Last year, Brendan Haywood played his final NBA season in Cleveland. Haywood saw a lot, heard a lot and remembers a lot – and he’s not surprised that David Blatt was fired last Friday despite helping the Cavs to the No. 1 spot in the East.
“It was unfortunate, but being around it last year and still being plugged into that team, I heard a lot of rumors and whispers that he was on thin ice anyway,” Haywood said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It didn’t surprise me. What people don’t know is he almost got fired last year and he almost got fired before January this year. So it didn’t surprise me because I already knew some of that stuff.”
Haywood, 36, said that Blatt was almost fired 10 games or so into his Cleveland tenure.
“We were struggling early in the season,” Haywood recalled. “Everybody remembers the Cleveland Cavaliers last year weren’t living up to expectations last year. At one point, we’re 5-5. There was a road trip where it wasn’t looking good. We started off with a loss to Phoenix. We had a back-to-back with (the Lakers and Clippers). If we had lost . . . one of those two, he was possibly gone. If we lost both of them, he was definitely gone. We ended up winning both games and then we went on this great run and everything got smoothed over. But he almost lost his job last year, and from what I heard, he almost lost his job after they lost to Golden State and got trounced by Portland this year. That’s what I heard.”
Cleveland has lost five straight game to the Warriors. Three of those losses came in the NBA Finals. One came last Monday in Cleveland – by 34 points.
Four days later, Blatt was fired.
“Blatt’s not a bad guy,” Haywood said. “He’s not a bad person. It’s not like he got fired because he can’t get along with people or because he was a hard person to deal with or he was difficult. I think he got fired because they didn’t believe he had the pulse of the team. I don’t think that LeBron really was that cozy with him. They never had words, but he was more scared of LeBron.”
Why would Blatt be scared of James, you ask? Because, as Haywood explained, “(LeBron James) is LeBron James and Coach Blatt’s a rookie coach with no resume.”
“When you’re Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich, you can yell at a Hall of Famer and tell him, ‘Hey, man, you’re going to do things my way,’” Haywood explained. “When you’re a rookie coach with no experience at our level, everybody in our locker room had more experience in the NBA than he did. He probably might have felt a little bit hesitant to critique the best player in the game.”
There were times last year, Haywood said, when assistant coach Larry Drew had to draw up plays at the end of games. There were also times when Blatt drew up plays for guys that weren’t actually in the game.
“I just chalked it up to him being a rookie,” Haywood said. “I was hoping for the team’s sake last year that eventually he would grow into being better at it – and as the year went along, he slowly but surely got better at it. The problem with Coach Blatt is that they need to win now and he needs to grow as an NBA-level coach. He’s going be a good NBA-level coach one day. It’s just probably not today, and they don’t have time to wait.”