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Pluto on Blatt, No. 1, LeBron and Dan Gilbert’s instincts
Blatt’s hiring as coach may be a sign Dan Gilbert is back to trusting his instincts

Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
Pluto says Blatt’s new job as the Cavs head coach likely has as much to do with owner Dan Gilbert’s gambling instincts as much as anything else.
Courtesy of Amanda Rabinowitz
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The Cleveland Cavaliers are having a big week. They hired a new head coach after a nearly two-month search and have the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft. And, there’s fresh speculation about Akron- native LeBron James’ future. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto weighs in:

LISTEN: Pluto on Cavs new coach, the draft and LeBron James

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Who is David Blatt?
David Blatt grew up in Boston, played in Princeton and spent the next 30 years playing and coaching in Europe and Israel. “And I doubt, until about three weeks ago, any Cavaliers player had ever heard of David Blatt,” says Pluto. And they probably had plenty of company.

“Never before has a guy who has never been an NBA player, a college coach, an NBA assistant become a head coach in the NBA without at least one of those things,” Pluto says. 

In his 21 years of coaching professionally, Blatt has won 17 championships in various leagues and tournaments, most recently leading Maccabi Tel Aviv to a Euroleague championship in May.

His contract with the Cavs reportedly includes three years with a fourth as a team option and is worth about $20 million with incentives.  

Dan Gilbert's shifting  strategy
So given all that, Pluto says, Blatt’s new job as the Cavs head coach likely has as much to do with owner Dan Gilbert’s gambling instincts as much as anything else.

“(Gilbert's) always been a hustler. I remember when he hired (coach) Mike Brown the first time in 2005, I asked him, ‘This guy’s never played in the league, only been an NBA assistant; aren’t you worried about his lack of experience?’ He said, ‘A lot of the top people that I’ve hired in my business did not have anything close to the experience that you think (they would have) in that job, but there was something in the person.”

Pluto says that doesn’t mean Blatt arrives without some important credentials. “He won big in Europe and the game’s becoming more international. … Seven of the 12 players on the NBA championship Spurs were not born in the U.S.”

Still, Pluto predicts Blatt won’t have an unlimited amount of time to show what he can do. After all, Gilbert “owns a company called Quicken Loans. It’s not Slow Loans; it’s not Take-Your-Time Loans."

“In fact," Pluto says, "When Mike Brown was hired the first time, (Gilbert) came out and handed him a clock at the press conference, and said, ‘Mike you’re on the clock.’ Because he expected him to make the playoffs,” which the Cavs did.

Gilbert traveled the more traditional NBA path when he hired Byron Scott and then Mike Brown, again. Pluto notes that neither worked out, so “I think he’s decided, ‘I’m going back to my original way of doing business: I see something in (GM) David Griffin, whose been kind of this worker bee in NBA offices working his way up, never running his own team.’”

And then when it came to hiring a coach, “They went not just out of the box, they went off the continent to find David Blatt, the star coach in Europe, rather than just hire another retread, as he (Gilbert) would say.”

Looking ahead to Thursday's big draft
Pluto acknowledges it’s a risky move. But the No. 1 draft pick Thursday night may mitigate the risk.

The presumptive favorite, Joel Embiid of Kansas, has a broken foot so Pluto says the Cavs are now likely considering Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins or Duke’s Jabari Parker – or, says Pluto, trading the pick.

The LeBron factor
Meanwhile, LeBron James declared free agency yesterday. And that’s led to speculation that he may be coming home from Miami.

Pluto tamps that down.

“LeBron now he can sign with any team, or he can resign in Miami. Miami has a big payroll problem with all their salary cap things, with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron.

“In fact, the Heat would like all three of them to opt out of their contracts like LeBron did, and sign for less money, so they have more room under the salary cap to bring in better players.”

And that may be what’s behind yesterday’s announcement. Or LeBron may be shopping. “My guess it’s a little bit of both” Pluto says.

Meanwhile, he offers the Cavs this piece of advice:

“The Cavaliers cannot make one move on draft day with the idea that we’re going to get LeBron James. Because nobody really knows what LeBron is going to do.”

“So pretend you’re building a team without LeBron, and if he wants to come, guess what? You’ll find a way to fit him in.”

Pluto on the Indians falling flat in big series against the Tigers
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MP3 Download (5:55)

Related WKSU Stories

Could LeBron James' hunt for more rings lead him back home?
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Indians surge, Cavs still search
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Brown's out, Griffin's in and the Cavs hunt for a head coach, again
Monday, May 12, 2014

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