinion. I am very careful with what I say. I have no knowledge of what happened.”
Still, James has a reputation as having rocky relationships with his coaches. The Cavs fired Mike Brown in 2010 in part because they believed it’s what James wanted, although they could never get confirmation from him. James left for Miami anyway.
There were perceived problems between James and Spoelstra during his first year with the Heat and perceived problems between James and Blatt. James, however, continues to insist he is coachable.
“If I feel I got something that will help our team, ultimately, I like to give it. It helped me get two titles,” James said. “But I think it does suck that people want to throw my name in dirt for no particular reason, because of speculation or whatever the case may be.
“But you can’t worry about it too much. I got 14 guys here. I got a fan base here and a fan base all over the world that loves what I do and they respect what I do and I can’t worry about a select group of people that want to use their negative energy to take away my positive energy. I can’t allow that to happen.”
Mike Longabardi was officially added to the Cavs’ coaching staff Wednesday. Longabardi was fired earlier this season from the Phoenix Suns but previously worked with Cavs coach Ty Lue in Boston. Longabardi is expected to help with the defense.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.