David Blatt and other coaching abominations

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers-Press Conference

Everybody, David Blatt is submitting a historically awful coaching season.

I’ll break it down:

  1. He was gifted the best player in the league who is either in his prime or very close. That player is also A. very unselfish, B. an extremely gifted defender and C. extremely coachable.
  2. Included under the Cavs preseason Christmas tree was the ultimate stretch four, who is a rebounding machine and a talented passer. Kevin Love is not that bad of a defender either.
  3. A talented point guard who can get into the lane whenever he wants.

Now the Cavs are certainly flawed:

  • Their bench is terrible.
  • Anderson Varajao is already (predictably) out for the season.
  • Dion Waiters was (predictably) a head-case, chemistry killer.

All of that said, the Thunder are 18-19. As you remember, they started the season without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and they play in the West, which is a million times better than the East. Their bench and overall depth are also terrible. The Cavs are 19-18 and their top three guys have been (mostly) healthy all year. What? How?

David Blatt is getting destroyed by Scott Brooks!

I admit that I fell into the same trap as everybody else. “I like that Blatt won all those games in Europe. I like that he’s bringing a different pedigree to the NBA.” Now that resume from Russia and Israel looks a lot less impressive. Like a gunfighter from Sweden.

I think I would have fired Blatt already. The whole, “well the 2011 Heat got off to a slow start” argument has worn off right? Everyone expected this team to be an offensive juggernaut. Maybe that was an unfair but this team should not be the fifth best team in the East.

This got me thinking of other historically awful coaching performances:

Sean Payton, 2014 Saints

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All they had to do was go 8-8 and they win the worst division in modern NFL history. And they couldn’t do it, with Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Jimmy Graham and three talented receivers. Sure, their defense was not good, but solid was all they needed. At the end of the season, they lost got crushed by the Panthers and beat handily by the Falcons at home. In the words of Will Ferrell, what the Hell happened! Is the Super Dome haunted?

Mark Richt, 2008 Georgia Bulldogs

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This team had Matthew Stafford, AJ Green, Knowshon Moreno, Mohamed Massaquoi (I know but on a college team with AJ Green?), Justin Houston (admittedly a freshman) and Geno Atkins. That team lost three games. Three.

Bob Stoops, 2008 Oklahoma Sooners

Bob Stoops

This team had Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, DeMarco Murray, Trent Williams and Gerald McCoy. They made it to the National Title Game, I’ll give them credit for that, but they got beat pretty bad by Florida, 24-14 (a more lopsided game than the score would indicate). But this spot is more of a life-time underachievement award for Stoops. I believe people ripped on the Big 12 in part because loaded Oklahoma teams kept coughing up big bowl games. The 2006 team, with Adrian Peterson as a junior, had a lot of those same players (notably as freshmen) and lost three games — notably the famous Fiesta Bowl to Boise State.

Dusty Baker, 2001 San Francisco Giants

Dusty Baker

Another life-time underachievement position because Baker also disappointed with very good Cubs and Reds teams. In 2002, people praised Baker for getting the Giants to the World Series. In retrospect, they should not have lost to the Angels. Oh my God, Barry Bonds hit .370 that season with 46 home runs, 100 runs and RBI each, had a staggering 198 walks for a .582 on base percentage and 1.381 ops. But that team wasn’t all Bonds all the time. They had Jeff Kent who hit .313, Benito Santiago (who had a decent offensive season), and Reggie Sanders (who wasn’t great but was a very solid player). They’re pitching staff had a top three of Russ Ortiz, Jason Schmidt and Livian Hernandez. Go back and look at the Angels roster.

But they lost to the Angels in seven games. What is inexplicable is the year before when they did not make the playoffs (2001 when Bonds hit 73 home runs).

Bobby Cox, any year in the ’90s that wasn’t 1995

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Now that It’s official a certain fact needs to be shouted from the rooftops. THE BRAVES TOP THREE PITCHERS WERE ALL HALL OF FAMERS. Um, that hasn’t really happened before. If this the rest of the Braves team was a bunch of castoffs and journeymen or if they could only keep Maddux, Smoltz and Glavin together for a couple years, I would give Bobby Cox a break. People give Cox a break because they won one World Championship, but give any other strong manager of the era that team and he would win at least two. In particular, the losses to the 1993 Phillies and 1997 Marlins seem particularly egregious in retrospect.

Bill Self, 2014 Kansas Jayhawks

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Bill Self had the best two players in college basketball — Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid — and they lost in the second round of the tournament to Stanford. In case you’re checking, Stanford had zero NBA players that year. The game was also in St. Louis, which I’m sorry to say is a partisan Kansas crowd. I don’t care that Embiid was hurt. Self still had the best five players in the game. Every year that goes by the 2008 National title win looks flukier and flukier. (Also, screw Kansas.)

John Calipari, 2010, 2011 and 2013 Kentucky Wildcats

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There’s been a significant amount of revisionist history foisted on the public these days about John Calipari. Pundits have been praising Calipari for his X’s and O’s work, in game coaching and that his teams play hard. They even give him credit for convincing players to sacrifice minutes. I believe this talk is inspired by the fact that the 2014 Wildcats might go undefeated and thus become the greatest college basketball team of all time. The coach of that team has to be an all-time great right? All of those people need to chill out because Kentucky should have won five titles in a row. Were Coach K, Billy Donovan, Rick Pitino or Brad Stevens had been given this much talent, he would have won at least twice by now. I believe Calipari is the best recruiter of all time but he also has a prodigious history of leaving flaming bags of poop at two different programs in the form of NCAA sanctions as he walked out the door to a better job.

Mike Brown/Mike D’Antoni, 2012 Lakers

Mike-Brown

If you think I’m being unfair to one coach or the other, Brown could easily make this list for his job manning the Cavs during the first LeBron era and D’Antoni did a horrible job with the Knicks. However, this season went so poorly that the emotional stress convinced Dwight Howard to flee the sinking Lake Show ship like it was on fire. The raging dumpster fire that is the 2014 Lakers owes its inception to these two guys.

Scott Brooks, Thunder 2011 to Present

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It’s not Scott Brooks fault that the Thunder traded James Harden. It’s a move that looks more perplexing every day, especially when Harden should win the MVP for the Rockets. Still, he’s had three of the top 25 players in the league, including two in the top 10 the past five years and has no hardware to show for it. The Spurs have made the finals twice in this span and the Thunder happen to be the worst match up for the Duncanettes.

Transaction Traction

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It’s become about a every other month tradition. The Cardinals make some type of trade. I don’t like it and whine but eventually except it.

It’s a little bit different this time though. With this most recent trade I really do understand the logic, even though I’m still not completely on board.

The trade with the Atlanta Braves was that the Birds sent Shelby Miller and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins to Atlanta for Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Waldon.

Let’s just throw Waldon out right now. He was the extra cheese on this trade pizza. Any reliever (any reliever) who is not a closer is only so valuable. But, Heyward is the type of guy you take a chance on. He’s only 25 years old and his numbers aren’t awful — .262 average, 20 homers, 153 hits and 87 runs, nothing to scoff at. He’s been disappointing considering his pedigree, especially taking into a account that he’s a power hitter playing in a hitter’s park. In comparison, Justin Upton’s numbers are only marginally better.

The trend recently with baseball is that pitching is the more available resource. Teams have scratched together competent rotations without having a bonafide ace. I would say both teams in the ALCS fit that bill. God help me because I’m about to say something positive about the Cubs, but the Cubbies, under the tutelage of ace GM Theo Epstein, have a smart franchise building strategy. With a variety of great starting pitchers in the league, the Little Bears have stocked up on hitting prospects. Everyone suspects the Northsiders will now use their molding mounds of cash on any one of the available starters on the market — Max Scherzer or Jon Lester as just two examples.

Heyward is also just like Oscar Taveras, smooth lefty power hitter, pretty good fielder. Obviously the Birds don’t think Randal Grichuk is ready to take over in right full time (plus he’s center field insurance if Jon Jay regresses). The downside (or upside if you think Grichuk just needs one more season of incubation) is that we only have Heyward locked up for just one year.

Still, the baseball traditionalist in me does not like the Cardinals giving up on young starters with good stuff. Miller wasn’t great last year but he wasn’t bad either. It was a decided advantage going forward that the Redbirds could throwout Miller and Wacha for years to come. With Jenkins, who was drafted the year after Miller, the Cardinals have three opportunities to get burned by pitchers; that includes Joe Kelly in Boston.

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This current trade with Atlanta reminds me of another swap with the Braves back in 2003. That offseason the Cardinals traded young, talented, power-hitting, smooth-fielding right fielder JD Drew and backup catcher Eli Marrero for two pitchers. Those pitchers were Jason Marquis, who won 15 games multiple times as the Cardinals built a NL Central winning machine in the middle aughts, and Adam Wainwright, who has now won 20 games twice. I think the Braves wish they could have that trade back especially because Drew only played with them one year (albeit a very good season for the oft injured pretty boy).

Adjusting a little bit for the difference in eras, Drew and Heyward’s numbers at that point are very similar. Pluses though for Heyward is that he is younger and has been injured less.

Tyrell Jenkins is not as lauded as Adam Wainwright. Waino was the Braves best prospect at that point and was already in double A. Thus far Jenkins has not risen above single A, but was impressive in the Arizona Fall League. There is a very good chance, that with a new team, Miller is at least serviceable if not ace level. If Jenkins hits too, the Cardinals lose that trade regardless of what Heyward does.

Well, I’ll qualify that. If Heyward hits .300 with 30 homers and the Cardinals win the World Series next year, I won’t care what Miller and Jenkins do. If Heyward can hit 30 home runs, again somewhat dubious because he’s moving to a pitcher’s park, it’s worth resigning him — although, hopefully at something reasonable.

Obviously no one knew Taveras was going to die in the Dominican before the World Series even ended but I think it’s worth mentioning how all these trades relate. Although John Lackey helped the Cardinals get to the playoffs and past the first round, he is what he is. As Jalen Rose always says, Father Time remains undefeated. Lackey is only going to get worse. Along with Kelly, the Cardinals also gave up Allen Craig, who could play right field.