In his column today, ESPN Senior Writer Marc Stein went hard at LeBron James for how he treated head coach David Blatt during the NBA Finals. LeBron played well during the series, averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game against the Warriors. He even received four of the 11 votes for MVP despite the fact that his team lost the series in six games.
Stein's criticism had nothing to do with how LeBron played. It had everything to do with how he acted. Stein, who worked the sideline for ESPN Radio during the series, wrote that LeBron was "essentially calling timeouts and making substitutions," and would be "openly barking at Blatt after decisions he didn't like."
He also described one scene in which LeBron forced Blatt to change a play he had called:
There was LeBron, in one instance I witnessed from right behind the bench, shaking his head vociferously in protest after one play Blatt drew up in the third quarter of Game 5, amounting to the loudest nonverbal scolding you could imagine. Which forced Blatt, in front of his whole team, to wipe the board clean and draw up something else.
It's no secret that LeBron has changed plays before. Recall that he "scratched" Blatt's decision to have him inbound the ball in the final seconds of Game 4 against the Bulls. But it's one thing to demand to take the final shot in a playoff game; it is quite another to behave in the passive aggressive fashion Stein is describing.
As Stein noted in his article, ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on the radio yesterday that LeBron actually wants Blatt back next season because "he likes having [him] to kick around."
Blatt and General Manager David Griffin are expected to hold their end-of-season press conference today at 4 pm Eastern. It will be streamed on the team's website. It's a good bet that this topic will come up.